Friday, December 12, 2008

McCullen mystery

Apparently the name McCullen was once common throughout Ulster, but today is almost non-existent. Even at the time of Griffith's Valuation in 1860, there were McCullens in Clogher Civil Parish, home to my ancestors, but I found no trace of them in the civil records or census in later years.

Where did the McCullens go? Did they die out, emigrate, or change their name to Cullen or something else? Were there ever Scottish McCullens? The answer seems to be no (see my posts on the Cullen surname in Scotland).

Here is a map of the McCullen surname in Griffith's, and also one from telephone books in 2006. The only place that has stayed a stronghold is in/near Drogheda. If you compare this to the maps of the Cullen surname, it also doesn't seem as if the McCullens have changed their name to Cullen in most places: for example, in Griffith's there were many McCullen families in northeastern Cavan, southeastern Fermanagh, northwestern Monaghan, and today there are neither McCullen nor Cullen families there. Of course there has been a huge depopulation of rural Ireland in the past 150 years.

Some notes about the maps:
--in the Griffith's map, I include several McCullum families as red dots (mostly Antrim, also Armagh, Down, Monaghan, Derry). This may be a completely different family, but may be a mispelling of McCullen
--McCullen had several variant spellings: McCullan, McCullin, McCullian, McCullion. Cullion and Cullian were common alternate spellings of Cullen in the North (including in my family). Maybe this reflects the pronunciation?
--the Mac vs. Mc spelling is not really an issue, I have found no MacCullens (except 1 in the USA), and Griffith's recorded all names as Mc, which is just an abbreviation of Mac
--for the 2006 map, I was able to search for every possible variant of the McCullen name in Northern Ireland, and I found only 4. Three were named McCullen, and one was named McCullins (this one in Newry, on the southern Down/Armagh border). For the Republic of Ireland, I only looked for McCullen.

Finally, there are several other names found mainly in Ulster and Co. Louth that could be confused with Cullen and McCullen: McQuillan, McCallan, Killen and others.

Are there any McCullens out there reading this?


Anonymous said...

About 1982, I met a hotel employee in a hotel in D.C. he said his name was MacCullen. I said "you made that up". He said "my father did". An old gent with a Mac name had made the family the benefactors of his estate, and that Cullen family had the Mac added in honor of that event.
Is this the MacCullen family you found?
Frank Cullen

Bernie said...

Hi Frank,

That's a great story--do you know where the estate was (was it in the US at least)?

I've never gotten in touch with an MacCullen, but there was one who placed an order for a DNA test but evidently had second thoughts later on.

Are you the Frank Cullen from Nova Scotia, or have we corresponded before? You can email me directly at if you prefer

Emily said...

HI Frank,
I cam across this infomration on the net one day.
My father, Bernard (Barney) McCullen came from Trillick, County Tyrone to Australia in the 1920's. He had 3 brothers and 3 sisters.

Bernie said...

Hello Chris (or is it Emily?),

That's very interesting that your ancestor was Bernard McCullen from Trillick, which is right on the Fermanagh border where you would expect to find McCullens. My own ancestor was Bernard Cullen (no Mc, although the family wondered if we used to have a Mc), from Clogher, Tyrone not too far from Co. Monaghan.

Do you have any living relatives named McCullen? Do you know of other McCullen families in Australia? I would be interested in learning more, you can email me direct at if you like.

Caroline said...

Emily/Chris I am happy I found this and you have been here recently (spooky). My grandmother Catherine is Chris' first cousin and Bernard's neice (lived next door to him for several years in Australia before he passed away) and told me the ancestoral home town was somewhere called "Kernine" she claims is just inside the Fermanagh border and I have been going bonkers on and off for a few years trying to find it (appears it doesn't exist on any map). I started to think it might have just been the name of their house or something. I found this link by chance googling... had no idea a second cousin would be in the comments! You have solved a major mystery for me!

I am also amazed that Uncle Barney had 3 brothers and 3 sisters... my grandmother told me only that he had two brothers. Bernard as mentioned moved to Australia, her father Michael who went to Scotland and another who went to the USA and they lost contact with. No mention of another one OR the sisters. She either doesn't know this or, I can guess, chose not to tell me for whatever weird reasons she has about this (my grandparents both got VERY hostile with me for asking questions about the family tree on both sides ...weird). Can I also say that I was 10 years old when Barney died and I have such lovely memories of him. He was a wonderful man.

Bernie I can fill in a few gaps for you if you like too based on Michael McCullen, brother of Bernard mentioned here.

