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From what we know, the McWhirter name mean "Son of the King's Harpist." The earliest McWhirters probably originated in Ayrshire, Scotland, or Edinburgh. Some of them stayed in Scotland, some moved to North Ireland, in Armagh and Derry Counties primarily. Others came from Ireland to USA, while another large group came directly from Scotland to Canada, Australia, and all over the world.

Variants of the name are McWhorter, McWherter, McQuarter, McQuirter, McGruder, MacWhirter, McCarter, etc.