Last name: McDonald

This is probably the most famous of Scottish clan surnames. Recorded in the modern spellings of MacDonald and McDonald, the derivation is from the pre 10th century Gaelic name Mac Dhomhnuill. This is a compound which translates literally as "The son of the world ruler". Whilst this may not have been the actual meaning fifteen hundred years ago, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that one branch of the clan are known as "The Lords of the Isles". This was an assumed title, which much resented by early Scottish kings, King David 11 in the year 1369 going to considerable, if unsuccessful lengths, to try to dispossess them by force. In the Gaelic the name was pronounced Mak Oonil, and attempts at pronunciation have rendered a variety of spellings including; MakChonehill (1479), McConile (1570), Mak Donald (1571) and M'Oneill (1576). Early church registers in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh record the christening of John, the son of Alane McDonald, on July 4th 1672, and the marriage of John McDonald and Grissell McFuffan on July 29th 1687. Among the many famous nameholders are Flora MacDonald (1722 - 1790), the rescuer of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, and Sir John MacDonald, (1815 - 1891), the first premier of the Dominion of Canada. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Therthelnac MakDonenalde. This was dated 1251, when he was a charter witness at Lesmore, during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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marvin mcdonald

hi im looking to find my out my history I am of African decent with the last name McDonald so there is a confusion of if there is Scottish blood running thourgh my veins

Sara McDonald

If your ancestors were enslaved, often times slaves took the surname of their owner. Or maybe you're Creole? That's a mixture of African, Spanish, and European heritage.

David Mc Donald

Hi...I'm looking for the exact birthplace in Scotland, of my GGG Grandfather Samuel William McDonald who was born on April, 14, 1838. Here is a list of potential names from the 1841 Scotland Census: Samuel Mc Donald abt 1838 Inverness, Scotland , Harris, Inverness 111 Samuel Mc Donald abt 1837 Ayrshire, Scotland, Beith, Ayrshire 581 Samuel Mc Donald abt 1839 Inverness, Scotland Kilmonivaig, Inverness 99 Samuel Mc Donald abt 1836 Inverness, Scotland, North Uist, Inverness 113 I believe that the Samuel Mc Donald from Kilmonivag is my ancestor but I can't confirm it. Can you please help me? If you came across or researched a Samuel Mc Donald that was born on April 14, 1838/1839, please e-mail or if you want to take up a challenging project and help me research this person, that would be great. My e-mail address is Thank you David Mc Donald

Hazel Fisher

Alexander Mac Donald family tree in 1768 is going in the South Shore Exhibition in Nova Scotia on 22 of July it is in Thomas Raddal Park for people to see


I'm a McDonald out here in the pacific island of Guam. My McDonald is from the Boston branch. Our grand father was born in America to john mcdonald from Nova Scotia and Mary creely from Ireland.

Sarah McDonald
Hi, I'm Sarah McDonald I am a third generation Irish descendent I know almost nothing of my whereabouts of ancestors my grandparents(they were Irish) died very young long before I was born and never learned anything from my heritage all I know is my grandparents came over as children in about 1915 and that they had recently lived in a small village name mayo in Ireland the village had been destroyed in a war against Northern Ireland long before they were born and ended up taking refuge in America.

Louise Kelleher
Did you ever learn the name of the village? Mayo is a county in Ireland, not a village name. :)

Frances McDonald
So what is the difference between me being a McDonald vs. a MacDonald. I've always been told I had irish heritage not Scottish, I know my ancestors are from Ireland! I'm so confused!


Well, I don't know the specific answer to your question, but I'm learning a lot about Irish history. My great great great grandmother was a Henderson, who immigrated from Ireland around the 1860's--which didn't make sense when I looked it up, because Henderson is a prominent Scottish name. Turns out the British King James I (I think) gave Scottish lowlanders free land in Northern Ireland, which is how the Hendersons ended up there. They were largely Protestant, so the king figured they would remain loyal to the crown. He used them to clear out the native Irish people. They lived there for hundreds of years and became fairly wealthy, at least till the Famine I guess, when a lot of people started moving. They maintained their own distinct culture--not really Irish, because obviously the Irish resented being removed from their homes, not really British, because British colonizers thought they were too much like the Irish, and not really Scottish anymore either... because Scottish lowlanders had had a lot of influx from Danish, British, etc settlers. These people are called the Scots-Irish in the US, or just the Ulster Irish. This is what led to a lot of the problems in Northern Ireland with the IRA, and the conflict between Protestants and Catholics. I don't know if this has anything to do with your family history, but my guess is that it does. I've always been told that any surname with a "Mc" or a "Mac" is definitely of Scottish origin. Don't forget, people moved around a lot even in Europe, especially in the British Isles...

