Maguire Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Maguire Meaning
Maguire is an Irish clan surname from the Gaelic Mac
meaning “son of Odhar” or “son of the pale-colored one.”
The name
Uidhir appeared in the Annals of
the year 956. The
Uidhir sept first made
its presence known in the Ulster county of Fermanagh in the 13th
Its anglicized
names are Maguire and McGuire
.  The
Maguire spelling is more common in Ireland.

Maguire/McGuire Resources on

Maguire/McGuire Ancestry

Maguire clan became dominant in Fermanagh in the mid-13th century after
supplanting former chieftains in the area.
The first Maguire to become prince of Fermanagh was Donn Carragh
who died in 1302. By the end of
the 16th century, the Maguires controlled almost all of the land within
present day boundaries of Fermanagh. The
territory was in fact known as “Maguire’s Country.”

The seat of the senior branch of the Maguires
was at Lisnaskea, that of the junior branch at Enniskillen castle.
The strategic location of
Maguire’s castle on an island between the upper and lower Erne allowed
Maguires to control the passage of all ships between the lakes and the
flow of
goods into the surrounding areas. The Maguire chieftains’ navy of
1,500 boats
patrolled the waterways of the lake system that extended about forty

The Maguire clan was noted for its fighting qualities and was therefore
particularly targeted during the English conquest of Ireland.
Hugh Maguire died fighting
the English in 1600 and Maguire land was confiscated by the English
five years
later. Cuchonnacht
Ireland at the time of the Flight of the Earls.

There was some reprieve for the Maguires in
the 1620’s when they received back part of their lands.
But Connor Maguire took part in the Irish
Rebellion of 1641 and was foully executed for his pains. A later
Maguire chief fought
for King James at the Battle of the Boyne.
After the defeat in 1691, many Maguires fled abroad and joined
the Irish
Brigades in France and Austria. Maguire
continued abroad.

Today, those with the
spelling Maguire are still largely associated with Fermanagh, although
the name
has also spread to neighboring counties. Those
use the McGuire spelling in Ireland may have their origins in Mayo or

Edward McGuire

came to Virginia in the
1740’s from county Kerry and prospered.
One of his sons John distinguished himself in the Revolutionary
War and
later was a well-known Indian fighter.
His family settled in Kentucky.
Another son Edward was pastor of St. George’s church,
Fredericksburg for
forty five years; while son Hugh was a noted eye surgeon.
His son Hunter was surgeon to Stonewall
Jackson during the Civil War.
was covered in W.G. Stanard’s 1926 book The
McGuire Family in Virginia

were other McGuires in Virginia during colonial times.
Among the McGuires who fought in the
Revolutionary War were one Archibald and two Williams.
Archibald who fought at Tippecanoe came to
Kentucky in 1800 and settled in Lee county.
The first William received his pension in Tazewell county in
1833 and
died there four years later. The second
William had his family captured and taken to Quebec during the conflict.

family story handed
down was that when they were released from prison they had to walk back
their home. They slept in graveyards to
be protected from the Indians. One
little boy froze to death there. The
other son lived because he was held in his mother’s arms inside her

The family later settled in Tennessee.

There was another Catholic McGuire family in
colonial times in Chester county, Pennsylvania.
John McGuire, a Loyalist, was “hunted out by over-zealous Whigs”
departed in 1776 for Nova Scotia. His son
Thomas became a noted priest and writer in Quebec.

Australia. Many of the early
in Australia were convicts. Patrick
Maguire, for instance, was transported to Australia from Westmeath on
the Guildford in 1829.

William McGuire came from Scotland, although
he was probably of Irish stock. He
served in the British army. However, his
penalty for striking an officer was a lashing and transportation. He came to Australia in 1836.
After receiving his release he was a shepherd
for a while and later bought sheep-grazing land near Armidale, NSW. In his later days he may have encountered the
infamous bushranger Captain Thunderbolt who prowled that area. His daughter-in-law Margaret, who lived to be
106 and died in 1960, claimed to have offered him shelter.


