Sunday, September 27, 2015

BBC Radio Ulster, Kist o Wurds program

Barry R McCain

(Update.... a Rugby match on BBC is running long, our program rescheduled for  Wednesday 30th at 19.30 hour UK time and that is 1:30 PM CDT.   The show can is archived for a couple of weeks so can be streamed during that time also.  But on a brighter note, at least Ireland is winning the rugby match)

My BBC interview will be on today, evening in the UK, at 1:30 PM (13:30) on BBC Ulster Radio.  The program is the Kist o Wurds program and I was interviewed by Alister McReynolds, well known writer and personality in Northern Ireland.  (and a friend of mine)

Here is the link:   BBC Ulster Radio

This link should go to the program page from which you can click on a link to live stream the show.

The Kist o Wurds program focuses on Ulster Scots history, culture, and language.  It is a very good program, and a great way to discover an interesting aspect of Irish life and society.  This is my second time on the program.  I was also interviewed by them when I started my Finding the McCains book project.  This interview was done as the book is finished now and out at bookshops and on Amazon.  It is always enjoyable to talk with the lads and lassies back in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

McCain's Corner: BBC Ulster, the Kist o' Wurds program

McCain's Corner: BBC Ulster, the Kist o' Wurds program: Barry R McCain on the Thacker Mt Trail My BBC interview will be on today, evening in the UK, at 1:30 PM (13:30) on BBC Ulster Radio.  Th...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

McCain's Corner: Celtic Life Internation Magazine

McCain's Corner: Celtic Life Internation Magazine: A note to one and all; there is a review of my new book Finding the McCains in the October 2015 edition of Celtic Life magazine. Th...

Friday, September 4, 2015

McCain's Corner: Highlanders in West Ulster, 1569-1630

McCain's Corner: Highlanders in West Ulster, 1569-1630: In the sixteenth century Scottish Highlanders settled in the Laggan district of east Donegal. They were called Redshanks. Their story ...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

McCain's Corner: Epigenetics

McCain's Corner: Epigenetics: Epigenetics is the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external o...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Ohio Celt Fest, August 7-9

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Ohio Celt Fest, August 7-9: The 4th Annual Ohio Celtic Festival Welcome to the Ohio Celtic Festival! We'll feature some of the very best in Celtic music, d...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

McCain's Corner: Anglicized Surnames; the many forms of John

McCain's Corner: Anglicized Surnames; the many forms of John: Knowing the Gaelic form of our surnames is a very helpful in genetic genealogy research.  There are many surnames in Ireland and Scotla...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Tomahawk, Scots-Irish Iconic Tool

The humble hand axe, or tomahawk, is an iconic tool of the Scots-Irish.  It was the multi-tool of its day, of use around the camp for cutting, splitting wood, to drive stakes, and also used for personal protection.  It was good in hand to hand close combat and a skilled wielder could throw it with great precision at ranges from five to twenty yards.   While some associate it with the frontier, its design and use goes back several thousand years.

hand axe in war from a medieval Gaelic manuscript 

typical frontier tomahawk
Small hand axes, of the same design and type as used by the Scots-Irish on the frontier, were in use since prehistoric times in both Ireland and Scotland.  The battle axe was called a tuagh (said Too-ah) in Gaelic.  There are many hundreds of them in the Irish National Museum.  Early ones are in stone and as technology improved they were made in copper, bronze, iron, and eventually steel.  From their ethnogenesis in Scotland, to their migration to Ireland, and then to the frontier of the New World, the hand axe, or tomahawk, has remained the one constant of Scots-Irish material culture. It was the Scots-Irish frontiersman that introduced the American Indians to the tool.
deployed American soldier with tomahawk
The tomahawk is still very much in use today and is just as useful in the 21st Century as it was to our Neolithic ancestors.

Friday, July 17, 2015

McCain's Corner: The Second Sight among the Scots Irish

McCain's Corner: The Second Sight among the Scots Irish: Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa 1905 The phenomenon of Second sight has fascinated me for many years.  I was exposed to the Second Sight early...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Families in the Scots-Irish DNA Project June 2015

The Scots-Irish DNA Project now has 761 participating families.  Below is a roster of the participating families.  As you can see the families are a combination of Lowland and Highland Scottish surnames with a few native Irish surnames.  All these families self identify as being Scots-Irish.  Most of these families participated in the 18th Century Ulster Migration to English Colonies and early Republic, or in the 19th Century Ulster migration into Canada.

