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?