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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

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

The sea-swept Hebrides islands and the west coast of Scotland, made up the ancient Dalriadan kingdom, the ancestral home of the MacNeil family. Their name comes from the personal name Neil. The Gaelic form Mac Neill translates as son of Neil.


Many spelling variations of MacNeil have been recorded over the years, including These are the result of the medieval practice of spelling according to sound and repeated translation between Gaelic and English. 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 MacNeil 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 MacNeil History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


Some of the MacNeil 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.


Many who arrived from Scotland settled along the east coast of North America in communities that would go on to become the backbones of the young nations of the United States and Canada. In the American War of Independence, many settlers who remained loyal to England went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Their descendants later began to recover the lost Scottish heritage through events such as the highland games that dot North America in the summer months. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the MacNeil family emigrate to North America:

MacNeil Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Daniel Macneil, who arrived in Boston in 1652
  • James Macneil, who arrived in Boston in 1652

MacNeil Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Neil MacNeil, aged 44, landed in North Carolina in 1812

MacNeil Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Malcolm MacNeil, who came to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1779
  • Donald MacNeil, who was on record in Nova Scotia in 1785


  • Ian Roderick Macneil of Barra (1929-2010), 46th Chief of the Clan, American-born Harvard educated law professor who gifted Kisimul Castle to Historic Scotland for 1000 years in 2001
  • Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947), American sculptor
  • Robert Breckenridge MacNeil (b. 1931), American (Canadian-born), broadcast journalist and novelist
  • Flora MacNeil MBE (1928-2015), Scottish Gaelic singer
  • Angus MacNeil (b. 1970), Scottish politician
  • Robert Lister MacNeil of Barra (d. 1970), 45th Chief of the Clan, bought the Barra estate in 1937 and restored Kisimul Castle before his death
  • Kenzie MacNeil (b. 1952), Canadian songwriter, performer, producer and director in television, film, radio and stage
  • Carole MacNeil (b. 1964), award-winning television journalist and producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Rita MacNeil (b. 1944), Canadian folk singer


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.


MacNeil Clan Badge
MacNeil Clan Badge

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A clan is a social group made up of a number of distinct branch-families that actually descended from, or accepted themselves as descendants of, a common ancestor. The word clan means simply children. The idea of the clan as a community is necessarily based around this idea of heredity and is most often ruled according to a patriarchal structure. For instance, the clan chief represented the hereditary "parent" of the entire clan. The most prominent example of this form of society is the Scottish Clan system...


Septs of the Distinguished Name MacNeil
Arneal, Arneale, Arneil, Arneile, Arneill, Arnell, Arneul, Arneyle, Arniel, Arnill, Graal, Graale, Grael, Grail, Graile, Graul, Grayle, Greal, Greale, Greil, Greile, Greul, Greyle, Honeal, Honeale, Honeil, Honeile, Honeill, Honeul, Honeyle, Honneal, Honneale, Honneil, Honneile, Honneill, Honneul, Honneyle, Kneal, Kneale, Kneil, Kneile, Kneul, Kneyle, Kniel, Kniell, Knielly, Knyel, Knyell, Knyelly, MacGraal and more.


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  1. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. 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. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3).
  4. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  5. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  6. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  7. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  8. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  9. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  10. Donaldson, Gordon and Robert S. Morpeth. Who's Who In Scotish History. Wales: Welsh Academic Press, 1996. Print. (ISBN 186057-0054).
  11. ...

The MacNeil Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The MacNeil 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 25 January 2016 at 19:18.

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