This is the Family Tree of a Branch of the Neill/O'Neal/McNeil Family originating in County Kerry in Ireland who moved to London England in the mid 1800s.
The famly name went through a number of iterations until, in general, the form of McNeil was chosen.Given that the early members of the family were illiterate, the name could take on any number of spellings, in fact any spelling that reflected the spoken sound of “Nil or Neel” could originally have been used.
The forms found within the family go from Neill, to Neal, to O’Neal, to O’Neil, to O’Neill, to McNeill, to McNeil, and all depended on the person writing the name, how Irish the person saying the name wanted to sound, which branch of the family was involved, and whether the person saying the name was trying to slightly change their identity for any reason; all these factors played a part in the spelling of the name.
Given that the earliest members of the family came over from CountyKerry in Ireland it is likely that the original form of the name would have been pronounced either Neal or O’Neil.
The derivation of the name is either from a personal name of “Neil” meaning “champion” in Gaelic, or there is an outside possibility that in this case it was derived from the Scandinavian name “Nils” from the remnants of Norwegian Viking settlements in the West of Ireland, to be converted to a more Irish Neil or O’Neil over the centuries.The O’ and Mc prefixes to the name denote “son of” in Gaelic, so it is what is called a patronymic name, denoting a particular male line.The family may be very distantly related to O’Neils and McNeils in the North of Ireland and the ScottishHighlands and Islands.
The family brought the name over with them at the time of the Potato famine in Ireland, and the first we see of them outside of Ireland is in London.
McNeil Family Story (This is a very large file so please allow a minute or two for it to download)