Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding the McCains

 (this book explores the connections of the McCain family to Ailean Mac Eáin Riabhach, Taoiseach of Glassary circa 1436-1470)

Finding the McCains

Finding the McCains, is an account of a man’s 40 year odyssey to find the McCain family in Ireland.  Senator John McCain and his cousin, novelist Elizabethan Spencer, both include a short history of the McCain family in their respective memoirs Faith of our Fathers and Landscapes of the Heart.  Their history is a romantic tale of Highland Scots who supported Mary Queen of Scots and who fled to Ireland after her downfall in 1568.  The search for the McCains became a mystery story with clues, false turns, many adventures, and then ultimate success through Y chromosome DNA testing.  In 2008 the McCains were reunited with their family that remained in Ireland, after 289 years of separation.

The McCain history includes people and events familiar to readers of Irish and Scottish history; Redshanks, Iníon Dubh, Mary Queen of Scots, the Earls of Argyll, the Ulster Migration, and the Scots-Irish, are all part of this family’s history.  Faint memories of this past were told for generations in Mississippi and as the research progressed the facts behind these memories were uncovered. 

The Y chromosome DNA results revealed that the McCains of Mississippi, which include Senator John McCain’s family, are the same family of Wallace and Harrison McCain, the founders of Canada’s McCain Foods, one of the most successful corporations in the world.  They are also the same family as James McKeen who organized the 1718 fleet that began the great Ulster Migration to the English Colonies.  All these families are paternally related and they all descend from one Gaelic man named Mac Eáin that lived in Kilmichael Glassary parish, in mid Argyll, in the Scottish Highlands, in the 1400s.

The book tells of the author’s many trips to Ireland in search of his distant cousins there.  There are anecdotal stories, some humorous and others involving “famous” people; such as, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, Mary Coughlan (Irish Tainste or vice president), Cindy McCain (wife of Senator McCain), Seán Mac Stiofáin (1970s head of the IRA) , Alan Heusaff (WW II German officer in Dublin who later became president of the Celtic League), and Muhammad Ali.  There is even an encounter with a Bean Sí (faerie woman) on the windy cold hill of megalithic stone ruins at Loch an Craoibh.  All presented from the perspective of a native Mississippian.

Another theme in the book is the Scots-Irish.  Contemporary histories about the Scots-Irish present stereotyped and romanticized accounts of this dynamic group.  Finding the McCains reveals a more complex history and shows the cultural conflation common in Scots-Irish popular history.

Finding the McCains is an excellent read for all interested in Irish and Scottish history and is an how-to guide for those interested in how-to guide for those who would like to use genetic genealogy to locate their family in the old country and recover lost family history.

To purchase from Amazon: Finding the McCains

To purchase from Ulster Heritage directly send US $20 (postage paid) to:
Ulster Heritage
PO Box 884
Oxford MS 38655

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Scots-Irish: Native Tribes of Britain

The Scots-Irish: Native Tribes of Britain: The majority of the Scots-Irish are descendants of the native Celtic tribes of north Britain.  Here is a link to an article on the BBC Histo...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

DNA Project Update

We have two sub groups that have developed in the Mid Argyll Kinship Group.  The DNA locus 485 has a value of 13 for all the Mac Eáin origin surnames and a value of 16 for the rest of the men in the project.  The norm for the R-L21 haplogroup is in fact 15.   So, both sub groups within the Mid Argylll Kinship Group, i.e. the R-L21 9919 A-1 group to use geneticist jargon, have a 485 different than the norm.  This is a valuable research factor.

