Recorded in many spellings including MacAuley, MacAulay, MacCauley, MacCawley, and short forms commencing Mc, this is a surname which can be either Irish or Scottish. It has two origins. The first is as a developed form of the early pre 9th century Gaelic Mac Amhalghaidh, which may mean the son of the heir of the festering one! This was presumably a reference to the first chief of the clan who held grievances against other unknown people over a long period of time. The second origin is from the Gaelic forms of the Old Norse personal name Aleifr, better known as Olaf; meaning or at least translating literally as "leaving god," which suggests that it meant something quite different fifteen hundred years ago. These names originated in the Hebrides, an area controlled by the Vikings for many centuries and where Scandinavian influence was particularly strong. In Ireland the sept were found in Counties Offaly and Westmeath. Examples of recordings taken from surving church registers include the marriage in Scotland of Peter McCauley and Elizabeth Arnot, on September 2nd 1811, at Edinburgh, whilst in Ireland William McAuley married Jane McKeown on June 8th 1822 at Kircubbin, County Down. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Iwar McAulay. This was dated 1326, in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, during the reign of King Robert, the Bruce, 1306 - 1329. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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