The McNeese Name

The following history and origin of the McNees name was done by John C. McNeese (deceased) of Long Beach, California in 1981, and is based on his many, many years of researching the McNees name. His research consisted of traveling throughout the United States, Ireland, Scotland and other European countries. If you utilize the following in you family history, please include John as the author, as we are all indebted to him for his exhausting research.

 The McNees  Family Name
he genealogical research of the McNeese family, a family among the oldest families in America, has been underway for many, many years by a number of different family members. One of our older genealogical records was supplied by SAMUEL McNEESE in the early 1870's. This record is in the book "History of Beaver County Pennsylvania" from which the following paragraph is taken.

The name McNeese, originally spelled McNees, is not one of frequent occurrence in this country. The family had its origin in Holland, from whence they went to Ireland in 1608, and in 1668 earliest member of this family to make her home in this country arrived in America. This was Cornelia VanSant (Covert) McNees who took up land along the Harlem River, now part of the New York Central Railroad.

The spelling McNees must be a typographical error; it should be Nees, Neese or Ness. The addition of MC or Mac, prefixes meaning the son of, stem from Ireland and Scotland.

No record of the McNees spelling has been found in early Ireland or Scotland records at this writing. The McNeece, McNeice, McNess have been recorded. Neese and McNeese have been found only in Irish records.

The records that we have compiled seem to confirm the statements above. The name Naes, Neas, Nees and Neese have been found in early colonial records and in the first census of the United States taken in 1790.
Because the name is unusual, it has been spelled and pronounced many, many ways. It is not uncommon to find the name spelled different ways on the same document. In one cemetery the name on the husband's tombstone is McNees and his wife's next to his is McNeese. Different spellings often occur in the US Census records in which the census takers took great liberties with the last name. German and Dutch census takers often omitted the prefixes MC and Mac. The differences in spelling have made it difficult to find our forefathers in many census records. The spelling McNeese predominates by far, so we have assumed it was the accepted spelling for at least the past two hundred and fifty years.

Those people interested in the Nees and Neese names can find them in the Berlin, Germany, phone directory. Neese is German means "big nose". People named Nees and Neese, according to German researchers, are descendants of Nese of Amaland whose records are traceable to 947 A.D.

The Neses were true nomads under the rule of the German King, Otto I: The Great. Their genetic background seems to have contributed to their nomadic lifestyle. Perhaps this explains the frequent moving of the families that is evident even today.

The following variants of Nese were; Nase, Neis, Neese, Niese, Nies and Nice, which were undoubtedly of Slavic origin as they are found-primarily in Southeast Germany. Swerg Nase is mentioned in 1386. Neisse, the name of a town and river near the Czechoslovakia border has been changed to Nysa. The town is located on the river 40 miles southeast of Wroclaw, Poland.
The migration of the nomads to the west, the date unknown, finally ended in Holland. Undoubtedly it was here in the early 1500's;s that the religious philosophy of the Selesian German Mennonites was embraced. Because of the Mennonite religion, thousands were persecuted to death, particularly in Holland. The religious principles of the Mennonites were later adopted by George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. The name Quaker was given to the Friends when Fox told the prosecuting and persecuting Judge, Servas Bennet, he should quake at the name of the Lord. Many Neeses, approving the teachings of the new religion, became Quakers.
From Holland the Neeses migrated to Ireland, reportedly in 1608. We can assume that the migration was the result of religious persecution and wars, which seem to have played a big part in the divisions of the families and of the changing of the spelling of the names. This division of families is well illustrated by the diverse spelling found in our Revolutionary and Civil War records. It was during the settlement in Ireland that the prefixes Mac and Mc were added to the name.
The move into Ireland was not an auspicious one because of the embroilment of the Irish in civil and religious wars in the worst of which Oliver Cromwell and his army tried to exterminate the Irish and any other people not professing to the Puritan Religion. The attack on the Quakers was more violent and in excess of that on any other church particularly when Charles II became King ....because of their opposition to the established church, their refusal to conform to social customs such as removing their hats to a political officer, because they addressed everyone with thee and thou, because they refused to take an oath. In spite of the tenet not to fight, some Quakers joined the army and navy in which they were missionaries as well as fighters. To escape from fighting and persecution, many decided to migrate to the New World.
Some of the Quaker McNeeses were already established on the Island of Barbados before 1650, only three years after the Quaker movement started. The 1650 wills and records of the Island are the oldest documents proving the Mackernesse migration to America. In the year 1658 to 1659 the exodus to America was precipitated by a fine of 11,000 levied against them. In 1684 Edward Mackerness, a 23 year old and bonded servant for four years, was sent to Virginia. His brother, William, followed five years later, to where is uncertain, possibly Massachusetts, as there were kin there and William is listed as a ferryman in 1731.

Migration into the New World was increased by William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania. His liberal government and energy in promoting the sale of land induced a flood of emigrants to settle in Pennsylvania and the eastern seaboard in 1682. To date the above mentioned Edward was among the first.

The migration did not end the persecution of the Quakers. They were driven out of Puritan settlements, to return meant death. Ears were cropped, holes burned in tongues and other atrocities were committed in spite of which the Quakers continued to flourish, the McNeeses among them. There are a few Quaker family members even today.

At what time period some of the families embraced the Catholic religion is still unclear. It seems that some joined the Presbyterian Church before 1720. Only research will give the answer.

The research has found and authenticated over seventy different spellings of the family name. All have to be compiled and then through a process of elimination confirmed. Our minimum requirements for proving data to be accurate must contain two verifiable records. All other data are treated as clues or classified as hearsay. The assumption that the McNees, McNeese, McNeice and etc. names found in the United States are all of the same family is a false assumption, particularly the commingling of the first name.

Since the amount of data is so very large, it will be quite some time before any publications will be available. To be organized and included are pictures and stories contributed by family members. Any omission of information about a family is not due to intention, but to the lack of the information which might have been supplied by the family.

All material that we have collected and published will be sent to the McNeese University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, were it will be available in the McNeese room in the Frazer Library located on campus.

Only facts and truth make a family record believable and reliable.

By: John C. McNeese
Long Beach, California