Posted by: marthabernie | September 12, 2014

McMANUS Surname

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one side of my mother’s family springs from Lawrence McManus of North Carolina. Lawrence came to America from County Fermanagh, Ireland.   As his children moved north and west into pioneer territories where there were no schools already established, schooling was sketchy and spelling became phonetic in many instances.  In our branch of the family, McManus became McMenus.

The scan above shows the McManus coat of arms from Ireland.  This family was first found in County Roscommon, which is part of the Republic of Ireland.  They held a family seat there from ancient times.

The name is sometimes thought to be Norse in origin, but in fact, it is as thoroughly Irish as any ancient Gaelic name. In the modern Irish language, McManus is MacMaghnuis, i.e. son of Magnus.  In Latin, Magnus means “Great”.  As a Christian name, Magnus came from northern Euope, but its combination with Mac as a surname originated in Ireland.

There are two different ancient persons Magnus whose descendants took the name MacMaghnuis.  The first line descends from Maghnus who died in 1181.  He was the son of Turlough O’Connor, the King of Connacht, and he was seated in the parish of Kilronan, County Roscommon.

The second is a distinguished Fermanagh family (Northern Ireland today), who lived on the shores of Lough Erne.  The island of Belle Isle in that lake was formerly called Ballymacmanus.  These McManus descendants are a branch of the Maguire family.

Today the name is most prevalent in Fermanagh still, with Tyrone, the county next to Fermanagh, and Roscommon running close seconds.  It is the second most common name in Fermanagh but does not appear in such great numbers in any other county.  It is one of the few surnames from which the prefix Mac or Mc has not been removed.  However, in Northern Ireland, is it sometimes disguised under the English variation Moyne.

A famous Irish MacManus in history was Terence Bellew MacManus (1811-1860).  He hailed from County Fermanagh and fought beside William Smith O’Brien and other Fenians at Ballingarry in the Young Irelander Rebellion in 1848.  He was sentenced to death and transported to Australia, but escaped and went to America.  At his death in San Francisco, his body was returned to Dublin where his funeral was the occasion of the greatest Fenian demonstration ever seen.  He is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

The coat of arms did not represent a family name but rather an individual man.  However, the one that comes up most frequently for McManus today is the one above which shows a Celtic griffin on the background of green with the three crescent moons above.  The griffin is a symbol of dualtiy, part eagle and part lion.  It balances both good and bad.  The griffin is also known to represent nobility, gentleness and justice.  They are often seen on ancient stone tombstones as the guardians and protectors of life and remain loyal in their protection even in the afterlife.  It is considered a very strong symbol.  The three crescent moons could represent three months or three daughters.  There is another coat of arms which has wild boars on it and is thought to be from a different sept (clan) of the McManus family.


  1. I’ll have to bookmark this for when I have more time to read it! I’ve found so many things of great interest to me… like cats, Ireland, and found your blog researching the McManus surname. Thanks!
    K. Blake


  2. Funny, I was going to ask you about the name since we were just there in Ireland. This answers all my questions. thanks. Bobbie


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