This interesting Irish surname is recorded in the spellings Mulvaney, Mulvany, and Mulvenna. It is an anglicized spelling of the Gaelic "O' Maoilmheana", meaning "the descendant of the devotee of (St.) Meana". "Meana" is a personal name thought to have derived from "mion", meaning mite or small. The name may also be associated with the river Meana, which flows into Lough Neagh at Randalstown, County Antrim, this being the region where the surname is most prolific. This river is now known as the Main. In Ulster, the surname is usually found as Mulvenna, and this branch of the sept was originally located in O' Cahan's country, in County Derry where they were hereditary advisers to the O' Cahan clan. The spellings as Mulvany and Mulvaney are the forms usually found outside northern Ulster. The best known namebearers were two artists, a father and son, Thomas James Mulvany (circa 1770 - 1845), an original member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and George Francis Mulvany (1809 - 1869), who was director of the National Gallery of Ireland; they were both born in Dublin, Ireland. Other recordings include Charles Mulvenna, a witness at Larne, County Antrim, on November 28th 1864, and Patrick Mulvenny of Ballynanich, County Down, on August 23rd 1866. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Dermot O' Maoil Mheana, which was dated 1164, in the Annals of the province of Ulster, Ireland, during the reign of King Henry 11 of England, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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