Americans are an interesting people. We come from many diverse backgrounds, and some of us have common roots. But one thing is certain, every year around this time, we all claim Irish heritage.

Ever notice that when some people claim Native American lineage, they almost always say that they have some "Cherokee blood?" Same thing around Saint Patrick's Day. Most of us try to claim Irish ancestors.

My mother's maiden name was "McCoy", which according to my research is termed a "Scots-Irish name."

Here's what I found out on an Irish heritage site.

McCoy is a common surname of Scottish origin in the lands of Kintyre and then Irish  origin. It is an anglicised version of its Irish Gaelic form Mac Aodha, meaning "son of Aodah" (an old word for fire, a Celtic deity). It is particularly found in what is now Northern Ireland where many settled around the 13th century, having been Gallowglasses. Gallowglasses were were a class of elite mercenary warriors who were principally members of the Norse-Gaelic clans of Scotland between the mid 13th century and the end of the 16th century. As Scots, they were Gaels and shared a common background and language with the Irish, but as they had intermarried with the 10th century Norse settlers of western Scotland, the Irish called them Gall Gaeil ("foreign Gaels"). They also settled in Limerick and Cork.

Wow, I'm descended from a bunch of mercenaries! Only trouble is that they usually ended up on the losing end of things in Scotland, so they immigrated to Ireland.

How about you. How Irish are you?

Irish Central is a great site to look over this week.