Copyright© 2008-2019


World Distribution

The McGinley surname is principally a Donegal surname. It has been such since the dawning of our clan in the 1200's, but it can now be found all over the globe in English speaking countries. In its native Donegal, nearly all of the name are spelt McGinley. Any other form of the name would be extremely rare here. Equally so, the surname in Scotland is usually found as McGinlay and it is found in Donegal among clan members who returned home to their roots. In the past three hundred years many variations of the name have developed, as McGinleys have dispersed around the globe. The distribution of the name McGinley (and its variant forms) is as follows...

Ireland… The vast majority of the name in Ireland, as much as 80%, are to be found in the native homeland of Co. Donegal. Today they are a little more spread out from the original north Donegal area, with a good number in the towns of Letterkenny and Milford. The name is well represented along the western coast especially in the town of Dungloe. Most of the rest can be found in neighbouring Derry and Tyrone counties.


The vast majority of the name, at least 60%, are to be found in the city of Glasgow. They have been there since the Great Hunger in the mid-1800’s, although some isolated instances are found before that date. Most seem to have first settled in the Pollock and Pollockshaws areas of the city. Others are found in the greater Lanarkshire area. In Scotland the name is found as McGinley but McGinlay is by far the more common. Including England and Scotland together, the vast majority of McGinleys, probably over 50% are found in the Lanarkshire area, Glasgow in particular.


The vast majority of the surname McGinley are to be found in the north of England where they have been since the Great Hunger. Records for the year 1891 show that the county of Lancashire has had the highest percentage of McGinleys, between 20% and 24%. Next to Lancashire is the county of Durham which has the second highest groupings of McGinleys with about 20%. Another neighbouring county, Cheshire, has a further 15%. These three counties have around 60% of the McGinley families in England.

In the past 50 years, more McGinleys have settled in London for work reasons.


The vast majority (over 55%) of the name, in the year 1920, are to be found in the state of Pennsylvania alone. Another 20 to 30% are to be found in the neighbouring state of New York. Together these two states must have at least 80% of the name in America. Earlier in 1840 the state of Pennsylvania had an even higher percentage at 60%+. From the New York Official Passenger Lists, it can be seen that there was a steady flow of McGinleys into America from 1840 onwards with the peak period being 1881-1885. The name is found as McGinley, Ginley, Ginly as well as the very rare variants (Mc)Ginnery and McGuinley. The McGinley name has been recorded in America since the early 1700’s.


The surname of McGinley (and its variants) are also to be found in Canada, but there, they are no where near as prolific as in America. The surname was found in Canada at a later date than in America. The vast majority of McGinleys in Canada were to be found in the Ontario area at the end of the nineteenth century and this is still the case at the start of the twenty first century. The main city has always been Toronto. A sizable amount are also located in nearby New Brunswick.


Families and individuals of the McGinley name have also settled in Australia. Maybe ‘settled’ would be a wrong word since Australia was used as a dumping ground for those that the English Crown called criminals. To the English, a criminal could be someone caught stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving children, or someone who could not pay a ‘foreign rent’. He/she would be sent to the other side of the world, never to see their families again. Many cases are recorded of such abuse of power by the English. In Australia, the vast majority of McGinleys, more than 70% are to be found in New South Wales. Since the late 1850’s, with the help of the Donegal Relief Fund, many ships left the north west of Ireland bound for Australia with its new cargo of humans. Most of these had Donegal surnames, including McGinley. They settled in the New South Wales area, primarily in Sydney.


It would seem that most of the McGinleys who are found in New Zealand settled there after having been in Australia first, possibly as criminals who were later released. In New Zealand nearly all of the McGinleys are recorded on the North Island. This is not surprising, as the largest population concentration is here, especially around Wellington.

The first European settlers here arrived in September 1839. The earliest McGinleys would have been around 1860, with the biggest influx happening in the 1870's and 1880's.





The Irish settlements in Wales can be traced back to the sixth century when many Irish monks and then general settlers arrived from south eastern parts of Ireland. The main settlement of Irish in Wales however was much later. Most of the Irish/McGinley families in Wales arrived there after the Great Hunger in the late 1840's. They would have went to England at first and then later some moved to Wales, probably for work related reasons, most notably in the coal mines. Today, as in the last century, the vast majority of McGinleys are to be found in or close to the city of Cardiff in the south of the country.




Meaning of the Name

Clan Origins

Clan Territory

Surname Distribution

St Colm Cille

Native Clothing


Clan Leadership


McGinleys in America


Special Places

Neighbouring Clans

McGinley Placenames

Coat of Arms

Design by LorcArt