It appears to be a good idea to re-post this note from time to time ...
I'm sure you have encountered those who truly believe they are of a distinctly different family simply because the surname is spelled slightly differently. And then there is that myth which most of us were probably taught: "Mac" - the family came from Scotland ... "Mc" - the family came from Ireland.
I thought all of you would enjoy (and perhaps find helpful) the following article which appeared in the June/July 2001 issue of "The Family Tree." Note particularly the second sentence of the next to last paragraph. (Sorry, my computer skills don't extend to knowing how to underline, italicize, or bold print in these postings.) ...
Mac, Mc or M' ?
Mac, Gaelic for "son", is the most common element of Scottish surnames. Mc is always an abbreviation of Mac, it also used to be abbreviated M' although this spelling is now not common. In an early book on Highland music, the author spelled his own name three different ways on the first two pages: MacDonald, McDonald, and M'Donald.
Black's "The Surnames of Scotland" and MacLysaght's "The Surnames of Ireland" both treat Mac the same way -- as the only and original spelling. This same approach is used here.
Mac is always considered an addition to a name. Before there was a Donald's Son, there was a Donald. In Scotland names beginning with Mac are traditionally alphabetized under the first letter of the second name: MacAlister under A - MacZin under Z.
After 1745 to avoid reprisals many Anglicized their name by dropping the Mac, or as they emigrated (were cleared off the land), MacBall becoming simply Ball. Nova Scotia's Kinzie River was settled by MacKenzies.
Mac takes a variety of pronunciations. In Islay Gaelic, Mac is pronounced like (mek). In the United States it can be heard as (mick). Preceding a (k) or (g) sound, the final (k) of Mac disappears.
It became the practice in the south of Scotland to write two words as one (MacHan) to Machan; (MacGrath) to Magrath. The (k) sound of Mac is duplicated and attached to the front of a following word if it begins in a vowel (MacAsh) to MacCash.
If the second name begins with a (k) or (g) creating two (k) sounds together, one may disappear (MacKintosh) to Macintosh, (MacKaskill) to MacAskill). Mac is at times pronounced (muck) and written that way (Mac'll Roy) to Muckleroy.
Thanks to Clan MacDougall Society of North America, Inc., PO Box 1279, Frankfort, KY 40602-1279.