This notable surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Scottish Gaelic "MacArtain" or the Irish "MacCartaine". The Gaelic prefix "mac" means "son of", and "Artain" is a diminutive of the Old Celtic byname "Art", bear, hero. Traditionally, Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes or from some illustrious warrior. This surname is widely recorded in Scotland from the early part of the 16th Century (see below). One Thomas McCartnay or MaKartnay of Wigtownshire was noted in the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland in 1562 and a Helen Macartney is mentioned in connection with land in Dumfries circa 1588. William MacKartnay, burgess of Aberdeen, appears in records of that city, dated 1603. The surname has been prominent in north-east Ulster since the mid 17th Century. One Captain George Macartney, who came to Co. Antrim in 1630, was descended from an old family of the name in Ayrshire. Macartney is listed in Petty's "Census" of 1659 as a principal Irish surname in the barony of Belfast and in 1666, a James MacCartney was entered in the Co. Monaghan Hearth Money Rolls. George Macartney (1737 - 1806), was created Baron Macartney of Lissanoure in 1776, and first Earl Macartney in the Irish peerage in 1792. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert McCartnay of Galloway, which was dated 1529, in the "Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland", during the reign of King James V of Scotland, 1513 - 1542. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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