The majority of the Lowland Scottish families are from Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and Gallowayshire, and most of these families migrated to Ireland during the Ulster Plantation (1609-1720).  The Highland Scottish surnames from Argyll, Lennox, and the Southern Hebrides; many of these families migrated to Ulster circa 1550-1600).

The dominate haplogroups are Insular Celts (85%) and there is about 12% of the haplogroups of Norse/Norman ancestry.   The native Irish surnames come from certain families that converted to the reformed faith and became part of the Protestant Irish community in the 1600s. 

Click on image to enlarge:


Saturday, June 20, 2015

McCain's Corner: Autosomal DNA Test Sale

McCain's Corner: Autosomal DNA Test Sale:   Autosomal DNA tests utilize DNA from the 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes. Autosomal DNA is inherited from both parents. Ther...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Foyle Valley Covenanters, a new book by William Roulston

Dr William Roulston is the Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. He holds a PhD in Archaeology from Queen’s University Belfast.

Foyle Valley Covenanters
In the middle of the eighteenth century a community of Covenanters in the Foyle Valley emerged from the shadows to form a congregation. The first minister was ordained in 1765 and six years later a site at Bready was secured for a meeting house. Since then the members of this small but significant congregation have been active in preserving a Reformed Presbyterian witness in the district as well as contributing to many other aspects of local life. Through a detailed study of the congregational and denominational records, this book explores the ministers and ministries, the life and work of the congregation, the buildings, the families, and the relationship between the Covenanters of Bready and the state. The appendices to the book include an index to the names in the earliest session book (1791-1800). Raised on the family farm in Bready, William J. Roulston grew up a few fields away from the Covenanter meeting house. He has written extensively on his local area and is the convener of the Reformed Presbyterian Church History Committee.

For overseas orders the best place to go is:

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Gaelic Language Festival 26-28 June in Ontario

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Gaelic Language Festival 26-28 June in Ontario: OIREACHTAS GAEILGE CHEANADA A Festival of Gaelic Language and Culture 26 – 28 June 2015   Register Now   Information   ...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Iníon Dubh, Scottish Princess

model and photographer Niamh O'Rourke and actor, archaeologist, Dave Swift portray Iníon Dubh and Redshank in a recent Irish photo shoot.  

Iníon Dubh (said, Nee-an doo) is one of the most remembered and beloved heroines in Irish history.  Iníon Dubh was her pet name which means 'black haired daughter.'  She was Fionnuala Ní Dhónaill née Nic Dhónaill.  She was a Gaelic aristocrat, the daughter of the taoiseach of clann Mhic Dhónaill, Seamus Mac Dónaill, and Anna Chaimbeul, the daughter of the third Earl of Argyll, head of clann Chaimbeul.  She was multi lingual, speaking her native Gaelic, Latin, and English.  She was born on Islay and spent much of her early life in the Scottish Court.  She married Aodh Mac Manus Ó Dónaill in the summer of 1569.   She moved to the Laggan district of Donegal with some 1,000 Redshanks recruited from clans Caimbeul and Mac Dónaill.

With her husband's health failing, she became the de facto taoiseach of Clann Uí Dhónaill by the mid 1580s.  She was by this time also the most powerful person in west Ulster, because she commanded her own army of very devoted Redshanks.  An account of her career in Donegal will be included in the book A Short History of the Laggan Redshanks, 1569-1630, which will be published by Ulster Heritage Publishing later this spring.

Iníon Dubh was the mother of Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill who led his west Ulster army to many victories against the English in the Nine Years War (1594-1603). 

She lived at Mongavlin just south of St Johnston, in east Donegal.  The remains of her castle are still standing.  Her legacy still lives in Donegal in the many families there that are of Redshank origins.

(Below, the chapter on Iníon Dubh from the book Finding the McCains  which is available on Amazon)

Iníon Dubh

The River Foyle is a large, brown water, tidal river, that flows north into Loch Foyle and then on into the Atlantic Ocean.  It begins at the town of Lifford in Donegal from the confluence of the Finn and Mourne rivers.  The Foyle is one of the best salmon fishing areas in Ireland.  The low lands on the west side of the river are called the Lagan,[1] taking that name from the Gaelic word lagan, meaning a hollow or low lying area.  In the Lagan, on the banks of the river, is the small market town of St Johnston.  The lands around St Johnston are green and fertile and there you will see the many shades of Irish green.  It is a beautiful area where farms still flourish and time is marked by the changing seasons.  In Elizabethan times, this part of the Lagan was called the Portlough precinct.  After her marriage to Aodh Mac Manus Ó Dónaill, Iníon Dubh settled just south of St Johnston at Mongavlin castle.  This is also where the McCains first appear in Ireland.

