Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Finding the McCains, A Scots Irish Odyssey... In Time For Christmas

An Irish Christmas Present, Finding the McCains

Mongavlin Castle, Donegal, Ireland
A wonderful read that covers 40 years of travel in Ireland; it includes stories and insights into the relationship between Diaspora and Homeland and reconnecting with one’s cultural roots; it tells the history of Highland Gaels and their migration to Ireland in the 1500s; it is mystery story solved using Y chromosome DNA testing and an excellent guide for families on how DNA testing to locate their family in Ireland and Scotland and uncover their real history.   Available on Amazon in time for Christmas:  Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey
McKane's Corner, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal
Ivar Canning & Donovan McCain at the Auglish Standing Stones, Co. Derry

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cornbread, a Scotch Irish Icon

In the 18th Century when many thousands of Ulster's sons and daughters came to New World to settle on the frontier, they brought with them their folkways, music, etc., and also their foods and methods of food preparation. Many of the cooking styles and foods became in time quintessentially 'American.' Foremost among these would be the humble and incredibly delicious cornbread.

The Ulster settlers brought with them a tradition of cooking flat oat breads on a griddle, something that had been done for several thousands years in Ulster. Now, in the New World these Ulster settlers quickly adapted to the new foods available to them. In the Ulster settlements oats and wheat quickly gave way to corn and the traditional griddle cooked oatcake gave way to one made of corn. This trait of adaptation and borrowing from other cultures they were exposed to was one of the reasons for success the Ulstermen had on the frontier.

Griddle cooked cornbread quickly became the bread of the Scotch-Irish communities and the bread followed them west as they conquered the nation. This wonderfully simple food is still commonly found in those areas where the Scotch-Irish settled and it is to this day a staple on the supper table of the descendants of these Ulster folk, especially in the American South.

The bread is simplicity itself, a little cornmeal, an egg, some leavening, a pinch of salt, and enough buttermilk to make a batter. This is poured onto a cast iron hot skillet with bacon grease or oil in it. In the past the bread was cooked in a skillet next to the fireplace or anyplace where coals were available. When Dutch ovens came into use, the cooking of cornbread was often done in them. Later still, when ovens became a common kitchen appliance, the cornbread recipes were adapted for the modern oven, where it came into its present day form.

The cooking of cornbread in the South is an art as well as a science. Many families have special cast iron skillets, often that have been in the family for generations, in which the cornbread, also called a corn pone, is cooked. Many women have wooden bowls and spoons handed down in from past generations, in which the batter is made. It is served with butter with a meal and can also be served after a meal with honey or sorghum syrup, as sweet.

Cornbread is a wonderful food, simple, tasty, and also part of a many thousand year cultural continuum, from Ulster.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Three Centuries of Life in a Tyrone Parish, A history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900

Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish
A history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900

Many of the Scots-Irish that migrated to the Colonies in the 1700s came from the Tyrone parish of Donagheady.  This book by Dr. William Rouston is a well done and recommended history of Donagheady.
This book tells the story of the parish of Donagheady and its families over three centuries. Donagheady occupies the most northerly portion of County Tyrone. It is a large parish, stretching from the River Foyle to the Sperrins. In the period covered by this study Donagheady experienced massive changes with the result that the parish in 1900 was a very different place from the one it had been in 1600. Through the Plantation and subsequent waves of migration in the seventeenth century, especially from Scotland, the character of much of the parish was transformed.

The creation and disintegration of the estate system in Donagheady is also charted in this volume and the fate and fortunes of the landowning families and their tenants is explored. The histories of the main religious denominations are covered, as well as the nature of rural society itself. Other chapters in this book examine the impact of the Great Famine on the parish, the development of the village of Dunnamanagh, attempts to improve educational provision, the rise and decline of rural industries, and the relationship between Donagheady and the wider world.

Dr. William Roulston is from the townland of Gortavea in the parish of Donagheady, and was raised on a farm that has been in his family’s possession since 1830. He is the Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. His other books include The parishes of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong: their place in history (2000), Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors (2005), and Restoration Strabane, 1660-1714 (2007).

