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Saturday, May 23, 2009

You Say MacEntee, I Say McEntee

[This post was written for the 13th Edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture hosted at Small-leaved Shamrock.]

I think it is a bit of coincidence that just this week a distant MacEntee cousin whom I met on Facebook asked me why my paternal grandfather's name is also listed as McEntee. And here I am to tell the story just as the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture is coming to town!

Most of what I know about the MacEntee surname is all family legend - it has been on my genealogy "to do list" to actually determine the "why" behind the name change from McEntee to MacEntee. Here is the information that I have about my surname, its origins and how it came to its present spelling:

- the name means "son of scholar" and in Gaelic is written as Mac an tSoi

- the name is found mostly in County Armagh and County Monaghan in Ireland

- my grandfather Abraham MacEntee almost always used the name McEntee with the "a" added

- it was Abraham's father - Elmer McEntee - who supposedly began using MacEntee for reasons which are not clear

- some say that local folk in Ulster County, New York pronounced the name as a "Mac" name anyway and he decided to change it - not legally - but through usage

- others say that due to anti-Irish sentiment present at the time in turn-of-the-century New York, the "a" was added to make the name appear as Scottish in origin

- and still others talk of a rift between two McEntee brothers over religion, that one became a Protestant and wanted to show the separation by adding the "a"

I've discussed the usage of MacEntee in a previous post and have been able to prove that it was in fact Elmer McEntee who originated the usage.

So I continue through a search of court and probate records, wills, etc. to see if any further information can be gleaned as to the "why" of the name change from McEntee to MacEntee.