It was a highly strategic area. Not only was it fertile, rich land, but the Foyle River on the Lagan's eastern border provided easy access into O’Donnell lands.  Troops were needed there to protect the Foyle river ports. Large number of Redshanks accompanied Iníon Dubh to her new home there to accomplish this task.  Accounts vary, but the number of Redshanks was certainly over 1,000.  There was, throughout her time in the Lagan, an ebb and flow of Redshanks as the military needs of Clan O’Donnell dictated.  Iníon Dubh was aggressive in her efforts to defend west Ulster from English rule and her weapon of choice were the tall, fair, broad shouldered Gaels of Argyll.

Iníon Dubh was a traditional Gaelic woman, but she was also able to interact with the Elizabethan English on their terms. She spent her teenage years in the Scottish court and understood the subtle nuances of politics and war.  She had command of a large force of Redshanks and was not afraid to put them into use.  Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh, her contemporary and biographer of her son, wrote of her “she was the head of advice and counsel of the Cenél Conaill (Clan O’Donnell), and though she was calm and very deliberate and much praised for her womanly qualities, she had the heart of a hero and the mind of a soldier,”[2]  She has a unique place in Irish history.  She was a Scottish aristocrat, her father the head of Clan Donald and her mother the daughter of the Campbell chief, but she became a heroine of the Irish in the north.  Iníon Dubh is best remembered for her defense of her sons, who had glorious but tragic lives as Gaelic warriors. 

Iníon Dubh’s main residence in the Lagan was the castle at Mongavlin.  She had a secondary house at Carrigans, just north of St Johnston.  These locations were not random.  Both were river harbors where the Redshank galleys could easily land.  It is not a large area. Carrigans is only one and three quarters miles north of St Johnston and Mongavlin is only two and a quarter miles to its south.  The Redshanks of Iníon Dubh settled around her within the five or so miles between Mongavlin and Carrigans. 

The Elizabethan English were very cognizant of the Redshanks in Ireland.  The Calendar of the State Papers Relating To Ireland has correspondences of English officials in Ulster reporting their movements from the mid-1500s onward.  The English feared the Redshanks and the actions of Iníon Dubh in particular.  Scotland was still considered a threat to England and so many Scots in Ireland was considered an invasion of English ruled land.  Iníon Dubh used her Campbell clan connections to great effect and made many trips to Argyll to visit the fifth Earl of Argyll and his successor.  She would stay for several months, recruiting her Redshanks, and return with a fleet of Gaelic galleys to her lands on the shores of the River Foyle.

There is a description of these Redshanks found in the early 1600s book Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill (Life of Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill), written by the seanchaí (historian) of Clan O’Donnell, Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh:

They were recognized among the Irish soldier by the distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and language, for their exterior dress was mottled cloaks of many colors with a fringe to their shins and calves, their belts were over their loins outside their cloaks.  Many of them had swords with hafts of horn, large and warlike, over their shoulders.  It was necessary for the soldier to grip the very haft of his sword with both hands when he would strike a blow with it.  Others of them had bows of carved woods strong for use, with well-seasoned strings of hemp, and arrows sharp pointed, whizzing in flight.[3]

Ó Cléirigh’s comments referred to the arrival in Derry of a thousand Redshanks under Dónall Gorm Mac Dónaill of Skye and  Mac Leóid of Arran in 1594.  They were in the service of Iníon Dubh’s son and part of his troop build-up at the beginning of the Nine Year's War.  Ó Cléirigh was an eyewitness to these events and his account provides insight into the physical appearance of the Redshanks in the 1590s.  For centuries Irish and Scottish Gaels had dressed identically in a saffron colored léine (long shirt to the knees) and jacket.  By the late 1500s, the unique dress of the Scottish Gaels had developed and the belted kilt was worn by many Redshanks.  The two handed swords and bows described by Ó Cléirigh were the favorite weapons of the Redshanks and they were proficient in their use.  Ó Cléirigh also noted the dialect differences in the Gaelic spoken by these Redshanks.

