This interesting surname is a form of the early Gaelic (Scottish and Irish) patronymic "Mac Aodh". The personal name "Aodh" meaning "fire" was originally the name of a pagan god, but this does not seem to have halted the popularity of this surname. In the modern idiom Mac Aodh has at least fifteen spelling forms including McKay, McKee, Kee, McCay, McCoy, McEa, and McAy. The form MacKee is widespread in North East Ulster, and especially in Counties Antrim, Down and Armagh, with the short form as Kee being most numerous in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Early examples of the surname recordings include George McKe of Myretoun was mentioned in the Register of the Privy Seal, for Scotland, in 1538, and Sir Patrick MacKee who was a prominent County Donegal "servitor" at the Plantation of Ulster in 1641. Other later examples include on April 24th 1845, Robert Kee and Anne Jane Wilson who were married at Raphoe, County Donegal, whilst on May 17th 1847, James Kee, a famine emigrant, embarked from Belfast on the ship "Pontiac" bound for New York. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Cucail Mac Aedha. This was dated 1098, in the Manx Names listing, by Moore, during the reign of Cathal Craobhdhearg (Red Hand), High King of Ireland, 1198 - 1224. 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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