I believe that between literacy, handwriting and transcription issues it’s quite possible that in many cases the name takes on an appearance different from intended. If a Church record was written by a minister who might be unfamiliar with the name he might write it phonetically. Looking at some parish records I have seen the name written differently at the brides parish as compared to the grooms parish for the same family.
Independent to that, the name has its roots in Ireland. According to Black’s “The Surnames of Scotland”, the Scottish surname of Conacher/Connacher/Conachar was the name of an old Atoll family, located about 1600 on the lands of Stewart of Atholl. They were probably descendants of the family of Duncan O’Conocher of Lorn, who were the 16th and 17th centuries physicians to the Campbells of Argyll.
In the July 1912 issue (p. 130) of Celtic Monthly it notes, “The MacConachers or Conachers of Lorn were of Irish origin, and were proprietors of the lands of Ardorian, near Oban. They were for centuries hereditary physicians to the MacDougalls of Lorn. The name appears to have been originally O’Conacher, but at an early date the Irish O’ was discarded for the Scottish Mac. In the sixteenth century Dr. John MacConacher was sent from Argyllshire to Rome, to attend the family of the third son of the Earl of Argyle. In 1560 John MacConacher pays to my Lord forty merks “for ye grassum for office of churgeon.” Some of the Gaelic MSS. of the MacConachers are in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh.” The magazine can be read in its entirity at http://ia360617.us.archive.org/0/items/celticmonthlymag20mackuoft/celticmonthlymag20mackuoft.pdf
So now you might think is it Duncan O’ Conacher or Duncan O’ Conachor? It is not as simple as that. Looking at another article in the Celtic Monthly also from July 1912 (p. 122) entitled “The Medical Book of Dunolly” by H. Cameron Gillies M.D. We find the text is from “1611-14 by a family of Connachers, physicians of that part of the country”. The text is written in Gaelic, which further explains some of the above differences. Here is a sample:
An Aird-Chonghail damh a bhfhochair Dhonnchaidh Mic Eoin Mic
Domnaill Mic Donntchaidh i ogbair (Conchobair) aois an tigerna intan sin 1612 an 3 la 20 Augustus. Misi Aonghus Mac Ferchair Mic Aonguis g [deleted] gidh nar re admhail do sgriobha in leabar e. Ni bee sin—In Ardconnel
I am in the presence of Duncan the son of John the son of Donald the son of Duncan O’Connacher. The Age of the Lord in that time 1612 the 3 days
20 (23d). of August. I am Angus son of Farquhar son of Angus though it is a shame to admit that he (I) wrote this hook.
Note the author chose O’Connacher, which is neither of the translations listed earlier. So we can also add language translation as another dimension to explain the differences in the name spellings. Going back to Black’s under it notes OConochar (and variants) are names ‘descendant of Conchobar’, an ancient Irish personal name. This name is strikingly similar to the Conchobair.
Apparently the earliest Conacher noted on Scottish soil was one Conacher or Ochonachan, said to be an Irishman of the royal house of Ulster, was granted the “Castle Urquhart” and the surrounding lands in Invernesshire by the King of Scotland in 1160. He had a son called Ochonochan who had three sons. The second settled there and was called Urquhart of whom descended the Lairds of Cromarty and Urquhart. The first and third sons founded the families Forbes and MacKay. These three sons are reputed to have founded the clans founded the clans of Bell, Robertson and Urquhart.
I know that today there are branches of the family that are of the one n variety and others that have 2 n’s. It’s important to know which name spelling you are chasing but it’s equally important to be aware of some of the reasons that the records may show variants in the names. (Although my family name has 2 n’s prior to 1800 my ancestors in Perthshire (Logierait) had only one n. According to Willie Connacher’s research, the Perthshire Conachers are descended from five brothers who came from Ireland about 1535 when they appear in the Logierait old Parish records in Perth Library. All old spellings that he has seen have only one “N”. The Irish brothers were Mungo, Charles, John, Thomas and Peter. ( http://family-tree.co.uk/familyblogs/willcon/2007/05/31/new-to-this-site/ )