Brian Killen said...


more as a suggestion. if you search for Mc Cullens ( Ulster) to capture Monaghan and Fermanagh there is only one reference for Fermanagh Charles Mc Cullen in Clones Parish. Part of Clones is also in County Monaghan.

you can find a complete listing of townlands at Spellings and pronunciation change but you can do wild card searches. I only tried a couple but there a townland in the Fermanagh part of Clones parish called Eshekerin.

Perhaps somebody with more local knowledge could help with pronunciation with my county Down accent I would suggest something Esh-ker-in. Could be an option but might require more research.

Brian Killen said...

The Griffiths Valuation for Ireland is around 1860. somebody has created a spreadsheet for the Tithe Records (tax list) in Monaghan Parish around 1823. Couple of McCullen references. Mick and Phil McCullen.

Bernie said...

Hello again Brian,

Thanks for your comments. May I point out that there are also 5 people named McCullion and one named McCullian in Fermanagh listed in the Griffith's database at The householder in Fermanagh living closest to Trillick, Tyrone is Rose McCullian living in Drumskool townland, Derryvullan Civil Parish.

I don't know a good townland map for Fermanagh, but a search put Drumskool about 3 km NW of Irvinestown, Fermanagh. (Derryvullan Civil Parish seems to have two discontinuous parts, and this would be in the northern part). But I can't see the name Drumskool on the Google map.

There is another townland in Derryvullan C.P. called Keeran, which is about 3 km NE of Irvinestown. And there is a townland in Kilskeery C.P., Tyrone called Kinine (this is the same parish as Trillick).

Not sure about the various spellings that could be your Kernine!

I allow anonymous comments on the blog, but I wish people would create a profile or send me their email address so that people can get in touch with them later on.


Brian Killen said...

hi Bernie, signed up!

Bernie said...

Here's some McCullen and similar names' births I found in Fermanagh and Tyrone in 1880-1920, using the free index search at
If anyone wants to view the full transcription of these records they will need to pay 5 euros each at that site.

Notice that there is a registration district in Fermanagh called "Trillick", and that many of the births there(and one in nearby Lisnakea) used the spelling McCullian (Caroline said in a private email that her family sometimes pronounced the name McCullion).

Tyrone Births (registration district not searched for):
John McCullon b 1884
Peter McCullon 1885
Mary Catherine McCullon 1888
John Aloysius McCullan 1900 (baptism)
James Moore McCullens 1903
Mary McCullan 1907
Mary Eleanor McCullen 1915

Fermanagh Births
Michael McCullen 1884 Enniskillen Registration District
James McCullian 1884 Lineaskea RD
Margaret Amy McCullen 1886 Tempo RD
Daniel McCullian 1887 Lineaskea RD
Anne McCullian 1888 Trillick RD
John McCullen 1891 Enniskillen RD
Margaret McCullian 1893 Trillick RD
Catherine McCullian 1895 Trillick RD
William McCullen 1901 Trillick RD
Mabel McCollun 1910 Brookeborough RD

Anonymous said...

Hi,Bernie, my name is Brett McCullen i live in Melbourne, my father came to australia from the manchester area in the uk in the 50's i'm sure he had a uncle bernard is melbourne

Tom said...

Hi my name is Tom McCullen and there are a few of us down in the hampshire area. Not many and I think that my great grandad was from southern ireland though I dont know enough at the moment to say where. I will try and find out. He died in WWII on the HMS Acasta when it encountered the Schienhorst. Im the only boy who is now able to carry on the lineage of this particular McCullen name. There is apparently a baseball player in america who shares my name and I guess you will have seen that the name is used in the new GI Joe movie!

Bernie said...

Hello Brett and Tom,

Please email me both of you at so that if anyone wants to contact you later, I can forward a message.

Brett, are you saying that your uncle Bernard might be Caroline and Emily's relative (they posted above you)?

Tom, it's interesting that the McCullen in the G.I. Joe movie is supposed to be from a Scottish family (according to the Wikipedia entry)--lots of people think McCullen is a Scottish name but it is always Irish in my experience.

There is a Kevin McCullen of Surrey whose ancestors were Irish Coastguards in the 1800s, I think he would be interested in your great-grandfather's story even if the families aren't closely related.


My name is Rosey McCullen i live in Lincoln, Missouri. There are some other McCullens living there also but my dad always said they were Bernard`s Bunch. Our side comes from Owen Vincent McCullen and Catherine Murphy Who married in Cincinnati, Ohio. And moved to St. Louis, Missouri. When their oldest son James died. I am from John Owen side of the family.Do you know where in County Cavan he was from?

Bernie said...

Hello Rosie,

Great to hear from you, could you please email me at so that I have your email address in case someone wants to contact you later?

Do you know when your family left Ireland and came to America? The Irish Census for 1911 has just been made available for free, but this may be too late for your family.


