In the several decades now that I have been trying to dig out my Irish ancestry via the internet–and pin down immigrant Patrick Trainer’s upstream line–the subject of the Mac Threinfhir sept or clan kept popping up. There were various narratives which put this group as Ulster-Scots, native Celts, or some admixture thereof. The meaning of the name can be broken down to ‘Mac’ (son of) and ‘Threinfhir’ (strong man). But first, I need to get how this is pronounced. By the beginning of the 19th century, many branches of the family had dropped or foreshortened the ‘Mac’ (meaning ) and had also added numerous permutations to distinguish their lines and geography. A more blended form was common, which aspirated the T and sounded out as a condensed “Crainor.” A number of versions emerged from this, including:
M’Kreaner, MacCreanor, MacCranor, MacCrainor, Craner, Treanor, Trenor, Trayner, Trainor, Trainer, and Trainer.
Now to compound this, a number of English & Scottish migrants to Ireland laid claim to the name “Trainer.” This derives from the old Middle English verb ‘trayne’ meaning to trap or catch. Such addition appeared during the Plantation Period of Ulster (Northern Ireland) in the first half of the 17th century. As there was much intermingling of all lines, one can see how this muddies up the historical waters and genealogical foundations quite a bit. There are two things that we know about our branch that are of interest though.
The 1870 Federal Census lists Patrick’s entire family under the surname ‘Craner.’ This is what the census taker heard, and what he wrote down. Moving to the Census of 1900, we find his son Patrick living in St. Charles, Michigan–using the Trainer surname. By the 1910 census, he had moved to Fulton County, Illinois and was now using the surname Traynor. He would continue this for the remainder of his life–as would his children. This leaves us with the question of just what form of the name was being used in Ireland before Patrick’s emigration to America–and whether “County Down” is the correct place of departure.