This notable Ulster surname, chiefly recorded in Counties Antrim, Derry, Down and Tyrone, is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "MacEachain", son of Eachain, a male given name from "each", horse, with the diminutive suffix "-an"; hence, "son of the Little Horseman". Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "Mac", denoting "son of" (often contracted to Mc, M'), or "O", grandson, male descendant of.The surname is now recorded in Ulster Church Registers under the variant spellings: Mc Caughan, Mc Coughan and Mc Caghan. Some families of Mc Caughen have changed their name to Mac Caughey, itself an Anglicized form of the cognate Ulster name "Mac Eachaidh", son of the Horseman. The latter is first recorded in the 17th Century Hearth Money Rolls of County Tyrone (below). On February 5th 1784, Robert Mc Caghan witnessed a christening at Magheralin, County Down, and on January 9th 1865, the birth of Robert Mc Caughan was registered at Dervock, County Antrim. Daniel Mc Caughen, a labourer, aged 30 yrs., his wife, Nancy, aged 28 yrs., and children, Susan (5 yrs.), and Robert (an infant), were among some one hundred and seventy famine emigrants who embarked from Belfast on the ship "Monterey", bound for New York on April 7th 1847. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of MacCahee or MacCaughey, which was dated circa 1650, in the "Hearth Money Rolls of County Tyrone", during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, known as "The Great Protector", 1649 - 1658. 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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