Recorded as McGerr, McGirr, McGeer, and probably others, this is an early Scottish surname, which is also well recorded in Ireland, and particulary Ulster. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic 'Mac an gHeairr' which is believed to translate as 'the son of the short man'. What is certain is that almost all Gaelic surnames whether Scottish or Irish that are not locational, derive from a nickname for the first nameholder or chief. Some of these original names were at best robust and often obscene for modern tastes, so that over the years the meaning has been largely toned down. That is not the case here, and the name begs the question about how small the chief was at a time when generally people were small in stature in anycase. Perhaps like many nicknames, the reverse applied. The first known recordings of the surname are in Ireland in 1602. No individual are mentioned merely that the nameholders in County Armagh are called MacEghir. Later in 1628 the nameholders are mentioned as being 'numerous in County Armagh'. The first known recording of an individual is that of Mobert M'Girre of Dalbeattie, Scotland in 1658, whilst Shane MacGirr of Fintona in Northern Ireland was a Jacobite who was outlawed after the battle of the Boyne in 1690. He is believed to have joined the Irish armies of the king of France. Elizabeth McGerr was a famine emigrant who left Ireland on the ship "Garrick of Liverpool" on May 15th 1847 bound for New York.
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