I believe that I have to redact the information below, I think that a mistake was made in the original research. The McAnistan name does come from the same area as the McAnirlin name, and I still believe that there is a relationship, it is probably earlier that with John. (January 2007)
The McAnistan surname is a variation of McAnirlin. I am not sure that it is truly recognized as such, some sites such as Familysearch.org have the name listed all the way back to Ireland, but that is not the case.
The most significant change of the name was to McAnistan. It was fairly easy to connect this name with the ‘original’ spelling of McAnirlin by examining original documents and creating a timeline of the gradual changes.
I believe that there were two main reasons for this change:
1- Poor Handwriting – The key to this change is to look at the last 4 letters. The R and S are very similar, and the L and T are easily changed. With a name that is not found frequently, and with poor handwriting, I think that the ‘rlin’ could easily become ‘stan’. Anyone that has seen old town records can attest to the poor samples or handwriting that are often found.
2- Intentional change – Family Lore of the McAnistan side is that one members of the family was not of the best repute. That because of this, the name was changed to avoid any negative connections to the old version of the name. There is no legal evidence that the name was intentionally changed.
The McAnistan Surname begins with John McAnirlin, Son of John McAnirlin. John was born 22 Nov 1840 in Co Londonderry Ireland. John Immigrated into the Boston Area with the Rest of his family around 1850. He Married mary Jane Ferguson in 1866 in Dennis, Barnstable Massachusetts. She is the daughter of John Ferguson and Rosanna. There is quite a bit of family lore with John. Some surrounds the change of the name to McAnistan, and some surrounds with time in the Civil War.
John Served in the Navy, enlisting 28 Nov 1861 to 07 Nov 1864. The Special Schedule for the 1890 Census, lists the vessels that he served on as the Sumpter, Dawn and Emma. Mass Cival War Soldiers and Sailors in the US Navy, 1861-1865, Vol VIII, Lists his service as follows:
John McAnislin - 20; sailor; enl. Nov 28 1861 at Boston for 3 yrs, as Ord. Seaman, Credit Boston. Served on Recg. Ships OHIO and NORTH CAROLINA, U.S.S. Sumpter, VErmont, DAWN and EMMA, from which disch. Dec 7 1864 as Ord. Seaman.
Family Lore states that he was captured, and served time in Andersonville Military Prison, but there are no from Andersonvillle to support that. The best explanation that I can come up with is that Andersonville was also know as fort Sumpter, and that it may have been confused with his service on the USS Sumpter.