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Origin of the Surname

McCormack (or McCormick) is a surname that originated in Scotland and/or Ireland according to most sources.  Spelling variations include Cormack, MacCormack, McCormack, McCormick, MacCormick, Cormac, Cormach, Cormich, Cormiche,
McCormock, and others.  Surnames were not in general use until about 1100 AD.  During the middle ages, scribes listened to a person's name and then decided the spelling from there.  Surnames, therefore, often had many spelling variations. 

The McCormack surname likely comes from the first name of the original bearer.  A person whose father was named Cormac would identify as Mac (i.e. "son of") Cormac.   The Mac Cormac combination was generally continued as the family name by subsequent generations when surnames were more generally used.  Scribes likely introduced the McCormick and other spellings at about the same time.

Cormac is translated literally as "Charioteer, Warrior".  The name was a very popular choice of names by parents in medieval times due to the influence of the Saint of the same name.  Saint Cormac was the first Bishop of Cashel, an important diocese in the south of Ireland.  Cashel was also the King of Munster and responsible for a famous book of Psalms, the Cashel Psalter.  He died in battle in AD 908.  In those days the McCormack was the name of a powerful Sept (family) in the county of Longford.  In 1576, 1598 and 1600, MacCormacks are recorded as leading gentry in County Cork and one, of Muskerry, was influential enough to raise a large force to assist Desmond in the Elizabethan wars.  The Annals of the Four Masters record the deaths of several prominent MacCormacks of County Fermanagh; the last of these died in 1431.

Another possible derivation of the name is that it comes from the Gaelic Mac Cormaic which comes from corb and mac meaning "Ravenson".

Early Mention of McCormacks / McCormicks

In the year 880, the monks of the Abbey of Iona off the Scottish coast recorded the demise of Fedorach MacCormaic, abbot of Iona, their abbot, in Latin -- noting that he died in January i.e. "pausat".

In 1132 Gilchrist mac Cormaic is listed as a witness to a deed in the Book of Deer.  Its now commonly believed that the progenitor of the Scottish Clan MacMillan was Gilchrist mac Cormac, (Gilcrist, son of Cormac), the powerful bishop of Dunkeld, a diocese taking in large areas in what is now Argyllshire and Perthshire, (Roman Catholic bishops in that era not only married but took on temporal and military duties.)  MacMillan (mac Maolan) loosely translates to “son of the tonsured one.”  The tonsure refers to the manner in which priests’ heads were shaved.

An appearance of the surname in the 1500s involves the glens of County Antrim in Ireland and "Moy Castle" on the Scottish Isle of Mull, now a large uninhabited stone structure.  In the 1500s, the chieftain "Maclaine of Lochbuie" was evicted by his cousin "McLean of Duart" from "Moy Castle".  Maclaine of Lochbuie is said to have retreated to County Antrim, Ireland and sought the help from the then McDonnell Earl of Antrim to recover his loss.  The Earl assembled twelve of his men at arms - all surnamed McCormick, and furnished a boat.  With this force, Maclaine of Lochbuie was able to regain Moy Castle.  To commemorate the help, this Scottish chieftain had the following carved into the stone lintel over the doorway entering Moy Castle in Gaelic, "Biadh is deoch do MhacGormai" which loosely translates to "food and drink for McCormick" - meaning "McCormick is welcome here". 

It should be noted that the Isle of Mull is only about 30 miles from northern Ireland, and that there has been more or less continuous migration between these two areas as far back as anyone can tell.

Irish immigrants began to leave the English-controlled Ireland in sizable numbers during the late 18th century. Many of these Irish immigrated to British North America or the United States in the hopes of gaining their own tract of farmland. This pattern of migration grew steadily until the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine caused a great exodus of immigrants to North America. These immigrants differed from their predecessors in that they were desperately fleeing the disease and starvation that plagued their homeland, and many were entirely destitute when they arrived in North America. Although these penniless immigrants were not warmly welcomed when they arrived, they were critical to the rapid development of the United States and what would become known as Canada. Many went to populate the western frontiers and others provided the cheap labor the new manufacturing sector and the building of bridges, roads, railways, and canals required. A thorough examination of immigration and passenger lists has revealed some of the earliest people to arrive in North America with name McCormack or one of its variants:

  • Dennis McCormack, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1654
  • Neal McCormack whose name appears in Kings County, Virginia Court records in May 1708
  • Lawrence McCormack, aged 40, landed in Tennessee in 1812
  • Henry McCormack, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pa in 1836
  • Philip McCormack, aged 23, landed in Mobile County, Ala in 1843
  • Thomas McCormack, aged 26, arrived in Mobile County, Ala in 1843
  • Mary McCormack, aged 26, arrived in New York, NY in 1847

Y-DNA Haplogroups

There are McCormicks and McCormacks (and variant spellings) in all corners of the world today.  Most descendants are usually in the
y-DNA haplogroup R1b1a2 which is by far the most common haplogroup in western Europe.  It reaches frequencies of over 90 percent in Wales, Ireland and the Basque region of Spain.

