This uncommon surname, recorded in Church Registers of County Down from the late 18th Century under the variant spellings McCrissican, McCrisicken and McCriskin, and in County Leitrim as McGrisken, is ultimately believed to be of medieval Scottish origin, and a variant of "MacCristin", a patronymic of the male given name Cristin or Christian, from the Latin "Christianus", follower of Christ (Latin "Christus", Greek "Khristos", a derivative of "kriein", to anoint). Fr. Woulfe, a leading authority on Irish surnames, offers "MacCristin" as the source of the above names in his work "Sloinnte Gaedhael is Gall" (Irish and English Surnames). Recorded in Scotland from the end of the 13th Century, this surname was introduced into Ulster by Scottish settlers following the Elizabethan and Cromwellian plantations. Early examples from Scotland include: John Makcristyne, bailie of Wigtown in 1459, and Symon McCristin, sheriff-depute of Wigtown, who, in 1511, was chased by a man "with a drawn quhinzeare". An alternative suggestion for the source of the surname is the Gaelic "griscin, griscineach", a nickname for a rotund, ruddy-complexioned person. On January 25th 1795, John McCrissican, an infant, was christened at Downpatrick, County Down, and on February 4th 1827, Mary Jane, daughter of James and Ann McCrisken, was christened at Inch, County Down. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillechrist MacCrystine, which was dated circa 1295, in "Cartularium comitatus de Levenax", during the reign of King John Balliol of Scotland, 1292 - 1296. 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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