This notable surname, long-established in Scotland and in Ireland, is an Anglicized form of the Old Scots Gaelic "Mac an Ghoill", son of the Lowlander or Stranger, or the Old Irish equivalent "Mac an Ghaill", son of the Foreigner. The ultimate origin of "Goill" and "Gaill" is the Celtic "gall", applied in the Highlands of Scotland to people from the English-speaking lowlands and to Scandinavians, and in Ireland, to settlers who arrived in the wake of the Anglo-Norman invasion. The surname first appears on record in Scotland in the early 13th Century (see below).It is interesting to note that the patronymic "Mac an Ghaill" was assumed by some branches of the Norman family of Stapleton who came to Ireland following the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170, and who settled in the south eastern counties of Kilkenny and Waterford. In 1428, a John MacGale was "one of a party of O's and Mac's who plundered the Prior of Fore (County Westmeath) of livestock and goods". In Petty's "Census" of 1659, the names MacGill and Magill are widespread in west and east Ulster respectively. These families are descended from Scottish gallowglasses or professional soldiers who came to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster. On April 25th 1846, Alice McGill, aged 20 yrs., was among twenty-one registered bearers of the name to arrive at the port of New York on the "Patrick-Henry" as famine immigrants. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maurice Macgeil, charter witness, which was dated 1231, in "Records of the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr", Arbroath, Scotland, during the reign of King Alexander 11 of Scotland, 1214 - 1249. 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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