Both the native Irish and the English made a distinction between the older Scots in Ireland, the Gallóglaigh, and the newer Scots, the Redshanks.  The native Irish called the Redshanks, na Albanaigh, which simply means “the Scots.”   The English called them Irish-Scots, Scots-Irish, or Redshanks.  By the mid-1500s, some Redshanks were settling in Ulster and not returning back to Scotland after the campaigning season.  In 1542, John Travers, the Master of the Ordnance in Ireland wrote:

… where as a company of Irisshe Skottes otherwise called Redshankes daily commeth into the northe parties of Irelande and purchaseth castels and piles uppon the seecoste there so as it is thought that there be at this present above the nombre of 2 or 3 thousande of them within this Realme…[4]

In April of 1571, Lord Justice William FitzWilliam wrote to the Privy Council:

The Scots in the North build, manure the ground, and settle, as though they should never be removed.[5]

By 1580, Iníon Dubh and her Redshanks began to dominate the political and military affairs of western Ulster.  She was by this time the acting head of Clan O’Donnell.  Some sources say her husband, Aodh Mac Manus, was growing senile.  The reasons she took the reins of leadership were probably multiple and included her husband’s age, failing health, and loss of mental clarity.  Iníon Dubh’s early life in the Scottish court and her links to Clan Campbell and Clan Donald gave her the needed connections and experience to protect her family’s position.  She also had her own army, which she paid and commanded personally, and her Redshanks were completely devoted to her.

There were many threats to Iníon Dubh.  The children of her husband by his first wife were rivals to her own children and there was always the English to contend with.  In 1587, John Perrot, the English Lord Deputy of Ireland, wanted hostages from the O’Donnells to insure that they would not aid the Spanish in their war against England.  Perrot plotted to kidnap Iníon Dubh and her husband, but only their oldest son, Aodh Rua, fell into English hands.  He was imprisoned in Dublin Castle.  Iníon Dubh threw all her energies into freeing her son and making him the head of Clan O’Donnell.  In 1588, Iníon Dubh attempted to obtain the release of Aodh Rua by rounding up some survivors of the Spanish Armada that made land fall in Donegal and presenting them to the English in Dublin as an exchange for her son.  The English took the prisoners, but had them all executed and kept Aodh Rua in his dungeon cell.  She then told the English she would work with the Spanish if they did not release him, again with no success.

It was decidedly unhealthy to cross Iníon Dubh in matters relating to her children.  She was in a vulnerable position with her husband in failing health and her oldest son a prisoner of the English, yet she managed to hold on to power.  Her husband was thought by some within Clan O’Donnell as unfit to be head of the clan.  The first rival to press the issue was Aodh Mac Calbhach Ó Gallchobhair.  He was a mysterious figure, perhaps an illegitimate son of Calbhach Ó Dónaill, or perhaps fostered with Calbhach’s family. Whatever the case, he let it be known he could take the headship.  Aodh Mac Calbhach had cooperated with the English and had been an accomplice in the infamous murder of Iníon Dubh’s first cousin, Alasdair Mac Somhairle Mac Dónaill.  In 1588, Aodh Mac Calbhach attempted to visit Iníon Dubh at her castle and press the issue.  Iníon Dubh was not impressed.  She addressed her beloved Redshanks about the need for justice and revenge upon Aodh Mac Calbhach.  They attacked Aodh Mac Calbhach while he was in St Johnstown, killing him and his entire party.

Another of Iníon Dubh’s rivals was her husband’s son by an earlier marriage, Dónall Mac Aodh Ó Dónaill.  Dónall proclaimed himself as head of Clan O’Donnell.  He also underestimated Iníon Dubh.  She took command of her army of Redshanks and marched out to meet Dónaill Ó Dónaill in battle.  Dónall assembled a formidable host that included his factions within Clan O’Donnell, along with allied clans.  The Battle of Derrylaghan took place on 14 September 1590 when the two armies met to the south of Gleann Cholm Cille near the village of Teileann.  The Redshanks used their bows to stun Dónall’s army and then closed with their two handed swords.  Dónall’s army was crushed and he, many of the Irish nobles, and 200 of their men, were killed. 