Maguire Miscellany

Early Maguires.  The following are some early Maguires of repute:

  • Cathal
    MacManus Maguire (1439-1498), chief of
    the McManus sept of the Maguires, was an Irish historian and one of the
    authors of the Annals of Ulster.
  • Nicholas
    Maguire (1460-1512), born in county Cavan, was the Bishop of Leighlin
    and also a
    noted historian.
  • Patrick
    Maguire was
    reputed to have been the first one in Columbus’ crew to step onto
    American soil
    in 1492.  In the archives of Madrid, Father Tornitori, an Italian
    priest who was
    said to have witnessed the landing of Columbus, stated:

the eventful
morning of the landing, boats bearing Columbus and some of his crew
launched; but approaching the land the water shallowed and Patrick
jumped out of the boat to lighten the load and then waded

Maguires and McGuires Today

Numbers (000’s) Maguire McGuire Total
Ireland    10     3 13
UK (incl. N. Ireland)    17    11    28
America     6    19    25
Elsewhere     8    10    18
Total    41    43    84

Cuchonnacht Maguire and the Flight of the Earls.  The last real Irish chieftain of Fermanagh he was also the last to give in to the
English after the Nine Years War.  Once he did, Cuchonnacht found
he was unable
to live under English rule and law.  Having half his land
confiscated by the
Royal Commission in 1605, he left his land and travelled to the

instrumental in the organizing the Flight of the Earls, acquiring the
boat in
France from which they sailed.  He had planned the mission for
over a year and
was determined to personally make sure it went to plan.  Under
great personal
danger he sailed with the boat back to Ireland dressed as a
mariner.  He was
often described as a master of disguise and adventure, but this would
be his
greatest test.  Near their destination the ship was stopped by a
British warship
and they were held for two days.  They would certainly have been
arrested if
Maguire had not insisted the boat be disguised as a fishing vessel by
nets and salt onboard.

Cuchonnacht Maguire died in Italy in 1608.

Edward McGuire of Winchester, Virginia.  James McGuire fled Fermanagh for county Kerry after the failed Irish rebellion of
1641.  One line of his family enlisted in
Austrian army and distinguished themselves on the field of battle.

McGuire, born near Tralee in 1717, departed Ireland in 1746.  Before he left he went down with yellow fever
which left him so weakened that he thought himself unfit for a military
He set off instead for America and landed in Philadelphia.
From there he made his way to Virginia and
acquired land in Winchester.  In time
Edward became a wealthy and influential man in Virginia.
He gave the ground as well as contributing funds
to the first Catholic Church in Winchester, Virginia.

The Molly Maguires.  The Molly Maguires was a secret society that terrorized law officers in Ireland to forestall evictions and then
spread to
America and labor relations in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.

The name was said to have been taken from that of one
woman, a widow in early 1840’s who died at the hands of her landlord.  She may or may not have existed.
According to the story, the man ordered Molly
Maguire off of her property.  When she
refused to vacate the premises, the landlord razed the house while she
still in it.  Whether it was true or not,
the news of this kind of brutality spread quickly and provoked a wave
violence against landlords in the country.

The Maguire Chieftain in Recent Times.  The last
real Maguire chieftain may be said to have been Conor Maguire who took
part in
the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and was executed in London three years
later.  By the end of the century the
Maguires were
in exile.  But the Maguire titles
continued to be accepted in the French court in which they had given
allegiance while serving in Irish regiments there.
Maguire, the last of this line, was a captain in Buckley’s regiment in
the French
Irish brigade.

In Ireland Constantine Maguire of Tempo assumed the mantle of Maguire chieftain in the 19th century. However,
he was shot in 1834 and his title then passed to his brother Captain
Bryan Maguire.  But Bryan was dissolute and
his duelling and
eccentricities led to poverty and early death in Dublin.
His only son went to sea and was never seen

The title remained in abeyance until 1991 when the Chief Herald of
Ireland recognized the claim of Terence Maguire, a retired Dublin
accountant.  A family tradition has it that
a line of
Belfast Maguires were descended from Conor’s brother Thomas, the fourth
son of
the first Baron of Enniskillen.  But a
least four of the intervening generations are undocumented and many
think that this
claim lacks genealogical foundation.


Maguire/McGuires Names

  • Hugh Maguire was the Lord of Fermanagh killed in 1600 fighting the English during the Nine Years War. 
  • John Francis Maguire, the son of a Cork
    merchant, founded the Cork Examiner
  • The Molly Maguires was a 19th century secret society that terrorized law officers in Ireland and in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. 
  • Peter McGuire was an American labor leader of the late 19th century. 
  • Tom Maguire, who fought in the Irish War of Independence, was a long-serving member of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). He lived to be 101. 
  • William McGuire is an American executive who made the United Health Group one of the largest healthcare companies
    in the world. 
  • Mark McGwire was one of baseball’s leading home-run hitters in his career between 1986 and 2001. But his reputation has been sullied by steroid use.

Select Maguire/McGuire Numbers Today

  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Fermanagh)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Maguire and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Ulster in NE Ireland covers the counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal.  Here are some of the Ulster surnames (excluding the Scots Irish surnames) that you can check out.




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