This interesting surname is of Irish origin, and is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "MacGiolla Chainnigh". The Gaelic prefix "mac" means "son of", plus "giolla", devotee of, and the saint's name "Canice". St. Canice, who came from Dromachose in County Derry, was a pupil of St. Finnian at Clonard. He founded a monastery at Aghabre in Ossory circa 577, and also had a foundation in County Kilkenny. He died in Ossory circa 600. The Mac Giolla Chainnigh sept, i.e. "sons of the followers of St. Canice" were of the Cenel Eoghain group, a collective clan name for tribes descended from Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the 5th Century High King of Ireland, who were chiefly located in Counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. In the modern idiom, the name is also Anglicized as Macelheeny, MacIlhenny, and Eleanor Granny, was recorded in Kilderry, County Derry. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of McElhinney of Londonderry, which was dated circa 1600, in the "Late Tudor Fiants (Fiant Litterae Patents)", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 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.1603.
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