Aodh Rua finally escaped Dublin Castle in 1592.  Iníon Dubh persuaded her husband to abdicate and Aodh Rua became The Ó Dónaill.  Iníon Dubh bought off the last rival claiming the headship of the clan, Niall Garbh Ó Dónaill, and arranged a marriage between him and her daughter Nuala.

The English tried to oust Aodh Rua, but with no success.  Aodh Rua and his Redshanks won several sharp engagements against the English. Then he allied himself with Aodh Mór Ó Neill and that began the Nine Years War (1594-1603).   In the conflict, Aodh Rua and Aodh Mór Ó Neill had many victories and defeated every English army sent to destroy them in Ulster.  For seven years they held the English armies at bay, but both leaders knew this could not last.  English pressure on the north was increasing and the Irish sought Spanish help with the war.  Spain finally managed to land a small force, but in the worst possible place, on the opposite end of the country.   The small Spanish force landed in County Cork and were promptly besieged by the English under Lord Mountjoy.  Aodh Rua and Ó Neill had no choice, if they wanted Spanish help, but to march across Ireland to relieve the Spanish besieged there.  In Ulster, the Irish victories were due to the complete support of the people and the heavily wooded and mountainous terrain which suited the Gaelic style of war.   Many of the Irish victories were fought from ambush in passes and along winding roads in deep forests or from a fixed, prepared position.  These were styles of warfare that favored the Gaels.  It was a great gamble for Aodh Rua and Ó Neill to abandon what had served them so well, but they needed Spanish help to push the English out of Ireland.  Against their better judgment, they marched across the country to Cork to assist their besieged Spanish allies.  The Battle of Kinsale was fought on 3 January 1602 when the Irish army attempted to relieve the Spanish.  The Irish were forced into open field battle and were utterly defeated.  Aodh Rua took a ship to Spain to organize further resistance, but he died a few months later, thought to be poisoned by an English spy.

Aodh Mór Ó Neill returned to Ulster.  In 1607, he also left for Spain, along with Aodh Rua’s brother, Ruairi, who had become The Ó Dónaill after Aodh Rua's death.  Their intention was to raise money and an army to continue the war.  They set sail from Rathmullan, a small village on the shore of Loch Swilly in County Donegal, with ninety followers, many of them the cream of Ulster’s Gaelic nobles, an event known as the Flight of the Earls.  Their destination was Spain, but they landed first in France. Some made their way to Spanish Flanders, while others continued on to Rome.  Their plans came ultimately to nothing and both Ruairi Ó Dónaill and Aodh Mór Ó Neill died in exile.

One of Iníon Dubh’s last recorded acts was a small piece of unfinished business.  Niall Garbh Ó Dónaill had turned traitor in the end, supporting the English against Aodh Rua.  Iníon Dubh implicated Niall Gabh in a failed uprising in 1608 and he spent the rest of his days in the Tower of London where he died.  Iníon Dubh’s daughter, Nuala, left Niall Garbh, taking their children with her.

The year of 1609 brought great change in Ulster.  The old Gaelic order had finally been broken and this allowed for the Plantation of Ulster.  The lands of Clan O’Donnell were confiscated under James I.  This included Iníon Dubh’s lands at Portlough precinct in the Lagan. This part of the Lagan was planted by Scots.  The two main families of Undertakers in the Portlough precinct were the Stewarts of Lennox and Cunninghams of Ayrshire.  Both families had close ties to James I and received large grants of land.  However, there was already a Scottish community in the Lagan. Iníon Dubh’s Campbell Redshanks, including the McCains, were already living in the Portlough precinct.

[1] See Lagan map page 2.
[2] Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh, Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhómhnaill, trans. Paul Walsh (Cork: University College, 2012., 39.
[3] Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh, Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhómhnaill, trans. Paul Walsh (Cork: University College, 2012., 73.
[4] Hamilton, Calendar, 302.
[5] Ibid., 444.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

McCain's Corner: DNA Match Group & Derbhfine Names

McCain's Corner: DNA Match Group & Derbhfine Names: If your Y-DNA match group has developed a strong geographic pattern this will allow you to research the primary sources of that locatio...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scots-Irish DNA Project Update 23 April 2015

For members interested in a case study of a Family Tree DNA family project that located their cousins in Ulster and eventually located their progenitor in Argyll, Scotland, we suggest the new book  'Finding the McCains'  (on Amazon).   The book shows how a Y-DNA match group can be used to focus research on specific geographic area and the use of the primary sources there.  It is a familiar tale to many researchers.  A 40 year search for family history, the brick wall, then the DNA testing with dramatic results.  It can be a complex task, but it can be done and 'Finding the McCains' is an excellent example of how one Ulster family accomplished this.  The McCains include Senator John McCain, the Canadian family of Wallace and Harrison McCain of New Brunswick, and James McKeen, co-leader of the 1718 Ulster fleet that began the Ulster migration.

