McCormick Surname Meaning, History & Origin
surname McCormick or McCormack is an anglicized form of the Old
Gaelic patronymic MacCormaigor
or “son of Cormac,” Cormac being a
personal name from the Celtic corbmac
monks of the Abbey of Iona off Scotland recorded the demise of their
abbot Fedorach MacCormaic. The
name was also popular in Ireland during
medieval times – in part due to Saint Cormac, the first Bishop of
The main spelling variants today are McCormick and McCormack. McCormack is more common in Ireland, McCormick elsewhere.
McCormick Resources on
- The McCormick Family
McCormicks from the Isle of Mull.
- McCormick Family
Family of Cyrus McCormick and the McCormick Reaper.
- McCormick DNA Project
was, according to the Annals of the Four
Masters, a McCormack sept in the Fermanagh-Longford area during the
15th centuries. By the late 1500’s the
recorded as one of the leading gentry in county Cork, with those of
powerful enough to raise a large force to assist Desmond in the
wars. Donogh McCormack, however, was killed
in an ambush in 1601. Tradition has him as the builder of Kanturk
castle in NW Cork.
Another McCormick base in Ireland
was county Antrim in Ulster where
Scots McCormicks had come from the Isle of Mull. The best-known of these
McCormicks was Captain James McCormick who
fought on the Protestant
side at the
siege of Londonderry in 1689 and was granted a coat of arms featuring a
mailed fist clutching a spear. His family subsequently emigrated
The McCormick name was also to be found in Derry; while one McCormick
family traces itself back to 1749 and John and Jane McCormick of
Donegal near the border with Tyrone.
Scotland. Gilchrist mac
Cormac, the first bishop of Dunkeld in
the early 12th century, is thought to have been the progenitor of the
However, McCormicks were mainly to
be found on the west coast of Scotland, close to Ireland, where they
subsumed under the McLeans of Lochbuie. McCormicks
continued on the Isle of Mull until the 19th century when the Clearances
caused an exodus. Meanwhile
some Scots Irish McCormicks
made the reverse journey back to Scotland during the famine years.
America. The early McCormicks coming
to America seem
to have been Scots or Scots Irish:
McCormick line came to Virginia from
Ulster around 1700. The first recorded
of this line was John McCormick of Winchester in Virginia, born in
fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War.
He and his family later moved west to Ohio
and then to Indiana (where they were one of the first white settlers).
McCormick, the son of the gallant Captain James McCormick, left Antrim
Pennsylvania in 1734. One line from
Thomas, which later included Colonel Thomas McCormick of Harrisburg,
stayed in Pennsylvania; another line through son Robert moved south in
1779 to the fertile
valley in Virginia; while the line from Dr. John McCormick began in
Frederick county, now West Virginia, and moved onto Tennessee in the
McCormick arrived in Pennsylvania from Scotland with
his family as a three year old in 1759. He
fought in the Revolutionary War and later settled in Ohio.
Katherine McCormick left Argyllshire in Scotland and came with other
settlers to Richmond county, North Carolina in 1791.
McCormick developed his famous
reaper at the family farm at Walnut
Grove in the Shenandoah valley. He
and his brother Leander moved to Chicago in 1847 and the McCormick family there
became one of the most powerful in America
in the mid-19th century. Robert McCormick of this
family was the
belligerent publisher of the Chicago
Tribune for over thirty years.
Canada. The first McCormicks in Canada were probably
and Mary McCormick from Derry in Ireland who came in 1769.
Family lore has it that their vessel had been
bound for Virginia, but – as a result of a storm off Sable Island –
ended up in Nova Scotia where they decided to stay.
grants for McCormicks in Cumberland
county, Nova Scotia date from the 1820’s.
early arrivals were two
McCormick brothers, Donald and Angus, who left their Hebridean home in
on the Alexander in 1772. Donald
eventually settled on Cape Breton
Island off Nova Scotia. A number of
McCormicks from the Isle of Mull came to Ontario in the 1850’s
clearances and evictions on the island.