Anonymous said...

My last name is McCullian. Does that mean one of my ancesters changed McCullen to McCullian ?

Bernie said...

I think it's more likely that your family preserved the original English spelling and pronunciation, and other families changed the spelling from McCullian to McCullen, and some probably dropped the Mc altogether. All of these spellings were approximations of the original pronunciation in the Irish language.

Can I ask where you are from? Do you know where your McCullen family is from? Please consider emailing me with your name and email address so other McCullians can get in touch with you later, I'm at

Anonymous said...

No , I don't mind . I'm from outside Philidelphia . My name is Carey McCullian.

Bernie said...

Thanks Carey for your email address, if anyone wants to get in touch they can email me and I will forward it to you.

Do you know if your McCullian ancestors were Irish or Scottish and where they were from? Were they Catholic or Protestant?

I think they were probably Irish, the spelling McCullian was not very common and in the mid 1800s was found in Northern Ireland in Counties Derry (Londonderry) and Tyrone. McCullion with an O was a little more common and was found in these counties and also Donegal and Fermanagh. The spelling McCullen with an E was found mostly in Louth and other places in northeastern Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if Caroline will ever read this site again, but you never know, if Chris or any of the above people have her contact details, get her to see this message:

The name Kernine could very well be the name of the Townland/Street. On the 1901 Census for Co. Tyrone, a Michael McCullen 13 years of age has "Kinine" listed as Townland/Street according to the National Archives of Ireland search.

It would be worth investigating further.

Caroline said...

Thanks anon. I have notifications on this it seems! Yes I did have luck with Kinine and found the family in the 1911 Census with that spelling :)

Caroline said...

Also, Michael, my great grandfather, is listed as Mick McCullen the 1911 Census.

I also found an Ellis island record for William who migrated to the USA in 1923 ( I think, I don't have it in front of me right now)

pat mc don said...

Caroline, my grandfather was Mick mccullen from trillick in Tyrone, and his last daughter is in australia , I think your grandmother Catherine may be my aunt "Cassie" as I know her if its the same person then your father is michael, my full cousin if it is I can be contacted at

Tim McCullen said...

Hello, I think my nephew Tom left a message a couple of years ago.

My grandfather was Vincent McCullen, born in 1899 in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. There are and were plenty of McCullens in the Drogheda area, and also McQuillans, since it's a variation of the same name, coming (as you probably know)from the Gaelic "cuileann" (holly) pronounced "quillen". "Cullen" is the anglicised form of the same name. Grandpa was the youngest of 10 children, and according to the local church records, the children all had variations of the surname - McCullen, McCullin, McQuillan - which has made genealogical research challenging to say the least. My grandfather came to England to join the Royal Navy in 1915, and was killed in action when his ship was sunk in 1940. Thus there are various McCullens descended from him in Hampshire and other parts of England.

"Mc"/"Mac" (they are interchangeable)added as a prefix just means "son of". It's totally valid, in no way pretentious.

My research into my Drogheda ancestors has tentatively identified where & when the "Mc" was first added to Cullen, in the mid-1700s.

I hope this helps you in some way.

Regards, Tim McCullen

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im looking for a Cassie & Mary McCullen listed is the 1901 Irish census residing with a Annie & Mary McGrellis. Thanx

Anonymous said...

I am a McCullin in the US there are several of us decedent from Irish imigrants scattered throughout the states.

Anonymous said...


I was told as a child that when my Irish great grandparents imigrated to the USA they dropped the Mc,from their name so that they were called then only Cullen. Could this be confirmed with your DNA test? I haven't done any research on our name but would like to start..Any suggestions?
Robert Cullen Mautz

Bernie Cullen said...

Hello Robert, you would need a male Cullen to do a 37 marker type of test, I recommend Family Tree DNA but there may be some other companies that still offer the test. Other tests like the AncestryDNA test are not good for this purpose. Then you would have to match another Cullen, McCullen, McQuillan, Collins etc., and that depends if the right person has done the test. If you don't match anyone, your story may still be right but can't be proved. I think there's a good chance that you will find a meaningful match, we already have a couple different Cullen/McCullen/McQuillan matches.

I let people comment here anonymously but please considering emailing me at otherwise I and others have no way of contacting you in the future

Anonymous said...

Most of this Information is of great help, I am Cullen Royes, my ansestors actually did flee from Ireland, blogger, get into contact with me if you wish to learn more about the history of the McCullens. look for me on google, my username is Cloudedkid.

Aaron McCullen said...

My name is Aaron McCullen and I have a lot of geneology that my grandmother if you would like to share what I have you can e mail me at and put McCullen in the subject. I live in Montana but grew up in Michigan