This ancient surname is of early Gaelic origins. It is derived from 'Maccbethad' (the modern Scottish 'Macbeth'), meaning 'son of life', or 'man of religion', which hardly fits in with Shakespeares interpretation! Today the name is in addition to Scotland, quite numerous in North East Ulster. It is found in a wide variety of spellings which include McVeigh, McVaugh, McVagh, McVaugh, McVey, McBey, McVie and McVeagh. Its probable place of origin was in the Scottish Islands of Mull and Islay where in the medieval times it is believed that the clan were the hereditary physicians to the region.They were also, it is said, great historians, and collectors of ancient manuscripts. The recordings include Father Patrick Macabeath (1541), the bishop of Armagh, Ireland, whilst John McVeigh was a prominent rebel in the 1798 rebellion of Ireland and was executed at Baltinglass. Church recordings include the following examples, Leiticia McVeagh who married Thomas Gordon on the April 1st 1785, at Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, whilst Anna McVey, aged 25, who is recorded as being a 'Famine Emigrant', sailed on the ship 'Manchester' from Belfast to New York, on September 25th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Macvay, which was dated 1504, in the Exchequer Rolls of 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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