McCormicks from the Isle of Mull to Ireland. An appearance of the surname in the 1500’s involves the
glens of County Antrim in Ireland and Moy Castle on the Scottish Isle
now a large uninhabited stone structure. Sometime in the early
the McLean chieftain
of Lochbuie was evicted from Moy Castle by his cousin the McLean of
said to have retreated to county Antrim across the sea in Ireland,
seeking to regain his castle. The story
goes that twelve men at arms – all named McCormick – furnished a boat
helped him regain Moy Castle.To commemorate the help, the Scottish chieftain
had the following carved into the stone lintel over the doorway
Castle in Gaelic: Biadh is deoch do MhacGormai, which
loosely translates as “meat and drink for
McCormick” – i.e. McCormick is welcome here.It is uncertain how true this
story is. But many McCormicks did
migrate from the bleak windswept Isle of Mull then or later to Antrim
and Derry in Ireland.
The Later McCormick Emigration from Mull. The crofter way of life on the Isle of
Mull was fundamentally altered in the 1850’s when the principal
landowner, the Duke of Argyll,
imposed a 100%
increase in rents where pasture was improved.
No compensation was given for houses vacated.
When permission was given for new houses to
be built, they only came with a “kailyard” of land.
It was ruled that if a man died and his widow
had a son less than 21 years of age, then they must vacate.
McCormick, a schoolmaster on Mull,
testified to the Napier Commission in 1883 as follows:
“By the year 1850, the old townships were
reduced to large farms. The harsh and
cruel law of evictions formerly used has now given way to the more
refined mode of grinding away our subject by diminishing our means,
eventually serve the purpose of bringing us into abject poverty.”
large number emigrated. The population of
Mull was 5,200 in 1841, but
had fallen to 2,460 by 1871. Many
departed in the 1850’s to Canada – such as Archibald and Mary McCormick
in Durham, Ontario.
McCormicks and McCormacks. McCormack is more common in Ireland, McCormack elsewhere. The following
are the approximate numbers today.
Reader Feedback – American Descendants of Captain James McCormick. I was born a McCormick – I believe we came to the US after the seize of Derry in the
late 1600’s and were active in the American Revolution
and beyond. I am descended from Hugh and
Thomas McCormick. I believe my ancestry
traces from Captain James McCormick who was at the seize of Derry. I was wondering if you have linked these
names or other DNA information to the records.
Terri McCormick Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The McCormick Farm on Walnut Grove. Robert and Martha McCormick moved to Walnut Grove in the Shenandoah valley in
1779. Their son Robert was born a
year later and their grandson Cyrus in 1809.
Norris’s History of the Lower
Shenandoah Valley recounted the following about the McCormicks:
early members of the McCormick
family in Virginia were singularly unobtrusive people, content in the
derived from their own family relations, being extremely clannish. Both the men and women of the family were
without guile, strictly honorable, affectionate, domestic and courteous. One of their marked characteristics was their
great regard for the truth.”
The family farm at Walnut Grove was
located on 530 acres near Steele’s Tavern in Virginia.
It was there that Cyrus McCormick improved and
patented the mechanical reaper which eventually led to the creation of
The eight farm buildings include a grist mill, blacksmith
shop, slave quarters, carriage house, manor house, smoke house,
housekeeper’s quarters. Each of these
different buildings played a specific role in the daily routine of the
The grist mill, built prior to 1800, was used to grind wheat
blacksmith shop to build and repair all the farm implements and it was
Cyrus McCormick engineered his reaper; the slave quarters served as the
for the nine slaves of the farm; while the carriage house was used as a
for the carriages and other wheeled vehicles.
The manor house was built of brick in 1822. Behind
it was the smoke house where meat was
dried and smoked to preserve it through the winter. Refrigeration was
introduced until the late 19th century. The McCormick family also
school on their property for neighboring children.
The farm remained in the
McCormick family up to 1954. It is now a museum, having been declared a National
Historic Landmark in 1964.
Cyrus McCormick and the Mechanical Reaper. The whole idea was silly. Some “new fangled” machine to cut
wheat? When folks around Carlisle,
Pennsylvania learned that there was going to be demonstration of a
mechanical reaper to harvest a field of wheat, they were astonished. Surely
nothing could replace a team of
hard-working men with grain cradles!
on a warm, sunny summer day in 1840, a crowd of between 500 and 1,000
gathered at his farm, saw that, indeed, the grain was ripe and they
the machinery as they prepared to witness the spectacle. A
horse and rider drew the equipment into the
field followed by a man who was to rake up the wheat as it was cut.
