Surname History

"Cairney" is a Scots word.  That means that anyone who has the
name "Cairney" was linguistically—and probably culturally and
politically—under Scottish influence at some key point in his or her
family history between 1650 and 1850.  The name is much older than
that of course, but it found the form "Cairney" during that roughly 200
year period. Before that there would have been other forms, and
perhaps other languages.  Scots is a language spoken in Scotland
and also in the North of Ireland.  It is related to English, but it is not a
dialect of English.  Other languages in Scotland and the North of
Ireland include Gaelic, a Celtic language, and English.

The Cairneys have a  history going back to early medieval times (or
histories, for, like the Fergusons—another set of Gaelic
families with a Scots name— there are  origins in Scotland and
origins in the North of Ireland).  Always connected with the Medieval
Church, the name links to both the Gaelic world and to the Gothic
world of the Normans.  The family was consistently involved in the
work of the Church, particularly in the work of the Columban church,
the lay and monastic foundations of St. Colm Cille—St. Columba—of
Iona, Derry, Dunkeld and  several other locations.  All the Cairneys
are related in this way: they have origins linked to the kindred of
Columba and are all ecclecsiastical branches of the Northern Uí Néill.

Cairney of Donegal
Gaelic: O Cearnaigh
Historical varients: O'Carnie (1609), O'Carney (1659), O'Kairney
(1665), O'Kearny (1665), Cairney (1743).

Cenel Eoghain sept of the Uí Néill were at one time coarbs or
erenachs of Derry and had a long presence in the Culdaff area of
Inishowen.  Gille Críost (Gilchrist) O Cearnaigh was Abbot and Coarb
of Columba at Derry in 1198.  He was later raised to Bishop of
Conor.  A branch of the family were Erenachs of Killaghtee Chuch in
the south of Donegal.

Cairney of Perthshire
Gaelic: Cardenaigh
Historical varients:de Cardeney, Cairdeney, Cardney, Cairny, Carny,
Carnie, Cairnie.

This sept in Highland Perthshire and Strathearn began with the
marriage of William de Cardney (the barony of Cardney near
Dunkeld) with the heiress of Columban erenach family of Mac Nair of
Foss in the Appin (Abbey land) of Dull near Dunkeld.  One of these
Cairneys, Robert de Cairney or de Cardney, was Bishop of Dunkeld
in the late 14th century.  The MacNairs were an ecclesiastical sept of
the same Columban and Clan Duff kindred as Robertson and
Abernethy.  The Earl of Rothes (Leslie) has a historical association
with the lands and family of Abernethy and with the barony of Cairney
near Perth.  A family of Cairneys was settled in Aberdeen, also
connected with the Leslies.  The Cairneys of Foss were later Lairds
of Tulchan and afterwards Lairds of Scones Lethendy, all in

The MacCairneys of Galloway

There are other O Cearnaigh/Kearney/Carney families which
originate in the Middle, South and West of Ireland (Mayo, Westmeath
and Clare to be exact).   Some individuals from these families did
relocate to Scotland during the first half of the 19th century and in
the process were also saddled with the Scots spelling of the name,
"Cairney."  There are also the Mac Cearnaigh families: one
originating in Monaghan and another—of likely identical origin—
which shows up in Galloway as early as the 16th century. Some of
these—MacCairnies or MacCairneys in Scotland—also eventually
become Cairneys.