Surname Saturday: MCGEEHAN

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this week, I have chosen to highlight an Irish surname.  The only problem with that is that I personally have no Irish ancestry.  But my niece does from her mother’s paternal side!

Surname – MCGEEHAN

Meaning/Origin – The name MCGEEHAN is an anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Gaoithín or ‘son of Gaoithín’, a personal name derived from the diminutive of gaoth which means ‘clever’ or ‘wise’. (Source: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press)

Countries of Origin – The surname MCGEEHAN is Irish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Ireland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  49.37 per million.  The United Kingdom comes in second at 10.9, and the United States is third at 6.9.

Spelling Variations –  Other variations of McGeehan include Mageean, Mageehan, McGehan, Mac Gaoithín, MacGeehan, MacGeehin, MacGeehon, and McGeehon.

Surname Maps – The following map illustrates the frequency of the MCGEEHAN surname in Ireland in 1848-64.  The numbers on the map show the number of McGeehan households in the county found in the Primary Valuation property survey of 1848-64 (known as Griffith’s Valuation).  The surname name is found mostly in Northern Ireland.

Distribution of the McGeehan surname in Ireland, 1848-64.

SOURCE: Irish Ancestors database,, accessed March 13, 2010.

My Family -As I said above, I have no Irish ancestry.  However, my niece’s 2nd great-grandmother was named Nellie McGeehan (1890-1920).  Her father was Edward McGeehan, who was born in 1858 in Pennsylvania – likely in Philadelphia.  Edward’s parents were born in Ireland.

My Research Challenges – Right now the challenge with finding Edward McGeehan’s birth record is the fact that there was no civil registration required in Pennsylvania until 1860, two years after his birth.  More information about Edward’s parents may be obtained from his death record, which I have not yet found.  Census records have conflicting information, but Edward may have been a Philadelphia police officer.  His daughter Nellie married William Lee.  Unfortunately Nellie died at the age of 30, leaving behind a 10-year-old daughter, Catherine Lee.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a McGeehan message board as does GenForum.


Links to posts about Irish Surnames and families I am researching for others can be found here.

This post is #8 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

5 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: MCGEEHAN

  1. Hi, I found you while researching my relative Edward McGeehan who died 1-20-75. I am actually more interested in his wife Mary Catherine Hopkins. Any info would be appreciated although they may not be the same people. Thanks Mary

  2. I have Edward McGeehan from Philly in my family background also. My father Richard his father Frank had a brother Edward

  3. This Edward McGeehan is my mother’s grandfather. HIs daughter Nellie was my mother’s grandmother. My mother’s mother (Edna Frances Lee) was born in 1916 in Philadelphia to Nellie. I know that Edna Frances Lee spent some time in an orphanage?, but was never sure why. This does explain.

  4. Hi! That makes you my former sister-in-law’s second cousin. Yes, your grandmother was only 4 when her mother died. Edward had four kids under 10…three of them under age 4!

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