This very unusual Irish name is believed to originate from Galloway in Scotland where it was originally spelt as Mac Giolla Chairge - 'the son of the servant of Carraigh' - a personal name meaning 'the rock'. There are number of alternative modern spellings including MacIlhagga, McIlharga, MacElhargy, Maharg and Maha, these alternatives being found generally in counties Antrim and Derry. The abreviation of 'Mac' to 'Ma' or 'Me' is common in Ulster for reasons of dialect. The name also appears in The Famine Record for 1845-46 as Mahagin (son of the son of 'Harg') and Michael Maha, as well Joan Maharg of Liverpool, described as a lady who eimgrated to America in 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mac Giolla Chairge, which was dated 1659, in the All Ireland Census, during the reign of Richard Cromwell, The Lord Protector 1658-1659. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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