Those who have borne or indeed who bear the illustrious family name McGuinn can trace their ancestry back to a time when Ireland was covered with large forests and lakes, where memorials were inscribed on ogham stones and where there existed a complex society with clearly defined laws and religion, whose people were expert in weaponry and who had a strong warrior tradition. This was Celtic Ireland. From the "Lebor Gabhala" (Book of Invasions), written in Ireland in the ninth century at a time when the forebears of the McGuinn family resided in fortified towns or rural communities, engaged in such professions as scribes, physicians, or employed as soldiers by a local potentate, modern scholars have identified four distinct groups of Celts who settled in Ireland before the birth of Christ. The last and the one who left the greatest legacy to Ireland were the Feni or Gaeil. Some fifty years before the birth of Christ, while the proud ancestors of the McGuinn family formed alliances with neighbouring families through marriage and tribute, the final phase of the Celtic settlement of Ireland commenced, with the arrival of the Feni. These were called "Gaeil" by the Celts who were already in Ireland. By the fifth century AD, the Gaeil had come to dominate Ireland.
It was the Gaeil who were to bequeath to the Irish the beautiful and ancient Gaelic language, the language spoken in Ireland when Saint Patrick came, first as a slave and then as a missionary. The Gaeil may be divided into two major groups, the "Eoghanacht" (people of Eogan) who were the South Gaels and the "Connachta" (people of Conn), the North Gaels. The latter were the larger and more powerful of the two. Thus, those spirited men and women of the McGuinn family who lived in Ireland during this period of Irish history would have pledged allegiance to either of the above clans, through blood line or through marriage. It is important not to associate Gaeldom in Ireland with the general decline of Celtic societies on the Continent, for long after the Celts of the European mainland had seen their fortune wane, the Celts of Ireland were expanding their territory with all the vitality of their contemporaries, the fifth-century Germanic tribes of Europe.
In the tradition of the Gael members of the McGuinn family have stood strong in the face of adversity. The Gael and their allies have always displayed pride, confident strength, and expansion. This is reflected in the attitude of the native Irish chiefs of the sixteenth century, as they were for the most part unrelenting and disdainful of English conquest. Indeed, according to the Celtic scholar, C. Thomas Cairney, "Foppish Elizabethan ways certainly elicited a boisterous reaction from members of the O'Neill's heavily armed bodyguard on his historic visit to London in 1562".
The Irish surname McGuinn is of patronymic origin, belonging to that category of surnames derived from the forename of the original bearer's father. In this instance, the surname McGuinn is an anglicisation of the Gaelic name Mac Cuinn, denoting the son of Conn (genitive Cuinn). The name is anglicised as (Mac) Quinn as well as MacGuinn but both are rare names in Ireland today. The form MacQuinn is found in County Kerry and MacGuinn is associated with the western province of Connacht, especially counties Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. Maghnus Mac Cuinn is mentioned in the Annals of Loch Ce among the leading men killed at the battle of Desertcreagh in 1281, which resulted in a victory for the Cenel Eoghain over the Cenel Conaill. Most of these involved were Ulstermen - O'Donnells, O'Boyles, but at least one prominent Connacht name O'Flaherty was among them. It should be noted that the west Ulster name O Coinne, anglicised Cuinnea in County Donegal and Conney in some other parts of Ulster, has been changed to Quinn by some County Donegal families. There is no record of the arrival of the first of the name to America, however, it is documented that one Michael McGuinn booked passage from Sligo to New York on board the "Linden" in November 1848. Sarah McGuinn-Quinn was born at sea on board the David-Cannon which sailed from Liverpool to New York in January 1850.
In Ireland, as in a number of other European countries, family names, such as McGuinn, were very often established prior to the use of coats of arms. Indeed, the use of blazons of arms in Ireland began only with arrival of the Normans in the twelfth century but once adopted were borne with honour and pride by families such as the McGuinn family. The arms displayed by the Irish of Norman descent are in the Norman style, favouring simple designs suiting the original purpose of coats of arms. The native Irish developed a distinctively Gaelic heraldry with roots in pre-Christian Celtic beliefs and customs. For instance, the red hand, which appears on the arms of the O'Neills and other prominent families, is thought to have been inspired by the character of Labraid Lamhdhearg ("Labraid of the Red Hand"), son of Bolg, the Celtic sun-god and mythological ancestor of all the Celts. And so it is that those who today are privileged to bear the name McGuinn may not only claim a distinguished ancestry but also know that through the centuries within the history of Ireland has also been written the history of the McGuinn family.
Blazon of Arms: Gules a hand couped below the wrist grasping a sword proper on each side a serpent, tail nowed, the heads respecting each other or, in chief two crescents argent.
The colour Gules, Red, in this coat of arms symbolizes Military Fortitude and Magnanimity. It also reflects the hopes, ambitions and aspirations of its original bearer.
Crest: A wolf's head proper.
Motto: Que sursum volo.
Translation: I wish those things which are above.
Source: The Historical Research Center
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