Recorded in a number of spelling forms including McPhelimey, McPhelimy, McPhelim, McPhilemy and McPhillimey, this is a Gaelic surname of Irish origins. It was originally almost entirely associated with County Tyrone in Ulster province, whilst also occasionally recorded over the sea in Scotland. It is a popular misconception that Irish surnames commence with an O' and Scottish with a Mac or Mc. This is not so. There are just as many Irish surnames prefixed with Mac or Mc, both meaning 'son of', as with O' which means 'descendant of'. In this case the surname originates from the ancient pre 16th century 'Mac Feidhlimidh', and the the translation is 'the son of Phelim'. Quite who this Phelim was is uncertain, but it is probable that he was an early holy man. Almost all Gaelic surnames originate from the name of the first chief of the sept, Phelim being a popular Irish baprismal name. Many early records of Ireland were destroyed by the IRA in 1922 when they blew up the Dublin Record Office, a particularly stupid act of vandalism by this organisation, as it destroyed the heritage of Ireland. In the case of this surname surviving examples include: Isabella McPhilemey, who married Willam Smyth at Lower Bodoney, County Tyrone, on November 25th 1845, Anne McPhelim, born at Castlebar, County Mayo, on January 22nd 1864, and Ellen McPhilmy, the daughter of John McPhilmy, born at Blackrock, Dublin, on January 22nd 1864. In Scotland the first recording may be that of John McPhelimy, whose daughter Margaret was born at Old Cummock, Ayrshire, on May 1st 1848.
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