“Cairney” is a Scots surname version (Cairnie, Carny, Carnie) of Ó Cearnaigh or Mac Cearnaigh where an English translation would typically use “Kearney” or “Carney”. It is also a Scots place name translating Gaelic “Car[de]naigh”.
Apart from occasional instances of “part-taking” via adoption, assumption of surname or as the result of incidental polyandry, there are a limited number of lineages whose members typically bear the surname “Cairney”, and so we can discuss the names in terms of “origins”.
Most “Cairneys” (Cairnies, Cairnys) are from one of these four lineages:
Derry/Donegal/Tyrone (probably into Sligo) (probably into Down/Armagh) especially as “Kearney”, “Cairney” and “Carney”, and into Scotland and Glasgow especially as “Cairney” and “Cairnie”. more info
Cairney, Carnie, Cairnie and Cairny: Perthshire and into Aberdeen and Glasgow/Edinburgh. Specific lineage from Sir John de Cairdeney of that Ilk (Cardney) near Dunkeld. more info
McCarney etc.: Monaghan and into Scotland, Galloway and Glasgow, especially as “Cairney”, “Cairnie” and “MacCairnie”. more info
Cairnie, Carny, etc.: Specific lineage(s) (early 14th century) from one or other of the various “Cairney” placenames in Scotland besides the one near Dunkeld, the most likely candidate being the barony of Cairney across the Tay from Abernethy. An Abernethy clan lineage, also to Aberdeen, Banff and Edinburg. more info
Ó Catharnaigh: Kearney, Carney of Westmeath and Offaly and into Dublin. Some possible migration into Down/Armagh and into Scotland and Glasgow as “Cairney”.
Ó Ceithearnaigh, Kerney, Kearney of Roscommon (Castlerea): very limited migration to Scotland and Glasgow.
Ó Cearnaigh, Carney, Kearney of Mayo (Balla) and possibly into Sligo. Uí Fiachrach.
Ó Cearnaigh, Carney, Kearney of Tipperary and Kerry and some into Mayo and Dublin. Dál gCais.
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