McElroy Surname Genealogy

two commonest spellings of the name are McElroy and McIlroy.  It is both Irish and Scottish in origin.  The root in each case is the Gaelic Mac giolla Ruaidh, composed of the
elements Mac, meaning “son of,” giolla
being “youth”, and ruaidh being “red haired” – hence
“the son of the red haired youth
.”  Some think that McElroy
is Irish in origin and McIroy Scottish in origin.

McElroy Resources on

McElroy Ancestry

name McElroy was first found in the 14th century in Dumfriesshire as
Michael McGilrey a tenant in Thornhill.  Michael
McYliroye was the baillie of Ayr in 1500.
The name also cropped up in the parish of Ballantrae in
Ayrshire.  One
family line began with the marriage of Hugh and Esther McElroy in
Wigtown in

The proximity to Ireland meant some emigration there over the years,
either as plantation settlers in the 17th century or as soldiers to
fight for Cromwell
or later for William of Orange.  In Ireland their name seems to
become McIlroy.

Ireland.  MacElroy in Ireland originated at
Ballymacelroy on the east side of Lough Erne in county Fermanagh.
Ballymacelroy was also to be found in Tyrone and Antrim.
The name cropped up in the old Annals:

  • in
    1476 the chief Donal died and
    was replaced by his son Brian
  • and
    in 1492 Ballymacelroy was destroyed by the

spelling became Gilroy in Connacht.

In 1990 the McElroy/McIlroy
spellings were fairly evenly divided in Northern Ireland, 53% being
McElroy and
47% being McIlroy:

  • Fermanagh
    and Tyrone remained important counties for
    McElroy, although the name extended as well into Monaghan and the
    parts of Armagh and Down.  Clogher in Tyrone recorded 61 McElroy
    in the census of 1860.
  • McIlroy
    was more localized, to Antrim and Belfast and to
    the northern parts of county Down near Belfast.  Sir
    William McIlroy of Hilden was well-known in the early
    20th century
    for his expertise on flax.

McElroy and McIlroy names were both found
county Down
earliest record there
was of a John McGylboy who was the Canon of Dromore around the year
1406.  It was said that there were two
branches, the “red” and the “black” McElroys.
More recent numbers have included:

  • Archibald
    McIlroy, the local JP and
    writer who went down with the Lusitania
    in 1915.
  • and James
    the acclaimed fiddler.

Mcilroy the golfer was born in Holywood, county Down.
His grandfather Jimmy had repaired cranes in
the Belfast docks where the Titanic 
was built.

America.  There
were reports that the McElroy name had appeared in Maryland land grants
early as 1659, either as indentured servants or being transported there.  John McElroy was born in Cecil county,
in 1690, married there, and then moved to Wake county, North Carolina
sometime in
the 1720’s.  Later descendants spread
across the South.

name first appeared in Pennsylvania in 1717.
Some of these McElroys settled in Bucks county. William
McElroy was recorded in Doylestown in
1749 and Sarah McElroy was
subject of a fatal duel in 1798.
Other McElroys in Pennsylvania migrated to Virginia, to Kentucky
1830), and later to points south.  John
McElroy’s 1901 book The History of Scotch
Irish McElroys in America
covered these lines

Two McIlroy lines, both said to have been of
Scottish descent, were in Arkansas by the early 1800’s:

  • Daniel
    McIlroy, born in
    Virginia in 1756, fought in the Revolutionary War, being captured
    during the
    Battle of Long Island.  His grandson
    Daniel settled in Randolph county, Arkansas in 1813.
    By 1889 his son Hemmet was the oldest living
    settler of Randolph county.
  • while
    John Paul McIlroy, born in North Carolina in
    1787, was believed to have been the forebear of the McIlroys of Dalton
    Randolph county.

Canada.  Henry
and his family from county Down were one of the
military families
that first settled Richmond, Ontario near Ottawa in 1818.
Three years later William McElroy and his
family from Armagh came to Ontario, moving around several times before
in Oshawa.  Three of his sons later moved
to Waupun, Wisconsin.  Meanwhile Samuel
McElroy and his family came to Dundas county, Ontario from Ballymoney
in county
Antrim sometime in the 1840’s.

Select McElroy Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

McElroy Names

John McElroy was the Jesuit priest who
founded Boston College in 1857.

Neil McElroy was President of Procter &
Gamble and US Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower.
Jimmy McIlroy
was a well-known Northern Irish
footballer of
the 1950’s and 1960’s.
James McElroy of Drumnaquoile was an
acclaimed fiddler from county Down
Rory McIlroy is a professional
golfer from
Northern Ireland, the first ever to win four majors by the age of
twenty five

Select McElroys Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Antrim)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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