The contraption clattered and rattled as it
began to cut the wheat and the rake man had some trouble keeping up,
began to cause difficulties with the machine. The
people hooted, jeered, and laughed. They
knew it wouldn’t work!
But then a
man stepped forward from the group and showed everyone the proper way
with the harvester. He was Cyrus
McCormick, the inventor of the machine called “McCormick’s Reaper.” The fool thing worked after all! The
dubious Scots-Irish farmers were suitably
The McCormick Family
Robert Hall McCormick (1780-1846) of Walnut Grove, Virginia
– Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884), inventor and patenter of the
– Cyrus McCormick II (1859-1936), the eldest son and heir
– Harold McCormick (1872-1941), whose later life was an
inspiration for the film Citizen
(his second wife Ganna was an opera
singer whose career he financed)
– Stanley McCormick (1874-1947), who suffered from schizophrenia
– William McCormick (1815-1865), the brother who stayed at
– Robert McCormick (1849-1919), an American ambassador
– Joseph McCormick (1877-1925), Illinois Senator
(his wife Ruth was active in
women’s suffrage and later elected to Congress)
– Robert McCormick (1880-1955) the Colonel,
publisher of the Chicago Tribune
– William McCormick (b. 1851), Chicago businessman
– Chauncey McCormick (1884-1954), President of
– Leander McCormick (1819-1900), the brother who came to
Chicago with Cyrus
– R. Hall McCormick (1847-1917), head of the McCormick Estate in
– Elizabeth Day McCormick, known for her textile and
– Robert Hall McCormick III, head of the McCormick
– Henrietta McCoormick Goodhart (1857-1932), the American
heiress who married an English aristocrat
– L. Hamilton McCormick (1859-1934), art collector
Peter McCormick and Advance Australia Fair. McCormick claimed he wrote the words and music for Advance Australia Fair after attending a
concert which featured many national anthems, but none for Australia. Its original opening line was: “Australia’s sons, let us rejoice.”
It was premiered at the St Andrew’s Day
concert of the Highland Society in 1878.
More significantly, it was sung at the inauguration of the
of Australia by a choir of ten thousand, with the words modified
include “our youthful Commonwealth.” In
1907 the Government awarded McCormick a
hundred pounds for his patriotic composition.
It was not until 1974 that it was proclaimed the national anthem
Whitlam government. After the Fraser
government’s decision to restore God Save
the Queen as the anthem, the Governor-General finally proclaimed it
national anthem in 1984.
The Colonel at the Chicago Tribune. Robert McCormick had taken over the Chicago
Tribune in the 1920’s and he ran it as his personal fiefdom until
in 1955. A conservative Republican, he
was an opponent of President Roosevelt and compared the New Deal to
Communism. Later he opposed US entry into
He ran crusades over the years against
gangsters and racketeers, prohibition and prohibitionists, Wall Street,
East and Easterners, Democrats, the League of Nations and the United
British imperialism. Some of his
personal crusades were seen as quixotic, such as his attempts to reform
spelling of the English language, and were parodied by political
York Times noted:
“He did consider himself an aristocrat.
imposing stature (6 feet 4 inches tall, with a muscular body weighing
pounds), his erect soldierly bearing, his reserved manner and his
appearance all made it easy for him to play that role.
But if he was one, he was according to his
friends one in the best sense of the word – despising the idle rich and
no use for parasites, dilettantes or mere pleasure-seekers.
With an extraordinary capacity for hard work,
he often put in seven long days a week at his job even when elderly,
fit through polo and later horseback riding.
In his seventies, he could still get into the war uniform of his
- Cyrus McCormick, born in the Blue Ridge
mountains of Virginia, invented and patented a mechanical harvesting machine in 1834.
- Peter McCormick was
the Scottish-born composer of Australia’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair.
- John McCormack was a famous Irish
tenor of the early 20th century.
- Robert McCormick was the publisher of the Chicago Tribune from 1920 to 1955.
- Mark McCormack was the American lawyer
and agent who founded IMG, the international management organization serving sports figures and celebrities.
McCormick Numbers Today
- 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 26,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
- 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)
Select McCormick 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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