This interesting surname of (Irish) Gaelic origins is particularly associated with North Ulster. It is found recorded in a wide number of spellings including McElvine, McIleen, McIlenna, McIlveen, and McIlvenna and no doubt many other more obscure styles. The origination is from the ancient Irish Mac Giolla Mheana, which translates as 'the son of the follower (devotee) of Mheana.' This gentleman is believed to have been an early prophet or hermit from the pre 7th century. Irish recordings are erratic and were not improved by the blowing up by the IRA of the Irish National Records Office in 1922, and the loss of irreplaceable registers.In this case we have been able to trace a number of suitable recordings and these include Mary Jane McIlveen christened at Dromara, County Down, on May 19th 1817, and Robert McIlvenna, a witness at the christening of his daughter Mary Emily at Tamlaght by Moneymore, on February 3rd 1875. An interesting earlier recording is that of Michael McIenna, who with his wife and five children, who left Ireland on the ship 'Aberfoil of Liverpool', bound for New York. They were 'Famine Emigrants', who left the country at the very height of the pestilence. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Marion McElvine, which was dated January 20th 1704, christened at Drumbo, County Down, Ireland, during the reign of Queen Anne of England and Ireland, 1702 - 1714. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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