There are also McCormicks and McCormacks in y-DNA Haplogroup I.

Haplogroup R1a is the largest group in much of an area stretching from eastern Europe to India.  It is not common in western Europe outside of Scandinavia.  For that reason, this group is usually thought to denote Viking heritage when found in the British Isles.

Haplogroup E represents the last major direct migration from Africa into Europe.  It is believed to have first appeared in the Horn of Africa about 26,000 years ago and dispersed to North Africa and the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods.  Outside Europe, E1b1b is found at high frequencies in Morocco (over 80%), Somalia (80%), Ethiopia (40% to 80%), Tunisia (70%), Algeria (60%), Egypt (40%), Jordan (25%), Palestine (20%), and Lebanon (17.5%). On the European continent it has the highest concentration in Kosovo (over 45%), Albania and Montenegro (both 27%), Bulgaria (23%), Macedonia and Greece (both 21%), Cyprus (20%), Sicily (20%), South Italy (18.5%), Serbia (18%) and Romania (15%).

Haplogroup I originated approximately 25,000 years ago among the people of Eastern Africa and/or Southern Europe.  It represents nearly one-fifth of the population of Europe.  It can be found in the majority of present-day European populations; the greatest density to be found is in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Sardinia, Denmark and Germany.  The haplogroup is almost non-existent outside of Europe, suggesting that it arose in Europe.  As the ice receded after the last glacial maximum, Haplogroup I spread into Northern Europe.  There is some speculation the initial dispersion of this population corresponds to the diffusion of the Gravettian culture, named after the archeological site of La Gravette in the Dordogne region of France where its characteristic tools were first found and studied.

Haplogroup I1 is a northwestern European group with its highest percentages in Sweden and Norway,though it is quite common in most of the Germanic speaking areas.  In Britain, it is the second largest group (after R1b) and is usually associated with the Anglo-Saxon migration or with the later Viking invasions.

Haplogroup I2a is a European group which is found primarily in the Balkans.   It reaches its zenith in Bosnia where it constitutes over 40% of the population.  The most likely source for this haplogroup in Britain would seem to be from Thracian, Dacian or Illyrian soldiers in the Roman army.

Haplogroup J has two main branches, J1 and J2.  Both are found in Eastern African populations.   It also spread into Europe and the Indian subcontinent during the Bronze Age.  J2 lineages originated in the area known as the Fertile Crescent.   J1 lineages may have a more southern origin, as they are more often found in the Levant region, other parts of the Near East, and North Africa, with a sparse distribution in the southern Mediterranean flank of Europe, and in Ethiopia.

Haplogroup J2b is most common in the Middle East and reaches its highest percentages in Turkey.   In Europe, the largest J2b populations are in Greece, Albania and Italy.  This haplogroup is rare in Britain where it could represent remnants of eastern Mediterranean troops stationed on the island during the Roman occupation.  It also might indicate Jewish heritage.

Mitochondrial (mtDNA) Haplogroups
Specific mitochondrial haplogroups are typically found in different regions of the world, and this is due to unique population histories.  In the process of spreading around the world, many populations with their special mitochondrial haplogroups became isolated, and specific haplogroups concentrated in geographic regions.  Today, certain haplogroups have been identified that originated in Africa, Europe, Asia, the islands of the Pacific, the Americas, and even particular ethnic groups.  Of course, haplogroups that are specific to one region are sometimes found in another, but this is due to recent migration.

Mitochondrial Haplogroups A,B, C, D, and X are Native American mitochondrial haplogroups.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup A has its highest frequencies are among Indigenous peoples of the Americas.  Its largest overall population is in East Asia, and its greatest variety (which suggests its origin point) is in East Siberia.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup B is the only mitochondrial haplogroup whose distribution encompasses both sides of the Pacific Ocean, the Americas, Polynesia, the Philippines, Japan, China,Indonesia, Thailand, and has even been found in Madagascar.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup C is believed to have arisen somewhere between the Caspian Sea and Lake Baikal some 60,000 years before present.  The sublades C1b, C1c, C1d, and C4c are found in the first people of the Americas.  C1 is the most common.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup D is found in Northeast Asia including Siberia.  It is also found quite frequently in Central Asia, where it makes up the second most common mtDNA clade (after H). Mitochondrial haplogroup D also appears at a low frequency in northeastern Europe and southwestern Asia.   D4 is also frequent to Koreans according to latest study.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup F is most frequent in southeast Asia.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup H is a predominantly European haplogroup that participated in a population expansion beginning approximately 20,000 years ago.  Today, about 30% of all mitochondrial lineages in Europe are classified as haplogroup H.  It is rather uniformly distributed throughout Europe suggesting a major role in the peopling of Europe, and descendant lineages of the original haplogroup H appear in the Near East as a result of migration.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup HV is a primarily European haplogroup that underwent an expansion beginning approximately 20,000 years ago.  It is more prevalent in western Europe than in eastern Europe, and descendant lineages of the original haplogroup HV appear in the Near East as a result of more recent migration.  One of the dominant mitochondrial haplogroups in Europe, haplogroup HV pre-dates the occurrence of farming in Europe.

