This interesting surname, with variant spellings Durcan, Durkan, and the rarer forms Gurkin and Zorkin, is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic Mac Duarcain or O Duarcain. The Gaelic prefix "Mac" means "son of", and "O", "male descendant of", plus the personal byname Duarcain, a diminutive of "duairc", morose or gloomy, and originally used to describe a pessimistic person. This surname is particularly widespread in the Province of Connacht and especially in Counties Mayo and Sligo where it is recorded from the early 13th Century, (see below). In County Sligo, the name is said to have been adopted by a branch of the O'Haras, an important sept descended from the distinguished Eaghra, chief of Leyny in that county. In an Inquisition made in the reign of James 1, (1603-1625), several landholders in the barony of Gallen, County Mayo, bear the names Mac Durcan, Mac Durkain and Mac Curkan. Bartley Durkin, "a labourer", aged 22, who embarked from Liverpool on the ship "Niagra" bound for New York was a famine emigrant to that city. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of O'Duarcan, which was dated 1225, "Burial Records of County Sligo", during the reign of King Henry 111 of England, "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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