McGuinness Genealogy

Magennis is an Irish surname, today spelt McGuinness,
McGinnis, and Guinness
and is derived from the male given name Aonghus meaning “unique choice.”  Its
first bearer is believed to have been
Aonghus Turimleach, one of three Irish brothers who invaded Scotland in
the 3rd
century B.C. and gave his name to the East Coast district of Angus.
The ancestry
of the Gaelic Magennis/McGuinness family in Ireland is said to have
gone back
to a 5th century chief of Dal Araidhe. The
Guinness spelling is rarer, but more prominent because of the famous
Guinness brewing family. The spelling in
America and Canada tends to be McGinnis.

McGuinness Resources on

McGuinness Ancestry

The first recorded
spelling of the family name was Mag Aonghusa, dated around 1150 in the Early Records of Iveagh in county Down.
At that time the
Magennises had become the chiefs of the territory of Iveagh in the
mountains. By
the 15th century they had expanded Iveagh all the way
east to Dundrum castle
where county
Down meets the Irish Sea.

The four main branches of the Magennis clan then were
Castlewellan, Corgary, Kilwarlin, and Rathfriland, between whom there
rivalry. However, they were soon to face
a new common enemy, the English:

  • Sir Hugh Magennis placated the English in the
    late 16th century, but his son Art Roe Magennis fought against them and
    had his
    lands ravaged.
  • in the next century, during the colonization of Ulster,
    Magennis again appeased the English, with Art Roe being ennobled as
    Magennis of Iveagh. But many disgruntled
    and dispossessed Magennises joined the Irish rebellion of 1641. It was at this time that Conn Magennis’s
    daughter Larissa died in tragic
    More land
    occurred. The Magennis viscountcy was attainted after the
    Williamite war in

Magennises fled Ireland at that time as Wild Geese. The best known of
these was
Brian Magennis, the second Viscount Iveagh, who was a colonel of
Regiment in the Austrian Imperial Army.
He was killed in action in 1703.

The McGuinness spelling began to displace Magennis
in the 18th century. There were 70
McGuinnesses recorded in county Down in Griffith’s
of the 1850’s. Charles McGuinness the Irish
adventurer of the
early 1900’s, nicknamed “the nomad,” was born in Derry.
Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein republican
who rose to high office in Northern Ireland, also came from Derry.

Guinness. The Guinness family is an
Anglo-Irish Protestant family noted for their accomplishments in
banking and politics. These Guinnesses
had been tenant farmers in Dublin in the 17th century.
It was Arthur Guinness, born
in Celbridge
, who started the famous Guinness brewery in Dublin
in 1759.

His family claimed a descent from the Gaelic Magennis clan
in county Down. But recent DNA evidence suggests a descent
from the McCartans
, another county Down clan,
whose home at Kinelarty included
the townland of Guiness near Ballynahinch.

The brewing line at Dublin, makers of “the
black stuff,” passed from the first Arthur Guinness to the second
Guinness and then to Sir Benjamin Guinness who by the 1850’s had become
richest man in Ireland and was made a baronet in 1867 for his
contributions. The Guinness company
remained in family hands through most of the 20th century, with a later
Benjamin Guinness being its Chairman from 1961 to 1992.
Other Guinnesses made their mark in politics.

The banking line of Guinnesses descended from Arthur’s brother Samuel
who set himself up as a goldbeater in Dublin in 1750.
His son Richard was a Dublin barrister; and
Richard’s son Robert founded the merchant bank of Guinness Mahon in

Joyce’s 2009 book The Guinnesses covered
this family’s history.

America. Shipping records show Irish
immigrants coming to America mainly
McGuinness or McGinness.
But they
adopted the spelling of McGinnis in America

The main entry point was Pennsylvania which today still has the largest
number of McGinnises. Among the McGinnis
arrivals there were:

  • John McGinnis who arrived from Antrim in the 1720’s. From
    John to Walter Fletcher McGinnis
    were seven generations of
    McGinnises. Walter made his name as an oil
    prospector in southern
    Kansas in the early 1900’s.
  • Samuel McGinness who came to Chester county from
    Antrim in 1764. He died there around
    1800. He was thought to have been
    related to the Magennis Viscounts Iveagh. His
    grandson Benjamin
    brought up in Lancaster county, migrated west to California in the
  • Francis McGinnis who came from Dublin in the 1770’s,
    settling in
    Westmoreland county. He and his wife
    Rebecca had nine children, many of whom moved west to Kentucky. Their line was covered in Sherry Lowe’s 2009
    book My McGinnis Clan.
  • and William McGinnis who arrived from county Down in
    1782. A later William migrated to
    Youngstown, Ohio in the 1860’s where he found employment in the iron
    mills. A man of keen scientific
    interests, he was elected a member of the American Association for the
    Advancement of Science in 1899.

Teady Magin, who changed his name to Timothy
McGinnis, was an Irish fur trader and Indian agent in upstate New York
in the
1740’s. His son Robert was a Loyalist
who departed for Canada.

A later New York arrival in 1838 was Patrick Maginnis
from county Clare in Ireland. He worked
on the railroads and this took him west to Illinois and Minnesota. His son Martin fought in the Civil War and
then moved to Montana territory where
engaged in mining and published the
Helena Daily Gazette.

Canada. Some
McGinnises were Loyalist in America and crossed the
border into Canada after the Revolutionary War was over.
Robert McGinnis and his sons John and Richard
McGinnis, who had fought with Butler’s Rangers in upstate New York,
ended up in
Quebec. Robert died in Montreal in 1796. There were descendants via his son John.

John McGinnis came with his family to Wellington county, Ontario from
county Down in
1831 and settled in Puslinch township. He and his seven sons all
survived the
cholera epidemic that hit the area three years later.

Australia. At the tender age
of 15 George McGinnis was sentenced in county Meath in 1796 to life
transportation to Australia. George who
was illiterate married in 1807, received his conditional pardon in
1810, and
was an early Hawkesbury settler. He died
in 1829. Hugh and Elizabeth McGuiness
came to Sydney with their family from county Monaghan as free settlers
on the Crescent in 1840.

McGuinness Miscellany

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

McGuinness Names

Arthur Guinness founded the famous Guinness brewery in Dublin in 1759.
Donagh Maginnis
was an Irish-born architect
who started the Boston firm of Maginnis & Walsh in 1905.

Sir Alec Guinness
a well-known British actor who died in 2000.
He was born in London in 1914 to no known father.
His mother gave him the name of Guinness at
his birth.

Martin McGuinness
was an Irish
republican and Sinn Fein politician who became Deputy First Minister of
Northern Ireland in 2007

Select McGuinnesses Today

  • 11,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Northern Ireland)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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