Johnson, Johnston

Padraig Mac Giolla-Domhnaigh

Johnson, Johnston—These two names need a rather lengthy explanation. In the first case the name Johnson has been assumed by several of those bearing the names Makeon, M'Keon, McKeown, and Mac Eoin, in the districts surrounding Tuam, Co. Galway, and in several districts of Co. Sligo.

The names referred to are various forms of the original Gaelic Mac Eóin.

The reference to M'Keown here, which is another form of M'Keon in Connacht, needs explaining. This name in Connacht has no connection it seems with the Ulster septs of that name. The M'Keowns of Co. Antrim and Co. Derry are a Gaelicised sept of the Scottish sept of Bisset whose district was principally in the Glens of that part of Antrim occupied later by the McDonnells, the sept taking its name of Mac Eóin from one, Eóin Bisset, of that Scottish family. The other sept of the M'Keowns, located in Co. Armagh, are of a quite different origin. The M'Keowns were identified as Erinach of the Parish of Derrynoose, Keady, Co. Armagh, for centuries, and another sept was identified as Erinachs of Creggan—"Creggan of the Green Bushes"—about which Art McCovey, the Co. Armagh Gaelic bard has sung. This name in Gaelic is Mac Eogháin—the "Son of Owen." Other forms are M'Geown and M'Guone; in Gaelic Mag Eoghain, substituting "Mag" in place of "Mac," which is a common feature of several names in Northern Ireland, the Southern part of Argyle, and in Galloway in Scotland. In the district of Pointzpass, Co. Armagh, where many of the inhabitants are of Scottish origin, the name M'Cheyne, an equivalent to the Irish McShane, has been anglicised Johnston and Johnson. The name M'Cheyne is a shortened form of M'Ilcheyne, a sept found in Bute, Galloway and Glenshee; in Gaelic Mac Giolla-Seáin.

It is the anglicised form of McShan in North Tyrone, and McShane in the districts adjoining Armagh City, and in the Fews in Co. Armagh; also in the districts surrounding Cavan it is the anglicised form of McShane; in Gaelic Mac Seáin. Some of the M'Keans, a McDonald sept, have assumed the name of Johnston. Several families of the Johnstons of Dumfries are found in the Counties of Armagh, Antrim and Fermanagh, and it is reckoned these families are of Gaelic origin, having changed the name from Mac Iain to Johnston at an early period, as many Scottish septs assumed anglicised names previous to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Alphabetical Index of Anglicised Surnames in Ireland

See also Woulfe’s Irish Names and Surnames
and O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees