Recorded as McKinlay and McKinley, this is a surname of early medieval Gaelic origins. It may be either Irish or Scottish and derives from the pre 10th century name Mac Fhionnlaigh, meaning the son of the white skinned warrior from "fionn", meaning fair or white skinned, and "laoch", a warrior. It is therefore probably an ethnic name for a Norseman. Over the centuries the surname under went considerable development including: such spellings as Makkinla (1528); Macinle (1605); M'keandlay (1627); M'Finlay (1663); and McIndlay (1667). Sir John Finlosoun, alias MacFhionnlaigh, was vicar of Kilmorich in 1511, and John M'Ynla noted in the Black Book of Taymouth, attested a bond of man rent in Glenurquhay in 1561. The surnames McKinlay and McKinley are well recorded in the Irish and Ulster county of Antrim, having been introduced by Scottish settlers, however, McKinley is occasionally found as a form of the Irish "Mac an Leagha", meaning the son of the physician. One Maelechlainn Mac an Leagha, an eminent man in medicine, was noted in the Annals of Loch Ce, in Ireland and dated 1531. On March 29th 1677, Donald McKinlay and Elizabeth Donald were married at Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and on September 11th 1815, Archibald McKinlay married Jane Simpson at Ballymoney parish, County Antrim. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillaspyk M'Kynlay, who witnessed an instrument of Sasine, which was dated 1493, in "Parochial Records of Argyllshire", Scotland, during the reign of King James 1V of Scotland, 1488 - 1513. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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