Mollie MacDonald

You do know that there are many MacDonald's from different descents? They are most certainly not all Irish. My family are fully scottish. No Irish in our family at all. And we have fully researched our history and we are totally scottish. I get that you are passionate about being Irish. But it is possible that Scottish MacDonald's can have no Irish connections. And um. It was a Scottish name first. Anyone remember the highland clearances? Go have a good google and you'll find that the majority of the MacDonald's after the massacre fled to Ireland. Hence the spread to Ireland. Source: Scottish History teacher and proud MacDonald.

Nuno (Portugal)

Hello Frances. How are you ?

Oh, I should leave an email address as I may never find this site again. Forgot to include that my family lived in N.Y. State. Our family really never shared anything, but I need to know.

I know absolutely nothing of my ancestors. I only know I am Scot, my maiden name is Janet MacDonald. My family didn't share or care. How do I research my heritage, where do I start?

Joel MacDonald

Janet, I have a cousin named Janet MacDonald that grew up in Michigan.

My ancestors, John MacDonald b. in Assynth Southerlandshire, Scotland m. Marion Grant. Any connecdtions? Please e-mail at

Josh Strout
I just started to research the last name of my late wifes to help my daughter learn more about mom. If you have any info or good way or place to start i am all ears. Here is my email

I know the clan I am from and he came to Nova Scotia Canada in the 1770s.

Jason McDonald
Ive done some tracing of my family the McDonald clan they landed in North Carolina in 1756 that is where many of my family still live thats where the trail has gone cold

Mike McDonald
Hello. McDonald, the most famous Scottish Clan, celebrates our Irish Ness. You have a very recent history of Clan Donald ancestry. Why have you omitted our decent from Conn of Tara, through Cholla Uais, down through Fergus Mor Mac Erca, to Somerled? We are as Irish as any clan in Ireland. We are the direct descendants of the kings of Dalriada. The so-called "Scots" came from Ireland. I would like to see an updated heritage, to include our Emerald Green Irish Roots!!!! I'm not complaining, I just want people to know about Scotland's Irish roots - through the Irish kingdom of Dalriada and my clan's Irish DNA. By the way, three out of four elements on our crest are Irish. The only one which is not is the ship. Look at the background colors and you'll see the flah or Ireland - White, Green and Gold. Is it any wonder???

Ftances Ross (nee McDonald)
It was always my understanding that our family originated from Ireland but I wanted to get to the bottom of all the different MacDonald clans of Scotland, MacDonald of Clanranald and of Glencoe, would you know a good site to research this?

i to am an mcdonald my family was nearly wiped out by a family by the campbells only afew escaped. This is what my dad says

Bre McD
My dad tells me this too! Well met kinsman

Lol you guys all heard that story too! My grandpa would tell me about it all the time when I was younger!

sherry mcDonald
According to a book, Clans and Families of Scotland and Ireland, by Cairney, The McDonalds were the royal family of Scotland when a bastard son of the Stewarts, broke into the castle as the McDonalds slept, and cut their throats, and took over the crown. Interesting. This author takes one back to Pictish names.