This e-book is every-word-searchable and includes Griffiths Valuation for the Parish. 390 pages.  Price for Ebook download is US 12.95

Link:  Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish, a history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900.

McCain's Corner: Y-DNA test When No Paternal Relative Is Available ...

McCain's Corner: Y-DNA test When No Paternal Relative Is Available ...: This post will again address genetic genealogy for Irish, Scots, and Scots-Irish, when no male relative is available to DNA test.  Why is a...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Scots Irish Surnames

Below is a list of families participating in the Scots-Irish DNA Project as of November 2015.  There are now over 900 participating families. 
The surnames are very typically 'Scots-Irish.'   The Lowland Scottish names draw very heavily from the western seaboard counties of the Lowlands, with many families from Ayrshire, Wigtown, Kirkcudbright, and Renfrew (using the older county names).   Most of the Lowland Scottish families migrated to Ireland post 1609.  
Many of the surnames, about 35% are of  Highland Scots ancestry.  The majority of these are from mid Argyll, Lennox, and the southern Hebrides.  Many of the Highland families migrated to Ireland in the mid to late 1500s. Mid Argyll and Lennox were areas influenced by the Reformed faith and this fact influenced their relationship with the Lowland Scots migrating to Ireland in the 1600s.
There are several native Irish families that became Scots-Irish, most of these were from the Bann valley and had converted to the Reformed faith or to the Establish Church by the late 1600s.   
The deep ancestry of these Scots-Irish families reveal that a large majority of them descend from the indigenous Celtic tribes of Scotland, over 84%, while the Norse and Norman origins coming in at about 10%. 
The Scots-Irish DNA Project is open to families of Scots-Irish ancestry.  The project has several goals, including reconnecting Scots-Irish in the Diaspora with their families that remained behind in Ireland.  Another goal is to locate a family's point of origin in Scotland and recover lost or forgotten family history.  
Multiple listings of a surname indicate the number of families with that surname participating.  You will see a lot of Highlanders with Campbell and MacDonald the two most numerous.  Several of the participating families are descended from famous Scots-Irish men, such as David Crockett (who turned about to be from Ayrshire ancestry, not Huguenot as often report in older history books).

Families interested in participating can do so by contacting the Scots-Irish DNA Project.

Click on a page to enlarge:

Monday, October 26, 2015

William McIntosh Jr 1778-1825

McIntosh and Menawa

Real history is always more complex and multilayered than the history told by the modern media and even in most basic academic history books.  The relationship between the Scots-Irish and certain Indian tribes was complex.  The often were are war with one another, yet they also intermarried, made alliances, and lived together and shared the same values;  Clan, tradition, blood, a warrior culture, honour, were of paramount importance to both peoples.

William McIntosh Jr. 1778-1825


William McIntosh Jr. 1778-1825, also known as Tustunnuggee Hutkee (White Warrior), was born around 1778 in the Lower Creek town of Coweta to Captain William McIntosh, a Scotsman of Savannah, and Senoya, a Creek woman of the Wind Clan. He was raised among the Creeks, but he spent enough time in Savannah to become fluent in English and to move comfortably within both Indian and white societies.

He was a leader of the Lower Towns, the Creek who were adapting European-American ways and tools to incorporate into their culture. He became a planter who owned slaves and also had a ferry business. McIntosh was among those who supported the plans of U.S. Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins to "civilize" the Creeks. While McIntosh's support of white civilization efforts earned him the respect of U.S. officials, more traditional Creeks regarded him with distrust and contempt.

He was instrumental in the United States victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In the wake of that war, the Creeks suffered famine and deprivation for many years.  In 1825 cousins William McIntosh, a Creek leader, and George Troup, the governor of Georgia, signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which authorized the sale of Creek lands in the state to the federal government. McIntosh allied himself with Indian agent David B. Mitchell, Hawkins's successor, to coordinate the distribution of food and supplies from the U.S. government to the Creeks. This alliance assured McIntosh's control over resources and he became a very wealthy man.

