McCartney Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select McCartney Meaning
is an anglicized form of the Gaelic MacArtain
in Scotland or MacCartaine in
Ireland.  The Gaelic prefix mac
means “son of” and Artain is a diminutive of the Old
byname Art, meaning “bear” or “hero
.”  The
Macartney spelling has generally given way to McCartney.

McCartney Resources on

McCartney Ancestry

have their
origin in Scotland
although their earlier roots may have been in Ireland.
These Macartneys were to be found in Galloway
in SW Scotland in the 16th century. 
where they settled in Kirkudbright were
Auchinleck, Blaiket, and a spot known at the time as Macartney:

  • the
    had acquired the farm at Auchinleck, originally part of Dundrennan
    through the grace of the Maxwells in 1587.  These
    Macartneys were said to be originally from Ayrshire.  Their
    forebear was George Macartney
    who had married Mary McCollough in Kirkudbright
    in 1522.  Captain George Macartney of this
    for Ulster in 1649 to form a new line there.  But
    Macartneys remained at Auchinleck, as their gravestones in Dundrennan Abbey
  • the
    farm at Blaiket Mains in
    Urr parish came into Macartney hands a little later.
    These Macartneys suffered for their adherence
    to the Presbyterian religion, being fined and imprisoned and having
    estates seized.  
  • the
    area known at
    Macartney lay at the junction of Crossmichael and Kirkpatrick.  Possibly the Macartneys of Mickle Leathes lived
    there.  It is now called Walton Park.

Macartneys began leaving Galloway for Ulster in the 17th
century.  The Maxwells seem to have been
instrumental in this migration.

land was very poor, stony and hilly and was not much good for anything
than cattle raising.  The move to Ulster
was prompted by the promise of good productive land in Ireland.  As well, people were escaping from the
oppression of the Church of England religion which could dispossess and
imprison those who refused to abandon their Presbyterian faith.”

reassembled in Antrim.

Today there is a sizeable McCartney population in Glasgow and its
environs.  But many of them are probably
the descendants of McCartneys
in Ireland who had crossed back to Scotland:

  • James McCartney, for instance, had come as a young man in
    the 1860’s to Glasgow in search of work.  He
    married there, worked as an onion dealer, and raised his
    family in
    the Gorbals.
  • John McCartney was a Glasgow tram driver
    disabled by work injuries in the 1920’s.  His
    son Hugh was active as a trade unionist
    and became a Scottish Labor MP, as did his son Ian who later served in
    Blair Cabinet.  Sadly, Ian’s son Hugh was
    a young man who died of a heroin overdose.

Ireland.   Macartneys
settled in Antrim. 
was in fact listed in Petty’s Census
of 1659 as a
principal Irish surname of the barony of Belfast.

Belfast.  Captain
Macartney arrived in Belfast in 1649 at the time of Cromwell.  The family was to remain a force in Belfast
and in county Antrim for generations to come.  He was one of three George Macartney merchants
in Belfast in the late 17th

His son George was a Belfast MP
for fifty years and bought the Lissanoure estate in Ballymoney in 1733.  The family thus became country gentlemen.  A later George Macartney set off for London,
married well, and was a distinguished diplomat, his career culminating
in his
appointment as the first Ambassador to China in 1792. The
Lissanoure estate
passed through many Macartney hands after his
death in
1806.  But the last of them proved to be
reckless with his money and the estate had to be sold in 1943.

Meanwhile William Macartney sat
in the Irish House of Commons for Belfast from 1747 to 1760.  His son Sir John also sat in the House and
was created a baronet in 1799

McCartneys have not been immune from the sectarianism
in Belfast society.  However, two who
have been killed in the Troubles have been on the Catholic divide in
– John
McCartney killed by Loyalists in the 1920 Belfast riots and Robert
also a Catholic, but killed in 2005 apparently by members of the
Provisional IRA.

England.  Liverpool
followed Glasgow as a destination for Ulstermen.  Paul
McCartney’s family history
was perhaps typical of many, with
his McCartney
forebears arriving from Ireland in the 1850’s and both of his parents
being of
Irish origin.

America.  McCartneys
in America have tended to be Scots Irish, with many of them entering
Pennsylvania.  Their numbers

  • James McCartney who arrived
    from Ireland in 1770 and fought in the
    Revolutionary War.  He later moved west
    to Ohio. 
  • Ephraim
    McCartney who was born
    in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in 1772.   His
    family moved around Pennsylvania in the early 19th
    century before
    heading west to Iowa in the 1850’s.
  • and
    William McCartney, born in Pennsylvania
    in 1781, who headed west in the early 1800’s to Ohio and then to South
    Indiana (where he was a judge and land speculator).
    His son Thomas migrated to California at the
    time of the Gold Rush. 

Hussey Macartney,
eldest son of Sir John the baronet, came to Melbourne in 1847.  Five years later he was appointed the Dean of
Melbourne’s first cathedral, a position he was to hold until his death
in 1894.  Hussey’s son John operated sheep
stations in
Queensland and had a passion for riding.

“In 1859 John took up the Waveroley run
near Rockhampton.  He soon became a legend, both as a horseman and
as a collector of runs.  He was said to have regularly ridden the
125 miles from Waverley to Rockhampton in one day, carried out all
necessary business, and retraced the 125 miles the next day.”


McCartney Miscellany

McCartney Origins.  The McCartneys are believed to have originated in the 13th
century with Donal Cartnach in Ireland.
His eldest son Donal served under Robert the Bruce’s standard in
Ireland.  After the Battle of Dundalk he was said to be rewarded
with land
in Scotland called
Glen Artney.

However, this land was lost
and many of Donal’s descendants decamped to Galloway,
land at
Loch Urr.

