Our Surname: MacDonald

The spelling of my surname “MacDonald” has created a bit of confusion over the years.

My Dad, Keith, used the “Mac” spelling and wrote his last name as “MacDonald.”

His father Ronald spelled it “McDonald” and left the “a” out.  Keith’s other siblings also used the “McDonald” spelling.  Going further back my Dad’s grandparents Archie and Mary spelled it something like this “McDonell” or “McDonnell.  Going back even father it was spelled “Macdonell.”    I tried to get a url for this blog using the “MacDonald” spelling but it was already taken.  So I decided to use the older spelling of “Macdonell.”   

According to family stories my father Keith, began spelling his surname “MacDonald” later in his life. He chose to spell it this way rather than the “McDonald.”  His son states it was a mistake.  It was the Army that spelled his surname “MacDonald.” I asked my father one day why he spelled it this way.  He growled back: “Because it is spelled that way!” 

One day I was chatting with his sister Eddie and she mentioned that we used the “a” while she used the “Mc.”  I like the “Mac” version and my brother likes it too. 

After all the research I have done on our family I would have to say that it really doesn’t matter.   I have seen our surname spelled many ways.  Even the priests of the St. Alphonsus Church in Chapeau, Quebec were inconsistent in writing the name in their birth, death and baptismal registers. This has caused no end of frustration for me.  Here are the variations of our surname:

  • McDonald
  • MacDonald
  • McDonell
  • McDonnell
  • MacDonell
  • MacDonnell
  • Macdonnell…..

 The large monument in the Forest Hill Cemetery in International Falls, Minnesota where Archie and Mary McDonell spells it in this manner “Mc*Donald.” 

In genealogy the spelling of the surname is important; however, we must realize that in years past the spelling of a name was not as important as it is today.  Many people were not educated and therefore they could not spell so the use of sound was important.  I track the different spellings of my surnames because you never know when you will find the ancestor you are looking for under a very different spelling.

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