Other Forms FormsMacNichol, MacNicol, MacNicoll, Nicolson, Nicholson, MacNicholas, MacNickle, MacNickel, MacNickell, MacNiccol, MacNychole
Edit Status Status [show contributor]
Meaning & History
The McNicholas family stretches back through time to the Viking settlers who populated the rugged shores of Scotland in the Medieval era. The name McNicholas was derived from from the personal name, Nicholas. McNicholas is a patronymic surname, which belongs to the category of hereditary surnamesA name adopted by the De Burgos in Connacht and always associated with Mayo.In 1170 Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, (also known as Strongbow in Irish History) came to Ireland at the head of a small army of Welsh Norman knights. They had been invited to intercede in a dispute between two minor Irish kings (Dermot MacMorrough and Tiernan O'Rourke) in south east Ireland. Because of the Welsh-Norman's superior military technology (stone castles, chain mail, long bows, etc) these invaders conquered the rest of Ireland over the next 50 years.One of Strongbow's principal assistants was Norman de Burgo. As most of the other Welsh Norman Knights who accompanied Strongbow his ancestors had accompanied William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066. Prior to than time the family was prominent in Normandy and were related to Charlemagne, the king of France about 800 AD.As a reward for faithful service the deBurgo family in 1235 was given control of large parts of Connacht (today Co Mayo and Co Galway). The de Burgo family became prominent in Irish medieval history and at one point became the Justicar (English King's representative) in Ireland.The de Burgo family adopted the surname Burke (also Bourke) and split into two groups (the Mayo Burkes and the Clanrickard Burkes of eastern Galway. The Mayo Burkes had several branches. Over time certain branches adopted patronymics such as McNicholas, MacCostello, and MacWilliams. Like most of the Normans, the de Burgo's intermarried with the Irish and as the old saying goes "became more Irish than the Irish themselves"The earliest available records of the McNicholas name trace back to the 1500's when deeds to several properties in what today is known as Bohola Parish, Co Mayo listed owners with the surname McNicholas. Almost entirely confined to families belonging to Co. Mayo, where the Gaelic form Mac Niocláis has sometimes also been anglicized Clausson. The inquisitions of James I's reign (1603-1625) show that they held extensive estates then around Bohola in the barony of Gallen and the Book of Survey and Distribution records them as 1641 proprietors in the adjacent barony of Clanmorris. The name is prominent in Co. Mayo because of Most Rev. Patrick McNicholas, Bishop of Achonry (one of three dioceses in Co Mayo) from 1818 to 1852, and Most Rev. Dr. McNicholas O.P. (1879-1950), Archbishop of Cincinnati, who was born at Kiltimagh.