Tips from the Pros: Get Rid of the Mc or Mac, from George G. Morgan

If you have ancestors whose surnames begin with “Mc” and “Mac,” such as McKnitt and MacTavish, you may find them suspiciously absent in records even in places you are almost positive they should be appear. Sometimes the Mc or Mac may have been omitted by the person making the record or the record may have been misfiled under the second half of the name. Look in the records for both the full name and for the shortened version of the name. Of course this would also apply to O’Malley and other surname prefixes that could be separated. Learning to misspell and fracture your ancestors’ surnames can sometimes help you find those missing links.

11 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Get Rid of the Mc or Mac, from George G. Morgan

  1. Another tip for searching for these names: search both with and without a space after “Mc.” Unfortunately, many such names have been indexed with the space (even though the orginal record does not show a space), and searches for the name witihout the space will not return results for the name with the space. For example, if I search for my McCoy ancestors with “McCoy,” I will not find records indexed as “Mc Coy,” and vice versa. So I always search on both “McCoy” and “Mc Coy.”

  2. I would also like to add when you have a surname with St. — I try St. St Saint and also just the last part of the name – i.e. if it is St. Clair, try searching just Clair. Have even found it run all together as one word (Stclair) in the indexing process.

  3. This happens a lot in my research with French names. And regarding the “St.” -you can also try under the French feminine form “Ste.” Have found the name Aubuchon listed as AuBuchon, Au Buchon, and plain Buchon. Occurs also with French article sometimes carried over from the “dit” names, example you may find De Lasource as La Source and even just Source.

  4. In searching for for the surname O’Brien, I find it’s more productive to try four different ways: O’Brien with the apostrophe, Obrien without the apostrophe, O Brien with a space, and Brien without the O. usually disregards the apostrophe but other sites don’t – you get different results searching all four ways.

  5. Yes, Thank you for your tips on using alternate spellings and potential mis-spellings of ancestor names when conducting genealogical research. I have found horrible spelling errors in old census records and some of the Ellis Island records I have seen are a mess with several different spellings for surnames of ancestors who arrived as a group on the same ship. First names have also been mangled beyond recognition in some cases. One old census record had my own dear grandmother Carrie listed as “Larrie”! I have found Great Great Grandfather Horace variously listed as Horis, Horris, Horrus, Harris, and Boris! Great advice, Thanks! Steven James Bowyer Dickson Bonforti Wamback

  6. Also note that in scotland Mac and Mc are seaparate from the alphabetical listings for M-. They usually come first. Thus Mcwhirter comes before Mann.

  7. This is also true with the “Van” on some names. My ancestors were Van Skiver’s in the old country but when they came to this country, they dropped the “Van” from their names. I would say this applies to all the names, not just Mc or Mac.

  8. The same information applies to a name like Van Hook. A search will turn up Hook and Vanhook and Van Hook. I’ve found it best to join the two parts of the last name.

  9. Thank you,
    I suspected this as I look for records on my McCarty’s.

    I will look again and leave off the Mc.


  10. Once while foraging in an index, I came across a whole page of men whose first name was “Van”, Looked odd! Some also had the actual first name, but many were just ‘Buren, Van’

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