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


Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name McSwain is Mac Suibhne, which is derived from the word "suibhne," which means "pleasant."

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The surname McSwain was first found in County Donegal (Irish: Dún na nGall), northwest Ireland in the province of Ulster, sometimes referred to as County Tyrconnel. The name is derived from Suibhne O'Neill, who was a chieftain in Argyll, Scotland. His descendants migrated to Ireland as gallowglasses (mercenaries) prior to 1267. The three great septs of this name finally established themselves in Tirconnell in 14th century; they were known as MacSweeney Fanad, MacSweeney Banagh, and MacSweeney na dTuath, who were commonly referred to as 'MacSweeney of the Battleaxes.' They later became attached to the MacCarthys in the south and acquired their own territories and castles in Muskerry in County Cork.

Names from the Middle Ages demonstrate many spelling variations. This is because the recording scribe or church official often decided as to how a person's name was spelt and in what language. Research into the name McSwain revealed many variations, including MacSweeney, MacSweeny, MacSwine, MacSwiney, MacSwyne, MacSwyny, MacWhinney, MacWhinny, MacWhinnie, MacSwiny, McSweeney, Swiney, Swinney and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McSwain research. Another 137 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1299 and 1310 are included under the topic Early McSwain History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 133 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McSwain Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name McSwain or a variant listed above, including:

McSwain Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Archibald McSwain, who landed in Virginia in 1776
  • John McSwain, who landed in Virginia in 1776

McSwain Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Roderick McSwain, who arrived in Alabama in 1802
  • Daniel McSwain, aged 32, arrived in North Carolina in 1812
  • Finlay McSwain, aged 47, landed in North Carolina in 1812
  • Angus McSwain, aged 70, arrived in North Carolina in 1812

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  • Rodney McSwain (b. 1962), former professional American NFL football cornerback
  • John Jackson McSwain (1875-1936), American politician, U.S. Representative from South Carolina
  • Ginny McSwain, American Emmy Award winning voice actor and voice casting director
  • Peyton McSwain, American Democrat politician, Member of North Carolina State House of Representatives from Cleveland County, 1921-22
  • John Jackson McSwain (1875-1936), American Democrat politician, U.S. Representative from South Carolina 4th District, 1921-36
  • Cecil E. McSwain Jr., American Democrat politician, Postmaster at Little Rock, Arkansas, 1961-63
  • Charlie McSwain (b. 1901), Australian rules footballer


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  1. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  2. MacLysaght, Edward. Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7).
  3. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  5. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  6. 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.
  7. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  8. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  9. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. 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).
  11. ...

The McSwain Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McSwain 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 14 January 2016 at 09:08.

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