The McClenny family began a long time ago we know not where, but rumor has it we came from
Ireland and/or Scotland.
Marvin Edward "Ted" McClenny (Newmarket, Ontario, Canada) received
the following information from a genealogist in Ireland and shared
it with us on August 18, 2011:
"You told me that you had found an entry for a Matthew
McClenny in Griffith's Valuation, year 1860, in the Parish of
Shankill - Dock Ward and that your interest is in trying to trace
the origin of your great-grandfather Samuel McClenny. The first
official record you have found for Samuel is in the 1871 Canadian
Census, which shows he was born in Ireland on 15 July 1830. As
you know, McClenny is a very unusual name.
Registration of Marriages in Ireland show a Fanny McLenny,
daughter of Mathew McLenny marrying in Belfast Registration District
in 1861. I searched on McClenny c1860 and the system presented this
marriage to me. I felt this was reasonable as both names sound
exactly the same.
I inspected the marriage certificate in the General Register Office
1861 Volume 3 Page 135
Marriage solemnized in The Registrar's Office in the Town of
Belfast, District of Belfast
17th May 1861
George Doran - 22 years - Bachelor - Occupation: Draper - Residence
at time of marriage: New Lodge Road, Belfast - Father: George
Fanny McLenny - 19 years - Spinster - Residence at time of marriage:
New Lodge Road, Belfast - Father: Mathew McLenny - Servant
Signed: George (X his mark) Doran
Fanny (X her mark) McLenny
Witnesses: Mathew (X his mark) McLenny
Jane (X her mark) Kerr
I had hoped that this marriage would lead us to a church, but it is
a civil marriage, ie it did not take place in a church, but in the
Registrar's Office and so provides no clues to the church attended
by Fanny's family.
While in the General Register Office, I looked for further McClenny
marriages, searching c1865 this time, and found the following
Volume 6 Page 258
The Parish Church in the Parish of Tullylish in the Co Down
30th June 1865
John McCleny - 21 years - Bachelor - Occupation: Hackler - Residence
at time of marriage: Ballymacanallen - Father: William McCleny,
Margaret Johnston - 19 years - Spinster - Residence at time of
marriage: [illegible] - Father: Samuel Johnston, Mason
Signed: John ((X his mark) McCleny
Margaret (X her mark) Johnston
Witnesses: Thomas (X his mark) McCleny
James (X his mark) Johnston
"The parish church" was the Anglican or Church of Ireland church.
Ballymacanallen is a townland in the Parish of Tullylish in Co
Down. Griffith's Valuation (1864) does not list a McCleny, or any
name with a different spelling which might sound like that.
I then turned to the Index of the Birth Registers.
I searched a sample of years 1864 -1880 and found the following
1866 Volume 12 Page 192
Registration District of Londonderry, Sub District of Claudy,
Born on: 9th September 1866
Born at: Alla, Cumber
Father: Neal McLenny Occ: Labourer Residence:
Mother: Mary Anne McLenny, formerly Morris
Informant: Mary Ann (X her mark) McLenny, Mother, Alla
Alla is a townland in the Parish of Cumber Upper, in Co
Londonderry. Greenock is in Scotland and I think this probably
indicates that Neal was working there, as so many people in north
and west Co Londonderry did.
1879 Volume 1 Page 675
Registration District of Larne, Co Antrim
Born on: 1st April 1879
Born at: Townparks Larne
Father: Matthew McClenny, Occ: Pensioner from the 23rd Foot
Residence: Townparks Larne
Mother: Sarah McClenny, formerly Knox
Informant: Matthew (X his mark) McClenny, Father, Townparks Larne
23rd Foot is the 23rd Regiment of Foot. Being a "Pensioner"
indicates that Matthew sustained an injury of some kind.
I also found a reference in the Birth Index to a Robert
McClenny being born to a George McClenny and Eliza McClenny (nee
Tyndall) in the Wexford Registration District (in the south of
Ireland) in 1878. I cou;ld not inspect this birth
certificate as Wexford is outside of modern day Northern Ireland.
Matthew McClenny, Belfast
I think you were interested in Matthew McClenny of Belfast, because
this was the only instance of the name you had found in the Irish
records, but returning to him, Griffith's Valuation in 1860 recorded
him living in Belfast, Parish of Shankill, Dock Ward in Columbus
Street. I searched the Belfast Street Directories for the
closest years available.
The 1858-59 Belfast Street Directory showed that Columbus
Street had not yet been built.
The 1863 Belfast Street Directory showed did not record a
Matthew McClenny living in Columbus Street.
His name did not appear in the alphabetical section covering the
whole city in the 1858-59, 1863 or 1865 Directories.
I searched the records for Belfast City Cemetery from 1869 to
the present and found only one McClenny and one McLenny burial:
Joseph McClenny, aged 11 or 12 years died on 7th May 1887 at the
Workhouse, 8 Shankill Rd. He was buried in the public ground.
Catherine McLenny aged 2 or 3 years died on 3rd September 1889. Last
address 25 Tyne Street, Belfast.
No deaths of these name spellings appear in the 1887 or 1889 Index
to Civil Registration of Deaths.
As you probably know, the only McClenny in the 1901 or 1911 Census
of Ireland is in Bangor Co Down and states that she was born in
When we find an unusual name, that is a fortunate thing in
genealogical terms. It generally makes searching easier, because we
can identify the family so easily in the records.
The wide geographical spread of the name McClenny - with the
variant spellings - in Ireland does not bear out the pattern in
which we generally see an usual name and makes me wonder if it is a
misspelling of a more common name.
You will note that all of the certificates recorded above show that
the McClenny/McCleny/McLenny involved signed X his/her mark and
would not have been a position to argue about spelling.
I believe that the most likely explanation is that these are all a
mis-hearing of the name McElhenny/McElheny/McIlhinney. This name
would have sounded very much the same as McClenny in the Ulster
accent. It is most common in Co Donegal, but spread out through
the north of Ireland and into the south.
I don't know if you have considered this possibility before, but I
do believe this is likely to be the case. Even if the name is
common in the southern USA, I would still think it a real
possibility that it could have been misheard by officials there
after emigration from Ireland
If your ancestor was Samuel McClenny (McElheny), then I would expect
him to be a Protestant (because of the name Samuel) and that he, or
his ancestors originated from Co Donegal. I do not think a search
for a Samuel McClenny born in 1830 would be feasible without further
evidence of location, even if you did take on board the name
McElheny. Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Catholic
Marriages did not commence in Ireland until 1864, so there is on
central index to consult. Protestant and non-religious marriages
were subject to Civil Registration from 1845.
You may not like this theory of mine, but I do feel that evidence
suggests it and hope this has been of interest."