Hello my name is May Mcdonald, I am very proud of my last name, and I would like to find out more information of my family history anywhere in the U.S or UK. I am Cuban Amerian and I reside in miami dade, Florida. Thanks

Garrett McDonald
???? wait.. I know all McDonalds as my my self are a large surname there are MANY McDonalds around the world but does that mean we all are related way way back then?

im a mc Donald too. im irish and the Mc Donald name is my grandfathers heritage, going back several generations we are listed as irish but id say if i trace further ill find the scottish link. i cant wait 2 find it.

robert mcdonald
Thank u saun very muchand I will surely go there when I get a chance again im very proud to be scots irish and very proud of my name and if I ever go to scotland I probably never come back to the states ever again thank you for some of that history

Shaun McDonald
Robert, The McDonald name is certainly one to be proud of. The clan story begins with a Norseman by the name of Somerled. He made a deal with the king of Scotland that he would have rights to any land that he could reach with his boat floating with a fixed rudder. His boat was then dragged by another boat until he reached most of the western isles and some of the coast of the mainland. Later in history at the battle of Bannockburn, Clan Donald fought alongside Robert the Bruce to claim freedom for Scotland. By this time the western isles had become a semi-autonomous region ruled by Clan Donald and some of the clans thought they would not show up for the battle. However, when they did, Robert the Bruce said to them "My hope is constant in thee" which is now on of the clan slogans. They fought again for the Scottish crown alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie but lost at Culloden. This led to the "highland clearances" which resulted in many members of Clan Donald leaving Scotland and a strong possibility of why your family ended up where it did. I strongly recommend a trip to Scotland, especially the western Highlands. In that area, when you tell them your surname is McDonald, you will be greeted with a smile.

Hello Shaun. You seem to have a huge interest and Knowledge of the McDonald name. I have a McDonald from Scotland that wound up having a child in Ireland, and then we came to America, so I have an interest and would love to include a family history on my site in the Surname Meanings section I will be creating. Just contact me through the website if you are willing to help. Thank you.

Everybody has the responsibility to recognize and honor the actions and the sacrifices of their ancestors. It is easy to know that your grandfather was a WWII hero, but did his father serve in WWI? Do you have an ancestors that served in the Civil Wa...

beatrice mcdonald
hello robert, i'm in the same boat. i too am a mcdonald and no very little about my fathers family. his father (my grandfather) was sent EAST from Chicago in the earlly 20th c. to live with an aunt and uncle in NY/NJ. we know virtually nothing about the mcdonald''s from chicago. maybe you know something? let me know if you do!

robert mcdonald
hello my name is robert mcdonald and i would like to know about my famils history im very proud of my name and dont know much about my fathers side of the family so if anyone can help that would be great thank you

Chad MacGregor
McDaniel is too a Scottish surname however, I have no records of the McDaniel's being related to the McDonald's.

Pat Hill

There are several surnames that have ended up as McDonald. My GGGGrandfather was originally a McDonnell and the name gradually became McDonald.

I would like to know if McDaniel is a surname of Mcdonald

Sharon McDonald
Hi, I am Sharon McDonald from New Zealand. I am a third generation New Zealander. My great great great grandfather came out from Cavan Ireland to New Zealand in 1872. I have never been back to Ireland or Scotland, neither has my Dad or Grandfather. We have not returned to Ireland or Scotland since. I would like to go back and see the Highlands of Scotland and Western Isle. I hope people in Scotland vote YES SCOTLAND. If I lived in Scotland I would vote YES FOR SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE. Heaps of Scottish people with Scottish surnames live in New Zealand. The Scottish people here with Scottish surnames would vote Yes for Scottish Independence on 18th September 2014. The McDonald Clan from New Zealand hope you get enough votes. It would be a very proud day for Scottish People in New Zealand if SCOTLAND got SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE. FREEDOM FROM ENGLAND, WALES, NORTHERN IRELAND FOR EVER. PEOPLE HERE IN NEW ZEALAND THINK THAT SCOTLAND SHOULD GET THE EURO TO MAKE IT CHEAPER FOR SCOTTISH NEW ZEALANDERS AND SCOTTISH AUSTRALIAN TO SEE THEIR BELOVED SCOTLAND THAT THE ANCESTERS HAVE NEVER SEEN, ONLY ON T.V, INTERNET, BOOKS BUT NOT IN REAL LIFE.

Alasdair Macdonald
Do not sweat the country of origin or the dominant genes, just find brotherhood or sisterhood in the name. I just hope that the earlier people who claimed the name embodied a sense of inclusivity, not exclusivity. Yes, we are ostensibly Norse (Norway) Celtic (Irish/Pict), and I dare say a lot of other admixtures, but who's counting.