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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 in Belfast:

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 Doran, Teacher
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 marriage:

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, Labourer
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 births:

1866     Volume 12     Page 192
Registration District of Londonderry, Sub District of Claudy
, Co Londonderry
Born on:     9th September 1866
Born at:       Alla, Cumber
Child:          John
Father:        Neal McLenny     Occ: Labourer      Residence: Greenock
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
Child:         Thomas
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 Belfast.

Name Variations

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."