I have received several emails concerning ‘genetic convergence’  which can produce a false match:  There was a rapid population expansion in the last 4000-5000 years and some of the lineages within R1b1a2 have experienced convergence of STR values.  This is due to the random mutation process. Some of the more distant lineages have moved closer together producing coincidental matching haplotypes.  This phenomenon is called “convergence” (also known as evolutionary convergence) is the term we use in genetic genealogy to describe the process when two different haplotypes mutate over time to become identical or near identical resulting in an coincidental match. Coincidental matches will often be in different subclades and the common ancestor will have lived several thousand years ago rather than within a genealogical timeframe.   A convergence can produce a “false positive" match.

This is one reason we recommend you test at least 67 markers.  There has been only one case of a convergence match at this level.  The 111 marker level is the best test to filter out any possible convergence match.  This is particularly important for participants Ulster and Scottish ancestry, because surnames were often not fixed until very late, circa 1500 to 1700.  In many cases your non-surname matches are just important as your surname matches, but only if they are bona fide matches.  In our geographic area many clans and families used different surnames as these groups followed patronymic naming customs.  An example of this: a Mac Dónaill family circa 1520 has an illustrious son named Alastair and by 1570 his line uses the surname Mac Alastair.  When a descendant tests he will find anglicized forms of both Mac Dónaill and Mac Alastair present in his match group.  In this example the match group could contain numerous anglicized forms, Alexander, Alastair, Daniels, Donaldson, McDaniels, McDonald, McDonnell, etc.
Address for our blog below; news of the project is posted there.    Best of luck with your genetic genealogy project.  (The Scots-Irish Blog)

McCain's Corner:
Ulster Heritage:
Barry R McCain website:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Books

Ulster Heritage Magazine: Books: Finding the McCains Finding the McCains , is an account of a man’s 40 year odyssey to find the McCain family in Ireland.   Senator Jo...

Monday, March 30, 2015

McCain's Corner: Irish and Scottish Clan Surnames

McCain's Corner: Irish and Scottish Clan Surnames: Clan Surnames     Many people with Gaelic origin surnames are interested in researching their clan connections. This is cannot be...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Kilt and the Scots-Irish

(note many Scots-Irish are of Argyll and Lennox ancestry, areas where the kilt was worn.  Of interest, the first detailed record of the kilt in use is from Ireland; an account of Redshanks arrived in 1596)

Is the kilt Irish…. was the kilt ever worn in Ireland? The answer to this question is a very simple yes, of course, but even simple answers need some explanation. The kilt comes in two forms, the filleadh beag and the filleadh mór. The wearing of kilts came into fashion in the Hebrides and Highlands of Scotland sometime during the late 1500s. Prior to the popularsation of the kilt most Isles and Highlanders dressed identical to the native Irish in a léine and short jacket.

Liam Neeson portraying Rob Roy wearing the large kilt, of filleadh mór

Why the kilt came into fashion can only be speculated on, perhaps it was the changing climate, which was growing colder in the late 1500s and the full kilt offered warmth, or perhaps it was improved small looms that could produce more woolen cloth, or perhaps just a fashion trend indigenous to the Gaels of Scotland. For whatever reason, the kilt became popular and fashionable among Gaels in certain parts of Scotland and would be brought to Ireland by Scottish Gaels that settled there in the late 1500s.

The filleadh mór is comprised of a very long piece of material called a plaid, which is belted in the middle. The upper part could be arranged in various ways depending upon the temperature of the day. The part below the belt was folded in the back to make pleats and came down to the knees.

There is a pseudo history about the creation of the smaller kilt, the filleadh beag, which is the form of kilt still very much in use today. At some point prior to 1690s, Gaelic tailors began to cut the filleadh mór in half. It was an organic fashion development within the Scottish Gaelic community. The upper part became a separate plaid and the lower part had the folds sown into it. This way the lower half, the kilt, could be worn separately from the plaid.

