The Clan/Sept History
The Irish surname MacDonlevy originally appeared in Gaelic as Mac Duinnshleibh,
derived from the words "dun," meaning "fortress," or perhaps "donn," which means
"brown," and "sliabh," which means "mountain."
Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when
recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one
person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous
spelling variations of the surname MacDonlevy are preserved in these old
documents. The various spellings of the name that were found include Dunleavy,
Dunlevie, Dunlevy, Dunlivie, McDunleavy, Donleavy and many more.
First found in Ulidia, in northern Ireland, where they were said to have
descended from the Princes of Ulidia, who were in turn descended from the
Heremon line of Irish Kings; the modern name for Ulidia, is Ulster. The "Four
Masters" list that in 1199, a Rory O'Dunsleve joined the English (Norman
soldiers) at Meath and plundered the monastery of Saint Peter and Paul in
Armagh. In the 12th century during the Anglo/Norman invasion of Ireland, the
Dunleavys migrated to Tir Connell now known as Donegal and became hereditary
physicians to the distinguished O'Donnells.
During the 19th century thousands of impoverished Irish Families made the long
journey to British North America and the United States. These people were
leaving a land that had become beset with poverty, lack of opportunity, and
hunger. In North America, they hoped to find land, work, and political and
religious freedoms. Although the majority of the immigrants that survived the
long sea passage did make these discoveries, it was not without much
preseverence and hard work: by the mid-19th century land suitable for
agriculture was short supply, especially in British North America, in the east;
the work available was generally low paying and physically taxing construction
or factory work; and the English stereotypes concerning the Irish, although less
frequent and vehement, were, nevertheless, present in the land of freedom,
liberty, and equality for all men. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred
with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. Research into passenger and
immigration lists has brought forth evidence of the early members of the
MacDonlevy family in North America: Gregory Donlevy, who was naturalized in New
York, NY in 1798; Walter Donlevy, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1813; Francis
William Donlevy, who was naturalized in South Carolina in 1816.
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