Swinney History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Swinney family

The surname Swinney 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.

Early History of the Swinney family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Swinney research. Another 69 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1299 and 1310 are included under the topic Early Swinney History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Swinney Spelling Variations

Before widespread literacy came to Ireland, a name was often recorded under several different variations during the life of its bearer. Accordingly, numerous spelling variations were revealed in the search for the origin of the name Swinney family name. Variations found include MacSweeney, MacSweeny, MacSwine, MacSwiney, MacSwyne, MacSwyny, MacWhinney, MacWhinny, MacWhinnie, MacSwiny, McSweeney, Swiney, Swinney and many more.

Early Notables of the Swinney family (pre 1700)

Prominent amongst the family at this time was John MacSween, a 13th-14th century nobleman who lost his lands in Scotland after the defeat of the forces and death of Alexander Og MacDonald, Lord of Islay in 1299. In...
Another 37 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Swinney Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Swinney migration to the United States +

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 Swinney or a variant listed above, including:

Swinney Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Morgan Swinney, who arrived in Virginia in 1701 [1]

Contemporary Notables of the name Swinney (post 1700) +

  • Dr. David Swinney (1946-2006), American psycholinguist who developed the Cross-Modal Priming Task (CMPT)
  • Harry L. Swinney (b. 1939), American physicist, Sid Richardson Foundation Regents Chair, University of Texas (1990-), awarded the American Physical Society Fluid Dynamics Prize (1995)
  • William Christopher "Dabo" Swinney (b. 1969), American head coach of the Clemson University Tigers football team
  • Owen Swinney (d. 1754), also known as Owen Mac Swinny, Irish playwright who went to London in 1706 to manage the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, which he leased from Sir John Vanbrugh
  • Gordon Robert Swinney (b. 1974), former English cricketer
  • John Ramsey Swinney (b. 1964), Scottish politician, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (2007-)


  1. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)


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