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About the study
The origin is not clear. The earliest known location of the name (spelt 'Strany'), in 1708, is in the eastern part of County Down in Northern Ireland. It may be linked to the Strain or Strachan surnames for which there are examples going back to the early 17th century. This would mean it could be a locative surname perhaps originating from the parish of Strachan in Kincardineshire, Scotland, formerly Strathaen. The name may come from stra or strath, a vale, from the root strath, a valley, through which a river runs, and chan or ceann, the head, meaning 'the head of the valley,' or 'a little valley,' from Strathan. Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin, in 1764, had a friend called William Strachan, a publisher and editor, whom he always referred to as "Straney" (an affectionate phonetic pronunciation of Strachan?). Celebrated figures in history can set fashions which the rest of us are often keen to follow. Perhaps this encouraged the more common use of "Straney" as a surname.
The name could also be one based on a bodily characteristic or personality trait. If its origin is from the Irish language or Scots Gaelic it could mean 'nosey', 'big-nosed' or 'inquisitive'. If its origin is from Medieval English it could mean 'demented' or 'passionate'.
All of the above theories are consistent with an origin within a geographical circle which includes east County Down in Northern Ireland, south-west Scotland and north-west England.
History of the name
The 1881 Census for Scotland, England and Wales, shows: 6 occurrences of Stranney (Yorkshire and Cumberland) and 32 occurrences of Straney (Lanarkshire, Cumberland, Lancashire, Gloucester, Middlesex and Surrey. The 1880 US Federal Census shows the following: No Stranney households; 76 Straney households (the majority of these in the north-eastern states). The 1911 Census for Ireland shows 8 Stranney households (all but one household in the eastern part of County Down); 12 Straney households (the majority of households divided equally between Belfast and the eastern part of County Down, one outlier in Dublin.
Before 1900 in particular, there is evidence of emigration from Ireland, England and Scotland to the USA primarily. The earliest recorded migrant to the USA was a Nicholas Straney who was in Maryland in 1790. A much smaller number have left those same shores for Australia (one involuntarily). A small number have also emigrated to Canada. Some of this latter have then moved into the USA.