The name McGirr is an Anglicization of the Celtic name “Mac An Ghearr” which means “son of the short man”. People named Short or Shortt are also part of the family.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no difference between “Mc” and “Mac”. These prefixes mean “son of” and are interchangeable. Another myth is that “Mc” is Irish and “Mac” is Scottish. Not so – both forms are used in both countries. It was not uncommon for a father to use one form and his son the other. My g-grandfather, Robert McGirr, changed the spelling of his name (for no apparent reason) from McGirr to MacGirr and his descendants have used the latter spelling ever since.
The earliest reports of the family are in southwest Scotland (Kirkcudbrightshire). My gggg-grandfather, another Robert, was born in 1736 and died April 14, 1820 in Springholm, Kirkcudbrightshire. He, like many others at the time, was a farmer. Recently, I learned that there is another branch of the family in Clackmannanshire and Fifeshire whose ancestors date back prior to 1736. As soon as I have more information about that branch, I will post it here.
It appears that, during the 1600s, some male members of the family became “Galloglas” meaning “Scottish mercenaries” and were hired by various Irish lords for protection. Eventually, these McGirrs married local women and settled in Ireland, mainly Counties Tyrone and Armagh. At one time, McGirr was the dominant name in these counties.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, many of the Irish McGirrs emigrated to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA and their descendants number in the thousands. However, many still remain in Ireland. The Northern Ireland telephone book presently lists more than 180 McGirrs. Unfortunately, ancestors are relatively difficult to trace in Ireland, mainly due to the Four Courts fire of 1922 that destroyed much of the Irish archives.
The Scottish McGirrs also emigrated (mainly to Canada) but quite a few remain in Scotland. The Scottish telephone book currently lists more than 50 McGirrs. Happily, the Scottish records remain largely intact and it is relatively easy to trace one’s ancestors there.
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I started to research the history of the McGirr family in 1999 as one of my post-retirement projects. I have collected more than 8,000 names in my database and more names are being added each week. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has information about, or an interest in, the McGirr family. In many cases, I am able to supply useful information to those researching their direct McGirr family line.
Garth MacGirr, Editor