This interesting surname of Irish Gaelic origins is particularly associated with North Ulster. It is recorded in a wide number of spellings including McElvine, McIleen, McIlvenna, McIlvaney, McIlvenny, McIlveen, McIlvenna and possibly other rare forms. The origination is the ancient Irish Mac Giolla Mheana, which translates as 'the son of the follower of Mheana.' Mheana was an early Christian prophet or hermit from the pre 7th century. Irish recordings are erratic and were not improved by the blowing up by the IRA of the Irish National Records Office in 1922, and the loss of irreplaceable registers. In this case we have been able to trace a number of suitable recordings and these include Mary Jane McIlveen christened at Dromara, County Down, on May 19th 1817, and Robert McIlvenna, a witness at the christening of his daughter Mary Emily at Tamlaght by Moneymore, on February 3rd 1875. An interesting earlier recording is that of Anna and Michael McIIvenney who left Galway on the ship Clarence on May 24th 1647 bound for New York. They were 'Famine Emigrants', who left the country at the very height of the pestilence. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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