Macartney Gravestone at Dundrennan Abbey in Kirkudbright.  There are a number of Macartney gravestones in the burial grounds of
Dundrennan Abbey.   One of the most interesting has the
following inscription:

to the memory of Robert Macartney, born 1722,
died at Auchenleck in 1798
and of his wife, Elizabeth Mac briar, born 1732, died
at Auchenleck in 1807.Also of John Macartney in Hall and Auchenfad, second son
of the above, born at Auchenleck in 1764, died at Auchencairn in 1849
and of
Marion his wife, daughter of John Macartney and Mary Barton, born in
1768, died
at Auchenfad in 1831.Also of Robert Macartney, eldest son of the above, born
at Auchenfad in 1799, died at Dundrennan House, in 1886
also of Eliza, his
wife, eldest daughter of Ebenezer Halliday of Kirkland of Gelston, born
1802, died at Dundrennan House, in 1881.

Also of Jeanne, Lady Macartney, nee du
Sautoy, the beloved wife of Sir Halliday Macartney, Knight Commander of
Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, fourth son of
above, died at Hove, Sussex, 1902, in her 41st year
also of the said Sir
Halliday Macartney, born 1833, died at Kenbank, Dalry, Galloway, in

Sir Halliday Macartney made his name and his reputation
in China.  He arrived there in 1862 and helped the Chinese
establish a military arsenal in Nanking.  He was Governor there
for twelve years before the Chinese entrusted him with being their
representative in Europe.  By this time his unrivalled knowledga
of the Chinese language, customs and policies led to him being
described by Anglo-Chinese officials as “a thorough Chinaman.”

Macartney Merchants in Belfast.  There were three Macartney merchants, all called George, in Belfast in the late
17th and early 18th centuries.

  • The
    first was
    George Macartney from Auchinleck who arrived in Belfast in 1649, was
    in his Protestant allegiance during the Glorious Revolution, and died
    there after King William had retaken
    the town
    in 1691.  His son George was an MP and
    acquired the Lissanoure estate in 1733.
  • The
    second was “Black” George Macartney
    from Blacket, who arrived shortly afterwards and was a merchant and
    in Belfast.  He probably died around
    1702.  His son Isaac followed in his
    footsteps, being described in the 1720’s as “one of the most opulent
    and bankers in Ulster.”  He inherited
    estates through his wife in Down and Armagh.  Later
    Macartneys of this line were to
    be found in Australia.
  • The
    was “Brown” George Macartney, who arrived later.  He
    was also a Belfast merchant and lived onto 1722.

Lissanoure Castle.  George Macartney
the diplomat loved Lissanoure and would come home as often as he could.
In 1770
he began the re-building of the old castle when the Gothic mansion
Lough Gill was replaced with a Georgian manor house and semi-circular
yard of
grand dimensions.

by the 19th century the castle was often in need of
repair as it suffered from damp.  The
would then have to move out for periods.  A
later George Macartney had a cottage by the
side of Lough Gill, just a short distance from the castle but in a
setting, rebuilt in 1833 for the family’s use.  After a time at
the cottage, the
family was preparing to return to the castle when a terrible incident
took place
which was talked about all over Ireland.

great ball was scheduled as a
“house-warmer” for the night of October 5, 1847.  About
noon on that day it occurred to one of
the men organizing the move that there was gunpowder in an old vault
the castle and that it would be a good idea to have a look at it. When
one of
the casts was opened, the butler was asked to take the son and heir out
of the
room for safety.  As he closed the door,
the draught blew some gunpowder into the fire and this produced
eventually a
huge explosion which blew up the castle and killed Mrs Macartney.

then on
the family lived at the cottage and the castle remained in ruins, with
only the
yard intact.

James McCartney, Revolutionary War Soldier.  James
McCartney of Ross county, Ohio made the following
statements in his application for pension for his service in the

he was born in the county of Londonderry in Ireland on the 11th day
of April, 1745 (and this appears in the record of his age in the old
bible that belonged to his father Isaac),

he came to America about four or five
years before the commencement of the Revolutionary War, landed at
and afterward removed to Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, from which
place he
was drafted to serve as a private soldier in the Militia.”

application was started on the 10th day
of October, 1832.  McCartney did get his
pension and lived on in Ross
county before dying in 1835 at the ripe old age of ninety.

Paul McCartney’s Family History.  The McCartneys were originally Irish and Paul’s great great
grandfather James McCartney, an upholsterer by trade, left Ireland in
the 1850’s,
initially to Galloway in Scotland before moving south with his family
and settling
in Liverpool.  His son James married
in Liverpool in 1864 and a son Joe soon arrived.  Joe,
Paul’s grandfather, was a tobacco-cutter by trade.  The
goes that he never drank alcohol,
went to bed at 10 o’clock every night, and the only swear word he used

Paul’s parents married at St. Swithin’s Roman Catholic
chapel in Liverpool in 1941.  Father James was a cotton salesman,
mother Mary Mohin from another Irish family.  When
Paul was 15, his
mother came home
one afternoon and announced that she had been diagnosed with the late
stages of breast
cancer.  She then went into the bedroom,
took out a crucifix and a picture of her first cousin
who was an Irish missionary priest in Africa, and began to pray.
A few short
weeks later, she was dead.

Paul’s father bought him a guitar to help him ease
his sorrow after her death, thus – it was said – embarking him on his
career in music.


McCartney Names

  • George Macartney was an
    Irish-born British statesman, colonial administrator and diplomat of the 18th century.
  • Paul McCartney made his name
    with John Lennon and the Beatles in the 1960’s and has continued as a best-selling recording artist.

Select McCartney Numbers Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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