The McGinnis name goes back almost to the beginning of Ireland. The name is recorded in the County Down seated from ancient times. There are many references with the surname recorded as McGuinness, Guinnessy, Magennis, Guiness, and Genis. In those days a name change from father to son was common and individuals often changed the spelling during their lifetime.
The Gaelic family of McGinnis descended from the Lords of Iveagh in the County Down. Thought to be connected to the Viking invastion wherein one of two Viking Kings vying to claim the country cut off his hand and tosed it ashore to be the first to touch it's land. The red hand on the McGinnis Coat of arms depicts the legend.
~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ORIGIN OF THE MCGINNIS NAME
This section was taken from "Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins by Edwad MacLysaght, published by Hodges Figgis & Co., Ltd. 1957."
The modern spelling of this name is usually MacGuinness or MacGenis but in the historical records in English they are as a rule Magennis, a form still to be found in some places today. In Irish the name is MagAonghusa, i.e. son of Angus. They are descended from Saran, chief of Dal Araidhe in St. Patrick's time and thence to Eochaidh Cobha of Iveagh, County Down. Like the chiefs of many of the great Irish septs Magennis took advantage of the English policy of "surrender and regrant" warly in the seventeenth century; earlier they were often at loggerheads with the ecclesiastical authorities and they showed a tendency to accept the tenets of the Reformation; conforming bishops included two Magennisses - one of the diocess of Down, the other of Dromore. However, by 1598 the Magennis chief of the time, whose father was officially reguarded as "the civillest of all the Irish in these parts," had joined Yrone (who was his brother-in-law) and thus "returned to the rudeness of the country." A generation later their loyalty to Ireland and the ancient faith was undoubted. The Franciscan Bishop of Down and Connor, Hugh Magennis (d. 1640), was closely related to Viscount Iveagh and many of the Gaelic nobility of Ulster. They were consistently on the Irish side during the resistance to English aggression in that century and after the disasters following the battle of Boyne they were finally dispossessed of their wide patrimony in Co. Down, much of which had been planted with English (not Scottish) settlers after the Comwellian war. Many of them took service as Wild Geese. The best known of these was Brian Magennis, second Viscount Iveagh, who was colonel of Iveagh's Regiment in the Austrian Imperial Army and was killed in action in 1703. His brother Roger Magennis, third Viscount (d. 1709), served both France and Spain with distinction. The present Lord Iveagh (of the second creation), head of the largest brewery concern in the world - Guinness of Dublin - though not a direct descendant of the lords of Iveagh mentioned above, belongs t a cognate family of Co. Down, This family spent very large sums on improvement of housing and social conditions in the city of Dublin as well as on the upkeep of St. Patricks Cathedral and its surroundings.
General John R. MacGuinness (b. 1840), the American soldier, was born in Dublin.