In 1821 the new Indian agent severed McIntosh's access to resources, weakening McIntosh's influence among the Creeks, who were then compelled to sell some of their land to pay debts and acquire food and supplies. However, for his role in the Treaty of Indian Springs, McIntosh received 1,000 acres of land at Indian Springs and another 640 acres on the Ocmulgee River. He himself owned two plantations with slaves, Lockchau Talofau (Acorn Bluff) in present-day Carroll County, and Indian Springs, in present-day Butts County.

McIntosh's participation in the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs cost him his life. According to a Creek law that McIntosh himself had supported, a sentence of execution awaited any Creek leader who ceded land to the United States without the full assent of the entire Creek Nation. Just before dawn on April 30, 1825, Upper Creek Chief Menawa, accompanied by a large force over 100 Creek “Law Menders” (warriors), attacked McIntosh at Lockchau Talofau (McIntosh’s home and plantation overlooking the Chattahoochee River near Whitesburg, worked by 72 slaves and also served as a tavern and inn, owing to its location on the Federal Road and a strategic crossing of the river) to carry out the sentence.

They set fire to an outbuilding in order to light up the yard so as to prevent anyone from escaping. They called to the white guests and women to come out, saying they would come to no harm. McIntosh's son Chilly and another mixed-blood escaped from an outbuilding they were sleeping in because there wasn't room for everybody in the main house.

Shot in the front doorway of his home, McIntosh managed to climb the stairs to the second floor, from which he began shooting at his assailants. Forced to leave when they set fire to the house, he was shot and dragged some distance from the house. Raising himself on an elbow, he gave them a defiant look as he was stabbed in the heart. An eyewitness estimated that his corpse was shot about 50 times. After destroying what they could not carry away; slaves, horses, and cattle, produce, the assassins left.

Later that day they caught Samuel and Benjamin Hawkins, his sons-in-law and also signatories to the treaty. They hanged Samuel and shot Benjamin, but he escaped.


Menawa (1765-1836), was second in command of the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, when they were defeated by General Andrew Jackson commanding militias of Tennessee, Georgia and the Mississippi Territory, as well as allied Cherokee. More than 800 Red Stick warriors died. Menawa was wounded seven times during the battle, but he escaped and survived his wounds. By his own account he lay among the dead until nightfall and then crawled to the river, climbed into a canoe, and disappeared into the darkness.

Some major Creek chiefs passed a resolution to kill McIntosh, and Menawa headed the assassination party. McIntosh was surrounded at his tavern on the old Federal Road in Georgia and shot to death.
By 1836 the Creek Indians had been repressed and were defeated a second time trying to save their ancestral lands. The U.S. was planning a general removal of the Nation. Menawa proposed that the Creek Nation give up their collective rights, though each individual who wanted to remain be given a plot of land. This proposal was defeated and the removal was commanded. Menawa had been given an exclusion from relocating by the U.S. but a local judge ordered him to join the exiles to the west.
Menawa reportedly stayed up all the night watching sunset and sunrise over his home Oakfuskee (located on the Tallapoosa River in present-day Alabama). As he joined his people traveling to an unknown place he said, "Last evening I saw the sun set for the last time and its light shine on the treetops and the land and the water, that I am never to look upon again."

Heartbroken, Menawa died on his way to the new Creek territory in the west. His burial place is now unknown. Menawa was not only brave and skillful, but was a gentleman in appearance and manners. Although he was a savage in the field, or in the revel, he could at any moment assume the dignity and courtesy proper to his high station. In after years, he regretted his role with the Creek Law Menders in 1825, saying that he would freely lay down his life, if by; so doing, he could bring back to life Billy McIntosh.