Principally a European haplogroup, mitochondrial haplogroup I is detected at very low frequency across west Eurasia with slightly greater representation in northern and western Europe.  Given its wide, but sparse, distribution, it is likely that it was present in those populations that first colonized Europe.

The mitochondrial haplogroup J contains several sub-lineages.  The original haplogroup J originated in the Near East approximately 50,000 years ago.

Haplogroup J*, the root lineage of haplogroup J, is found distributed throughout Europe, but at a relatively low frequency.  Haplogroup J* is generally considered one of the prominent lineages that was part of the Neolithic spread of agriculture into Europe from the Near East beginning approximately 10,000 years ago.  Within Europe, sub-lineages of mitochondrial haplogroup J have distinct and interesting distributions.

Haplogroup J1b is found distributed in the Near East and southern Iberia, and may have been part of the original colonization wave of Neolithic settlers moving around the Mediterranean 6000 years ago or perhaps a lineage of Phoenician traders.  Within haplogroup J1b, a derivative lineage haplogroup J1b1 has been found in Britain and another sub-lineage detected in Italy.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup K is found through Europe, and contains multiple closely related lineages indicating a recent population expansion.   The origin of haplogroup K dates to approximately 16,000 years ago, and it has been suggested that individuals with this haplogroup took part in the pre-Neolithic expansion following the Last Glacial Maximum.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup L1 is found in West and Central sub-Saharan Africa.  Some of its branches (L1d, L1k, L1a, L1f) were recently re-classified into haplogroup L0 as L0d,L0k, L0a and L0f.  Haplogroup L1 arose with Mitochondrial Eve and haplogroup L0 is an offshoot.  The descendants of haplogroup L1 are also African haplogroups L2 and L3, the latter of which gave rise to all non-African haplogroups.  Haplogroup L1 is believed to have first appeared in Africa approximately 150,000 to 170,000 years ago.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup L2 is native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it is present in approximately one third of all people.  It is believed to have arisen approximately 70,000 years ago from the line of haplogroup L1.

Mitochondrial Sub-haplogroup L3e is wide spread in Africa. It is the most common of the L3 sub-haplogroups, accounting for just over one-third of all L3-type sequences and is the most common sub-haplogroup within the Bantu-speaking populations of east Africa.  L3e is suggested to be associated with a central African/Sudanese origin about 45,000 years ago and is also the most common mitochondrial haplogroup L3 subclade amongst African Americans, Afro-Brazilians and Caribbeans.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup M comprises the first wave of human migration out of Africa, following an eastward route along southern coastal areas.   Descendant populations belonging to mitochondrial haplogroup M are found throughout East Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Melanesia, though almost none have been found in Europe.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup N may represent another migration out of Africa, heading northward instead of eastward.  Shortly after the migration, the large R mitochondrial haplogroup split off from the N.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup R consists of two subgroups defined on the basis of their geographical distributions, one found in southeastern Asia and Oceania and the other containing almost all of the modern European populations.  Haplogroup N(xR), i.e. mtDNA that belongs to the N group but not to its R subgroup, is typical of Australian aboriginal populations, while also being present at low frequencies among many populations of Eurasia and the Americas.  Its arrival in Europe around 35,000 years ago coincided with the end of the Neandertals.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup T is common in eastern and northern Europe and found as far east as the Indus Valley and the Arabian Peninsula.  It is considered one of the main genetic signatures of the Neolithic expansion.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup U has a wide distribution.  Most in mtDNA haplogroup U come from a group that moved northwest out of the Near East. Today they are found in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean at frequencies of almost 7% of the population.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup V tends to be restricted to western, central, and northern Europe.  It is found in 12% of Basques and is thought to have been established within the European refuge during the last Ice Age.

Mitochondrial Haplogroup X is found in Europe and Asia, and is believed to have migrated to the Americas about 15,000 years ago, making up a very small component of the Native American population as in the Ojibwa, Sioux, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, and Navajo tribes.