This mutation of the Mac Eáin sub group may have happened circa 1450 to 1550.  Pure speculation.  It may be 'the' marker of families that descend from Donnchaidh Mór Mac Eáin, as his family used the surname McCain beginning in the late 1400s.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Viking Britons

Link to a fascinating article by Scottish historian Tim Clarkson.  Most students of Irish and Scottish history are very familiar with the Gall Ghaeil, but Tim Clarkson has proposed that there was also a Gall Bhreathanaigh.   Gall Ghaeil means the foreign Gaels and Gall Bhreathanaigh means the foreign Britons, as in the Celtic people that lived in Scotland.  This is linked to McCain history and our DNA results.  When I have more time I will post an explanation.  This article specifically about Clan Galbriath, but relative to the McCains.

The story here:  The Viking Britons

Monday, August 19, 2013

z9919 A-1

There is another DNA project that is researching our group it is the z9919 project. Our Mid Argyll Kinship group is a part of this study, we are designated z9919 A-1 in their nomenclature. 

The z9919 cluster is a relatively large genetic cluster with at least 300 members so far, well-known for their characteristic 459=9-9, YCA=19-19 pattern (double 9s at the 459 marker, and double 19s at the YCAII marker).
For those interesting this is the 9919 and RecLOH Project under Family Tree.  I joined as it will help with our project as well.  I see some interesting data developing around this haplogroup.  I think we are dealing with an indigenous Celtic tribal group located initially in central Scotland, from the Firth of Clyde east to Dundee area. 
I will post news on this as it comes in.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Burial Slab of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Allein

The burial slab of Donnchadh Mór Mac Allein Mhic Lachlainn. Better known in history as Donnchadh Mac Eain, or in English, Duncan McCain.   He was active from the late 1460s until circa 1514.  He was a son of Ailean Mac Eáin Riabhach.  Ailean was given a charter to a large holding of land in Glassary in 1436 by his cousin and the overall Taoiseach of Clann Lachlainn, Eáin Mac Lachlainn.  The exact nature of the kinship between Ailean and Eáin is not known, the term cousin had a very broad meaning in the Gaelic world in the fifteenth century.  While the kinship connection is a mystery, there is no doubt of the clan affiliation.  Ailean held his lands through Eáin Mac Lachlainn and his descendants continued this practice in both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Key to the Mid Argyll Group

The key to the Mid Argyll Group research is the historical figure of Donnchadh Mac Eáin.  As Captain White, who did the survey of Donnchadh's burial slab in 1875, pointed out when speaking about the slab, it is one of the few burial slabs that can be linked to a historical figure.

To quote Captain White, 'The writing in this case is tolerably perfect, and there is no difficulty in reading the initiatory words, ''Hic iascet Duncanus." Now, in 1479, King James III granted to Colin, Earl of Argyll, the lands of Gareald, Craigenewir (in the vally of the Add) and Tangladlew (within the barony of Glassary), resigned by Duncan Makcane.  With the aid of this information, if we turn again to the inscription, the following, I think, can be deciphered--  Hic iacet Duncanus Roy M'Allan --  and at the top of the slab the name 'Lachlan.' This appears to be one of those rare instances where we are enabled to identify a mediaeval tombstone in the West Highlands with a substantive individual of whom there is documentary record.' 

Captain White was correct Donnchadh appears is the Scottish crown records and the Argyll records.  He is the vector.   Through him we can follow his descendants and those of his three brothers, Dónall, Eáin Riabhach, and Giolla Chríost. 

In most of the 1400s and 1500s records that Donnchadh and his descendants appear, they continue the use of the Mac Eáin surname.  Usually is found put into Lallans, but sometimes left in a Gaelic spelling. 

It is interesting that we know so much about Donnchadh as his House, at Dunemuck, was not the head of the clan, it was his older brother Dónall who was the Taoiseach of the Dunadd Mac Lachlainns.  The House were Dónall of Dunadd, Donnchadh Mór of Dunemuch, Eáin Riabhach of Killiemuchanock, and Giolla Chríost of Creig an Tairbh. 

As the research progresses I will post more of these brothers and their descendants from the primary sources.  Luckily the habit of writing a man's Derbfine name was often followed in the Argyll records, so that we not only get the man's name, but his line of descent, usually for four, sometimes three, generations.