More Geneology

Voice Card  -  Volume 23  -  John Card Number 4  -  Mon, Feb 24, 1992 4:51 PM

This is a response to VC 22 John 8 ("Background Check")...

For Valentine's Day, Betsy gave me, among other things, a most interesting present: a family name history from something called "The Historical Research Centerª." It seems to gibe pretty well with what little I know about my ancestry, and since we are in the midst of a tree of family tree cards I thought it might be worth passing on.

The Irish surname Cartan is itself an anglicization of the Gaelic MacArtain, which literally signifies "son of Artain", this being a diminutive of the ancient Gaelic forename Arto meaning "bear". The earlier, and more correct, anglicized variant was MacArtan.

The MacArtains were a northern sept, with its homeland in the province of Ulster, where their leader was one of the principal chiefs of the Craobh Ruadh (the Redbranch Knights). He ruled over the district of Kinel Fagartaigh, which now comprises the baronies of Kinelarty and Dufferin in County Down, but which is still generally referred to as MacArtan's Country.

The importance of the sept in the period prior to the dissolution of the native social and political systems, which began in the fifteenth century, is testified to by the frequent allusions to it in such works as the Annals of the Four Masters, and it is from this source that we learn that in 1350 the Chief of Kinelarty was also lord of Iveagh, otherwise known as MacGennis's Country. This is interesting because the MacArtains were normally subordinate to the MacGennises.

Subsequently, Carew, in his history of Ireland in the sixteenth century, informs us that the MacArta(i)ns were still powerful in 1599. Since that date the surname McCartan has continued to be associated chiefly with Down and Armagh - the census figures of 1890, for example, show that out of the 35 McCartan births registered in the whole of Ireland, 29 belonged to the northern countries, whilst the remaining 6 can be linked to a small branch of the sept which migrated to Cork in the sixteenth century.