This interesting surname is of Gaelic origin, found in Ireland and Scotland, and is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name "MacMaighstir", composed of the Gaelic prefix "Mac", son of, and "maighstir", master, a cleric, from the Latin "magister". In Scotland the surname is now found mainly in the shires of Dumfries and Wigtown, but was also the name of a sept in Ardgour which traditionally are said to have been dispossessed by the Macleans in the 15th Century. In Ireland, the MacMasters are a Breffny sept (Cavan and West Leitrim) and early Anglicized forms of the name recorded in the "Fiants" (circa early 1600's) include: MacAmaster, MacYmaster and MacMester, and were found in all stations of life, mostly in Cavan and Longford . The surname, which also gave rise to the name "Masterson" in now chiefly found in Antrim and Down where they are descendants of Scottish settlers. Colin, son of John Macmagistir (see below), was canon of Argyll in 1433, and John M'Master was recorded in Lanark in 1498. Rev. Gilbert MacMaster, D.D. (1778 - 1854), was a Presbyterian minister in New York. His son Erasmus (deceased 1866), was Professor of Theology at Chicago, and his other son, James (deceased 1886), became a leading Catholic journalist. William MacMaster (1811 - 1887), born in Co. Tyrone, was founder of Toronto University. On November 1st 1689, James McMaster married Barbery McCloirie in Co. Antrim. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Macmagistir, which was dated 1433, in the "Calendar of entries in the papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland", during the reign of King James 1, Ruler of Scotland, 1406 - 1437. 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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