Scots-Irish Books

Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey

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


Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish. A history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900, by William Roulston (USD $ 12.95) Format Ebook.

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.

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.  Link to purchase:  Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish


The Laggan Redshanks, by Barry R McCain, 98 pages, Trade Paper Back from Amazon (USD $13.46)
 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 maneuvers, 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. The appendices include the muster roll surnames in their original and modern spellings with notes on the point of origin in Scotland.

Link to purchase on Amazon: The Laggan Redshanks

Book can also be purchased from Ulster Heritage:
Price US17.00 postage paid, send cheque to:
Ulster Heritage
PO Box 884
Oxford MS 38655


Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle, by Robert McCahan (USD $2.95) Format Ebook.

 Robert McCahan was the local historian of north Antrim. A prolific writer, he was born in 1863 in Ballycastle and wrote a series of fascinating history booklets on aspects of north Antrim’s history and geography. Most were published in the first quarter of the 20th Century. We offer his The Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle as an E-book for a nominal fee. The 15 page booklet offers a fascinating insight and local views of the Dunluce Castle, Bushmills and Giant’s Causeway area from the perspective of a man living there at the turn of the century. Certain families, such as the Boyd, McQuillians, McDonnells and others are mentioned.  Link to purchase:  Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle


The Stewarts of Ballintoy, by Rev George Hill (USD $7.95) With notes on other families in the district (a facsimile copy) Format Ebook.

Rev. George Hill was born in 1810 and passed away in 1900. His formal training and pursuit of the history of Antrim made him its primer historian. His classic work, published in 1876, was Historical Account of the McDonnells of Antrim. His in-depth knowledge about the families of the Glens and Route and his ability to write this into a readable history make his works must have classics. We offer his The Stewarts of Ballintoy via E-book. The book, a history of the Stewarts, an old Gaelic Hebridean family brought to north Antrim by the McDonnells in the 16th Century and became one of the leading families in north Antrim. The book has much more, however, it includes accounts of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the battles and engagements in north Antrim. The 62 page book includes many notes on the other families living in or near Ballintoy. 

Link to purchase: The Stewarts of Ballintoy


Strabane & West Ulster In The 1800s; Selections from The Strabane Morning Post
(USD $16.95) Format Ebook.

Strabane & West Ulster in the 1800s, is an in-depth look at the lives and time of people of all classes and creeds in the early decades of the 19th century. The information is extracted from the pages of the weekly newspaper, The Strabane Morning Post, and much previously unavailable material has now been brought into the public domain. Descriptions of floods, fevers and famines provide insights into the problems of everyday life, while advertisements demonstrate the extent of economic activity and the range of products available to those who could afford to pay. The copious coverage of court cases sheds light on the extent of lawlessness and the severity of law enforcement while regional and parliamentary affairs are also highlighted.

This compilation is therefore both an entertaining examination of the foibles of a past age and a comprehensive source base for further analysis of key events and responses. It is a must for anyone interested in the everyday responses of ordinary people in their own environment to a rapidly changing world and a major addition for researchers and genealogists in unraveling an era in which evidential material has been difficult to locate. This limited edition publication should take pride of place among a range of local materials from West Ulster and provide endless hours of pleasurable engagement in the concerns of another age.  

In the Days of the Laggan Presbytery By Rev. Alexander G. Lecky, B.A. Published 1908, 148 pages (USD $9.95)  Format Ebook.

In the Preface, Rev. Leck writes “these everyday transactions gives us a clearer picture of some phases of the social and religious life of by-gone times than would a record of the more important events with which the historian deals.”
The writer gleans a great volume of important information from the Minutes of the Laggan Presbytery including its origin, the division of the Presbytery, its subsequent re-unification which is followed by the re-division into three Presbyteries. He also discusses travel problems in the area and congregational disputes which include those between Strabane and Donagheady as well as Urney and Letterkenny.

The book includes transcriptions of the wills of Rev. Robert Cunningham, Mrs. Frances Cunningham and Rev. Hugh Cunningham; the names of the ministers of the Laggan Presbytery; and the names of those attending Presbytery meetings from 1672-1700 as Ruling Elders and Commissioners. 

Link to purchase:  In the Days of the Laggan Presbytery


The Laggan and its Presbyterianism by Rev. Alexander G. Lecky, B.A., 1905, 119 pages (USD $8.95)  Format Ebook. 

A history of the Presbyterian Church and the residents of the Laggan which is a flat section excellent farmland in Co. Donegal stretching from Londonderry in the north to Stranorlar in the south. Many families in the Laggan had very close ties and often family members in Co. Tyrone across the River Foyle. Some families worshiped by crossing the river every Sunday. Chapters include Early Laggan History; Early Church Life; Laggan Presbytery which included churches in Co. Tyrone; Persecutions & Sufferings; Rebellion of 1641; Siege of Derry; St. Johnson; Raphoe & its Royal School; Seceders; Newtownchunningham, Ballylennon, Second Raphoe; Monreagh, First Ray & Sharon Tragedy; Convoy & Donoughmore; Ballikndrait; Old Times & Manners; Appendix include Hearth Tax Rolls for Taughboyne, Clonleigh, Raphoe, Convoy, Donoughmore, Stranorlar, Leck; Householders in Leck 1794; Tenants on Abercorn Co. Donegal 1794; Householders St. Johnson 1794.  

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