MacAteer, MacIntyre, Carpenter, Freeman, (O)Seery

The Gaelic surname Mac an tSaoir belongs both to Ireland and Scotland. In Scotland it is always MacIntyre.  In Ireland the MacIntyres slightly outnumber the MacAteers, but a number of the former are Ulstermen of Scottish extraction.  Taken together they are estimated in population statistics to number some 4,500 persons in Ireland: practically all the MacAteers are in Ulster (Armagh, Antrim and Donegal), while the MacIntyres are less concentrated in area, though chiefly in Ulster, with a considerable number also in Co. Sligo.  Ballymacateer is a place near Lurgan; Carrickmacintyre is in Co. Mayo.  The 1659 census tells us that they were numberous in Co. Donegal at that date, and the hearth money returns of somewhat later show that the name was also common in Co. Monaghan.

The belief that the name is uniformly Scottish in origin may, I think be discounted; the bishop of Clogher who held the sea from 1268-1287 was Michael Mac an tSaoir and the famous St. Kieran, who flourished seven centuries earlier, before the era of surnames, was called Mac an tSaoir.

MacAteer, or MacIntyre, is one of those names which has been subjected to anglicization by translation.  Saor is the Irish word for a certain type of tradesman such as a mason or a carpenter. The name has never become Mason, but Carpenter was fairly widely adopted as a synonym, so that the surname Carpenter in Ireland is often not English in origin but MacAteer in disguise.  Similarly, since soar also has the secondary meaning of free, the English surname Freeman sometimes hides a MacAteer origin.  It is not improbable that the English name Searson was also sometimes used in the same way.  It has been used as the anglicized form of Ó Saorthaigh.

Freeman also does duty, in this case by mistranslation, for Ó Saorthaigh, the name of a small Westmeath sept normally called Seery in English.  A branch of this, or possibly a distinct family of the same name, was also at one time located in Donegal, but its present day descendants are now found in small numbers in north Connaght, where some of its members are called Seery and some Freeman.

The adoption of Carpenter for MacAteer took place for the most part in the Dublin area, so that Most Rev. Dr. John Carpenter, Archbishop of Dublin from 1770 to 1786, who is remembered for his prominent part in the struggle for Catholic Emancipation, probably belonged to a branch of the sept under consideration.  He was interested in Irish and in close touch with the Irish poet O'Neachtain; he wrote his name in Irish as Mac an tSaoir. However, Henry Carpenter (fl.1790), poet and scribe, known in his native Irish language as Enri Mac an tSaoir, was a Clareman.  The name also occurs in Co. Clare in the place-name -- Cahermackateer, near Corofin; but as a surname it is very rare in that county in any of the forms given above.

MacLysaught, Edward.  More Irish Families. Kill Lane, Blackrock, Dublin: 1996, page, 25-26.