The Scottish surname McAlister, also found in northern Ireland, is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name Mac Alasdair meaning “son of Alasdair,” the Gaelic form of the personal name Alexander. One Alexander Makalester appears in the Black Isle in 1500, while one John Makalester had a precept of remission in 1542. Africk McQuhollastar was mentioned in a charter of wadset in 1571 and Angus McAlester was a follower of Murdow McCloyd in the attack on the galley at Balcomie in 1600. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ranald Makalestyr, obtained a lease of lands in Arran, which was dated 1455. The name was brought to Ireland by Scottish settlers in the 16th and 17th Centuries and is mainly found in the north eastern county of Antrim.
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