(credit:  John Stewart Longhunter Facebook page)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Henry McWhorter

Henry McWhorter 1760-1848 was born in New Jersey son of Gilbert McWhorter (1742 -1767) who was a linen-weaver by trade, hailed from Northern Ireland and settled in New York. His father died leaving his mother in extreme poverty with six small sons; James, Henry, John, Thomas, Robert and Gilbert, all born between 1760-1765 and later known as the “The Orange County McWhorter Boys.” Since times were hard, the children were bound out. Henry was apprenticed to a millwright. He enlisted as a Minuteman at age 15 to fight in the Revolutionary War. After his term of service expired, he volunteered six more times in a 22 month time span. His brothers Thomas and James served in the same regiment with him under Sergeant Hugh McWhorter (1735-1812), their uncle and brother of their father.

Afterwards, he lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he married Mary Fields in 1783. In 1786, the couple moved to Hampshire County, (West) Virginia. Three years later, Henry sought a home in the wilds of McKinneys Run a branch of Hackers Creek in Harrison County, (West) Virginia.

In 1793, the McWhorters moved again, this time building a log house near West’s Fort on the south bank of the murky Hackers Creek, where they reared three sons. A mill was erected on the creek near his cabin home, and the place became known as McWhorter's mill, which is now known as Jane Lew, West Virginia. To this mill came the settlers from a radius of many miles to get their corn ground. And it is a traditional fact that at one time the settlements were suffering from a scarcity of breadstuff, and parties came from distant settlements and offered him over $1.00 per bushel for all the corn stored in his mill, which offer he refused, giving as his reason that if he did so his neighbors and friends would suffer.

Henry's brother, John, died in 1797 at the age of 35, one month before his daughter Hannah was born. His widow was left with seven young children. Henry went by horseback to New Jersey to visit his people and having no daughter of his own, offered to take Hannah, the little daughter of his dead brother home with him. He did and raised her as his own.

Eventually, a saw mill was added on the property as the population in the West’s Fort area grew. Henry was a Methodist and was a class leader for 50 yrs. Very often the services were held in his home, as there was no church there at the time.

Henry made frequent trips to Fort Pitt in flat boats, via the West Fork and Monongahela Rivers, exchanging furs, jerked venison, etc., for ammunition and other home necessities. On one of these trips he was accompanied by Jesse Hughes, the most noted Indian scout and fighter in Western Virginia.

Three generations of the McWhorter family were born in their cabin during the forty years they lived on Hacker’s Creek. The family was forced to leave the homestead in 1827 and return to McKinney’s Run after a series of security debts put the family in a bad financial situation. It was there that Henry died in 1848. Henry was buried on his farm beside his wife, in the quiet country cemetery where sleep six McWhorter generations.

His eldest son, John (1784-1880), became a barrister and never married. The second son Thomas (1785-1815), inherited part of the home farm on McKinney's Run and was a prosperous farmer, and the third and youngest son, Walter (1787-1860), inherited with his brother Thomas, the homestead on McKinney's Run in Harrison County. He was a Major in the militia, a noted athlete and never met his equal in wrestling, jumping or foot racing. He fathered 17 children.

The McWhorter log homestead and the mill were sold to Edward Jackson, a cousin of Stonewall Jackson. The cabin remained in the Jackson family for many years. In time it became the property a Jackson descendent who decided to turn the cabin back into the hands of the descendants of the original owner and builder of the condition that the cabin be removed and preserved. With leadership provided by Minnie McWhorter, a great-great-granddaughter of the pioneers, the cabin was moved to Jackson’s Mill and dedicated there on August 14, 1927. The cabin was rededicated by the McWhorter Family Association to the state of West Virginia on July 24, 1993.

Source; John Stewart, Longhunter 1744-1770


Sunday, October 18, 2015

McCain's Corner: Iníon Dubh

McCain's Corner: Iníon Dubh: 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 ...

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. http://www.ucc.ie/celt, 39.
[3] Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh, Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhómhnaill, trans. Paul Walsh (Cork: University College, 2012. http://www.ucc.ie/celt, 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.


http://thescotsirish.blogspot.com/  (The Scots-Irish Blog)

McCain's Corner:    http://barryrmccain.blogspot.com/
Ulster Heritage:  http://uhblog.ulsterheritage.com/p/books.html
Barry R McCain website:   http://www.barryrmccain.com/

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