Any discussion of Scottish clans will quickly inform you that "Mac" is the Gaelic word for "son," and MacLaren (Gaelic mac Labhrainn) means "son of Laurence." Furthermore, "Mc" is simply an abbreviation of "Mac." Many other explanations have been offered: that one is Irish the other Scottish, one Highland the other Lowland, one an illegitimate son the other a legitimate son. All are wives' tales. The terms are identical.
Everyone in our family wrote the name McLaren with the letter "c" slightly elevated and a short line underneath. I never questioned the practice, and had no idea what it meant.
Turns out, the line works just like an apostrophe; it indicates the omission of a letter. In fact, the name is occasionally seen written: M'cLaren.
I was frankly surprised, and somehow validated, when I saw the gravestones of my oldest North American ancestors in the cemetery of Lanark Village, Ontario, Canada. Here are a few examples.
|John and his brother Peter emigrated from Scotland to Canada||This Peter is the son of Peter, brother of John (far left headstone)|
So they wrote their names just as I had learned to write mine - and the convention was important enough to be presented on their headstones. Though I will proudly continue the convention, it is a source of minor irritation that there is no way to type the symbol, no font or foreign accent that mimics what we learned to print. The closest representation is a mathematical symbol for "subset of or equal to." Using that symbol, I can type: M⊆Laren. Close, but not exactly right. (It is also possible your browser won't recognize the symbol and the "c" will not appear.) If you find a better way to do this, please let me know.
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This site, A McLaren Migration, is maintained by David J. McLaren.
Updated March 28, 2021
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