This is a very difficult surname to prove the precise origins, it may be Scottish, it may be Irish, or it could be Gaelic, which is both. The Scots seem to regard MacKechnie as a member of the Clan MacDonald, the most numerous and prosperous of Scottish clans. This is quite possible as MacDonald is recorded in a bewildering variety of spellings including McConile in 1571, Mackoneye in 1586 and M'Kconil in 1597 amongst the many wonderful examples of how to spell the name MacDonald! The Irish meanwhile, and it is in Ireland that the name as McKechnie is most recorded, at least from the 18th century, suggest that it is a form of the equally famous sept of O'Cagney, originally located in County Cork.'Cagney' in Irish means 'enforcer', presumably a nickname of description for a group of hard men. Our opinion is that the origin is Scottish, and probably a dialectal development from MacDonald, and that the original nameholders were 'planters' as the early recordings are all protestant. Early recordings include James McKechnie who married Mary Wilson at Rosemary Street church, Antrim, on January 24th 1831, and Alexander McKechnie of Cork, County Cork, on June 11th 1868. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jonathon M'aconie, which was dated January 1st 1730, a witness at Carmoney, County Antrim, Ireland, during the reign of King George 11, known as 'The last soldier king', 1727 - 1760. 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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