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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

Where did the Scottish McNeil family come from? What is the Scottish McNeil family crest and coat of arms? When did the McNeil family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the McNeil family history?

The ancestors of the McNeil family come from the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada. Their surname comes from the personal name Neil. The Gaelic form Mac Neill translates as son of Neil.


Medieval spelling was at best an intuitive process, and translation between Gaelic and English was no more effective. These factors caused an enormous number of spelling variations in Dalriadan names. In fact, it was not uncommon to see a father and son who spelled their name differently. Over the years, McNeil has been spelled MacNeil, MacNeill, MacNeal, MacNeilage, MacNeale, MacNeall, MacNeille, MacNeel, MacNiel, MacGreal, Mcneil, Mcneill, McNeal, Mcneal, Mcneall and many more.

First found in on the islands of Barra, Gigha, Colonsay, and Oronsay. According to traditional records in 1049, Niall, a direct descendent of King Niall of the Nine Hostages, landed in Barra and founded the Clan MacNeill of Barra. However, another kinsman, some believe to be the younger brother of Niall named Anrothan, married a Princess of the Dalriadans, an ancient race from which sprang most of the early Scottish Kings. Legend has it that Anrothan started the MacNeill house of Colonsay through his son Torquil of Taynish. This latter branch acquired the lands of Gigha, Colonsay and Oronsay, beyond the Firth of Lorne. For the next two centuries it appears as though these two great houses were developing independently of one another.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNeil research. Another 721 words(52 lines of text) covering the years 1590, 1730, 1370, 1380, 1526, 1562, 1640, 1631, 1640, 1612, 1613 and 1686 are included under the topic Early McNeil History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 111 words(8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNeil Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the McNeil family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 157 words(11 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Settlers from Scotland put down roots in communities all along the east coast of North America. Some moved north from the American colonies to Canada as United Empire Loyalists during the American War of Independence. As Clan societies and highland games started in North America in the 20th century many Scots rediscovered parts of their heritage. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name McNeil were among those contributors:

McNeil Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Hector McNeil, who landed in New Jersey in 1685
  • Malcolm McNeil, who arrived in New Jersey in 1685

McNeil Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Neil McNeil, who arrived in Cape Fear, North Carolina in 1718
  • Margaret McNeil, who arrived in New York in 1738
  • Mary McNeil, who landed in New York, NY in 1739
  • Dugold McNeil, who landed in North Carolina in 1739
  • Anne McNeil, who landed in New York, NY in 1740

McNeil Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Thomas McNeil, who landed in America in 1803
  • William McNeil, who landed in America in 1805
  • Jane McNeil, aged 27, landed in Maine in 1812
  • Henry C McNeil, who arrived in Texas in 1835
  • Angus McNeil, who arrived in Texas in 1835


  • Freeman McNeil (b. 1959), former professional American football player
  • Lori McNeil (b. 1963), African-American tennis coach and former professional tennis player
  • Brigadier-General Edwin Colyer McNeil (1882-1965), American Chairman of Board of Review, Office of the Judge Advocate-General (1936-1937)
  • William "Billy" McNeil (b. 1940), Scottish soccer player and manager
  • Moses McNeil (1855-1938), Scottish professional footballer
  • John Law McNeil, Scottish footballer
  • Hector McNeil PC (1907-1955), Scottish Labour politician
  • Rita McNeil CM, ONS (1944-2013), Canadian Gemini Award and three-time Juno Award winning, multi-platinum singer/songwriter from Big Pond, Nova Scotia
  • Dixie McNeil (b. 1947), former English footballer
  • Neil McNeil (1851-1934), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto from 1912 to 1934



The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vincere vel mori
Motto Translation: To conquer or die.


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  1. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  2. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  3. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  4. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  5. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  6. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  7. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  8. Warner, Philip Warner. Famous Scottish Battles. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996. Print. (ISBN 0-76070-004-4).
  9. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  10. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  11. ...

The McNeil Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McNeil Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 1 October 2014 at 10:53.

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