Sean Connery wearing the small kilt, or filleadh beag

A false story has long circulated about the creation of the small kilt that maintained two English tailors invented this form in 1727. However, in Gaelic oral history it was known that the small kilt predates this time. The English creation myth persisted in some circles until writer Clifford Smyth produced an illustration of the small kilt in use in 1690 and put an end to the pseudo history of the small kilt.

18th Century illustration on how to wear the kilt

In Ireland the full kilt and small kilt were worn in those areas settled by Highland and Hebridean Gaels. There are eyewitness descriptions of the kilt being worn as early as the 1590s in Ulster. Originally it was worn in the Redshank communities in east Donegal, northwest Tyrone, and north Antrim. Its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, but more and more the small kilt can be seen in Ireland worn at weddings and parties, by hill walkers, and sportsmen. This growing popularity of this very old Gaelic garment is natural and part of the heritage of Ulster.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding the McCains

The remarkable story of the McCain family from Ulster, their ranks include James McKeen, co-leader of the 1718 fleet and first magistrate of the Londonderry, NH, settlement, Wallace and Harrison McCain of McCain Foods, Ltd., Admiral John Sydney (Slew) McCain, and Senator John McCain.

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 Elizabeth 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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Haplogroup R-S1051 Project

(Many Scots-Irish are in R-S1051 haplogroup.  A lot of research going on with this haplogroup; they appear to be indigenous to central Scotland.  Those men that have the R-S1051 haplogroup are encouraged to participate in the research.  One can join by using your 'manage projects' link on your Family Tree DNA page.)

Recently many new SNP's have been discovered for this unique haplogroup which is located below DF13.

The majority of this family group have 5 main Patriarch SNP's (S1051, FGC9655, FGC9661, FGC9658 and FGC9657). The current age estimate for these Patriarch SNP's is approximately 3,200 to 4,500 years old and likely originated within what is known as the Bell Beaker culture. When examining other haplogroups of a similar age the S1051 people are very few by comparison
Evidence suggests that the geographic origin of this family group could have been from what is now modern Scotland.
 S1051 Project SNP results spreadsheet page 1 of 2. 
S1051 Project SNP results spreadsheet page 2 of 2 - FGC17906+

On the above spreadsheet links I've placed "SNP dates" which are an approximation as these mutation rates can vary. So far on average there is 1 Sanger SNP verified per 139 years so it's important to stress that these dates could change slightly as more research needs to be completed. There are instances like the single defining McCeney SNP which likely exceeds 200 years since it's mutation and other examples which were fewer than 139 years. Other factors to consider are the number of SNP's captured from the various sequencing types and the number of raw SNP's which are culled due to reliability issues. The age estimate 139 years per SNP was calculated by using known genealogy, full Y testing, Sanger verification, STR calculations and averaging the number of raw SNP's located below DF13. It's also important to understand that chronology of many of the SNP's (including the 5 main oldest ones) are still unknown.
The following link is to a 64 page paper written by Ronald Henderson that I recently discovered online. Although some concepts found within may stir debate within the historical or scientific community I believe it was well written and worth adding to project page.

Link: R-S1051 Project

Monday, February 16, 2015

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 History website showing the location and names of these early Celtic tribes.

Link:  Native Tribes of Britain

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Tweedy Family: Tweedys in Scotland and Ireland

The Tweedy Family: Tweedys in Scotland and Ireland: We need Tweedys (by any spelling) to participate in DNA testing.  Our goals are to locate the Tweedy family in Scotland and Ireland and reco...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Highland Scots in West Ulster

Amazon is running a sale on the book 'The Laggan Redshanks.'  The sale price is only US $13.46.  The book tells the fascinating story of the Highland Scottish migration to Donegal in the 1500s.  Many of these Highlanders migrated to the Colonies in the 1700s and became 'Scots-Irish.' 

In the sixteenth century Scottish Highlanders settled in the Laggan district of east Donegal. They were called Redshanks. The history of the Laggan Redshanks has many fascinating elements which include Clann Chaimbeul and their dynamic leader the fifth Earl of Argyll, Gaelic sexual intrigues, English Machiavellian manoeuvres, and the Redshanks themselves. This book not only tells the fascinating story of how a Highland Scottish community became established in the Laggan, but also includes the surnames of the Redshanks and notes of their origins in Scotland, which will be of interest to family historians and genealogists.

Link to purchase:  The Laggan Redshanks