McGee Surname Genealogy

The Gaelic elements mag, a rendering of mac
(or “son of”), and the personal name aodh,
meaning “fire,” gave rise to the surnames McGhee, McGee and Magee in
and Ireland.
McGhee is the Scottish
spelling for the most part, although this name did spread to Ulster at
the time of the
Scottish plantations. The McGee
and Magee names were also in Ulster. McGee
of Irish origin was mainly found in Donegal, Magee of Scottish origin
in Antrim.  Often Magee was the Protestant name and McGee the
Catholic one

Select McGee Resources on

McGee Ancestry

in Scotland may have been Irish in origin, although they do seem to
have preceded the Irish McGees. The
name in Scotland was first recorded
McEthe of Dumfries at the Ragman’s Ball in 1296 and may have dated back
several centuries earlier.

Gilbert M’Ghie was the first Lord of
Balmaghie (meaning M’Ghie’s town) in Galloway
the year 1400
His descendants acquired progressively more
influence and importance, especially with Sir John M’Ghie in the 1640’s
during the reign of the Stuarts. A branch of the family
controlled the
Rinns of Islay
for several

However, their prominence was lost with the
sale of their estates and an extremely severe lack of male heirs. By the 18th century the McGhee families of
Balmaghie, Airie and Airds, and Castlehill were all practically

  • John McGhee, the last of
    Castlehill, had six
    daughters, the eldest of whom had six sons who all died
  • while William
    McGhee, a merchant in Edinburgh who had inherited Balmaghie with its
    4,000 acres
    of agricultural and sporting land unexpectedly, had no interest in the
    estate and sold it in 1768
    . The last of the McGhee line at Balmaghie
    were said to have been two old ladies who lived and died in a cottage

By the late 19th century, the McGhee and McGee names in Scotland were
mainly to be found in Lanarkshire, in and around Glasgow, rather than
in their earlier homeland in SW Scotland.

Irish McGee and Magee history has been more sketchy.

The old Irish form of the name was Mac
(meaning “son of Hugh.”). Another derivation in
Donegal was Mac Gaoithe (“of
the wind”). A family of this name served as erenaghs in Donegal
in the parish of Condahorkey. The name there became McGee or
sometimes McKee. They were to be found along the border with

Tyrone had some early Scottish settlers by the name of McGhee or
McGee. Sir John McGhee of Balmaghie died in 1617 and was
buried in Leckpatrick cemetery near Strabane. His line extended
to George McGhee who was buried there in 1741.

The spelling in county Antrim was generally
Magee. It was said that the Magees of Island Magee, a peninsula
on the coast near Larne in Antrim, had come originally from the
Scottish Rinns of Islay. Other Scots Irish in Antrim also adopted
the Magee spelling, although some still kept the old Scottish
spelling. Their numbers

  • James Magee, born in Belfast in the early 1700’s, who was a
    newspaper printer and publisher whose business later expanded through
    his sons to Dublin. This line was covered in F.J. Bigger’s 1916
    book The Magees of Belfast and Dublin.
  • Martha Magee, the widow of a Presbyterian minister in Lurgan, who
    endowed Magee University in Derry on her death in 1846.
  • Richard McGhee, also from Lurgan, who was a Protestant labor
    union activist at the time of Home Rule.
  • and the Rev. Robert Magee from Belfast who was instrumental in
    securing the Loyalist ceasefire during the sectarian strife in 1994.

America. The McGees and Magees who came to America in
the 18th century were invariably Scots Irish. Michael McGee who
arrived in Brunswick county, Virginia in the 1750’s was thought to have
originated from Island Magee in Antrim. His son
Michael McGee moved
to Abbeville, South Carolina in 1791.

Other Scots Irish who made the journey across the Atlantic were:

  • John McGee who may have been born in 1730 while enroute from
    Ireland to America. He died in North Carolina just before the
    outbreak of the Revolutionary War. His second wife Martha,
    however, was recognized as a heroine during that conflict. Two of
    their sons John and William moved to Tennessee in the 1790’s and became
    prominent Presbyterian ministers there.
  • five McGee brothers from Tyrone who came to Augusta and Botetourt
    counties, Virginia in the 1750’s. They migrated to Kentucky with
    Daniel Boone around the year 1775.
  • John McGee who fought with the 12th Virginia Regiment during the
    Revolutionary War and later made his home at McGee Cove in Warren
    county, Tennessee.
  • and Patrick Magee from Antrim who came to Georgia in 1779 and
    settled in Missouri territory.

another Tennessee line began with Barclay McGhee, Scots Irish from
North Carolina, who was a merchant and successful land speculator in
Blount county, Tennessee. His son John built up a large
property base of former Indian land along the Little Tennessee
river. This land remained in his descendants’ hands until the
1960’s. John’s son Charles, who based himself in Knoxville, was
responsible for much of the railroad construction that took place in
east Tennessee during the 1870’s and 1880’s.

David McGee from Scotland enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777 and
fought in the Revolutionary War . Afterwards he too moved to Tennessee
and then onto Alabama. He was said to have had six
wives. The McGee in the song Me and
Bobby McGee

was in fact a Tennesseean, although her real name was Bobby McKee.

Fibber McGee was a fictional American, from a
long-running radio comedy series. One
McGee family history in America, together with the story of the McGees
Scotland and Ireland, was traced in James McGee’s 2007 book A
Branch of a
Tree: A McGee Family in History.

Canada. Thomas
D’Arcy McGee
, born into an Ulster
family in Louth, came to North America in 1842 and eventually made his
home in
Montreal. He was Catholic and a
passionate advocate of Irish and Canadian nationalism who was gunned
down on
the streets of Ottawa in 1868, one year after Confederation.

D’Arcy’s family was originally from county
Down. His grandmother Elizabeth Magee
had in fact immigrated to Canada in 1823, settling in Lanark county,
Ontario. John Wellington McGee, born
there in 1863, considered himself a descendant of D’Arcy McGee. He had been born Magee but on converting to
Catholicism changed his name to McGee.

Select McGee Miscellany

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

Select McGee Names

Gilbert M’Ghie was the late 14th
century first Lord of Balmaghie in Galloway in SW Scotland.
D’Arcy McGee was an Irish
publisher and politician in Canada in the mid-19th century who is
sometimes considered as the father of Canadian Confederation.
The McGee Bothers, Sam with
guitar and Kirk with banjo, were one of the most enduring country acts
on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville since its opening in 1926.

Select McGees Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Northern Ireland)
  • 41,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 19,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

These numbers include McGhees and Magees.



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