Thursday, March 20, 2008

The McCain Clan

The McCains are a small Irish clan that were for a long time an enigma. We knew who they are and where they lived, but much of their history was a mystery. There are several reasons for this. In the north of Ireland there are two Gaelic names anglicised as McCain and several non-related families have used this anglicised surname and their respective histories are sometimes confused with one another. There is also the chaos of Ulster history. So, for these reasons, the McCains were largely missed by the historians’ sieve. It was left to the McCain descendants in the Diaspora to extract their own history, which they have done with much success by using primary source research and Y-chromosome DNA testing. The real history of McCain clan is at last being told.

The anglicised forms of the name include McCain, McCane, McKane, McKain, McKean, and McKeen. Confirming the Gaelic form of the name was difficult. While this may seem surprising, as noted previously there are at least two Gaelic names anglicised as McCain in Ulster. These names are Mac Catháin and Mac Eáin and to add to the complexity, these families were often living in the same districts. However, DNA research and a study of primary sources confirmed that the McCains originated from north Antrim east of the Bann River and were linked to the name Mac Eáin.

(right, a burial stone of a prominent McCain circa 1490s)

The McCains are a classic Gaelic patronymic clan. The Patriarch of the clan was named Eáin. Eáin was a popular form of Eóin in use in the Gaelic dialect of Argyll, the southern Isles, and parts of Ulster from the 15th Century onward, Eáin is a loan word to Gaelic from the Latin Ioannes via Aramaic and Hebrew y'hohanan, meaning 'Jehovah has favoured.'

An analysis of the DNA suggests this Patriarch lived circa 1350 to 1450 AD. DNA tests have also revealed that the Ulster McCains are related to several Gaelic families from mid-Argyll associated with historical Gallóglaigh kindreds. The Gallóglaigh were a hereditary professional military caste that played a major role in the history of Ireland circa 1225 AD to 1600 AD.

Irish Gallóglach wearing their unique conical helmet, an icon of their caste

McCains appear in the primary sources from the mid-1400s onward. They are mentioned in north Antrim by the 1500s and by the late 1600s a branch of them settled in east Donegal. They were part of the old Gaelic class yet some converted to the Presbyterian faith and took a leadership role in this community and yet other McCain families remained Catholic or Anglican.

From the late 1600s until the early 1800s the McCains were most numerous on the east side of the Bann valley, from Ballymoney north to Ballyrashane and Corbally, east to Dunluce and Dunseverick. The Donegal branch of the McCain family was located in the Finn Valley and around St Johnstown.

In 1718, groups of these McCains began to immigrate to the New World and they continued to throughout the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. One family from this clan, the Ballymoney McKeans, were the progenitors of the 1718 Ulster Migration to the Colonies. The Ulster McCains families are now located throughout the United States, and are particularly numerous in the South. In Canada they are found in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. One Donegal McCain family migrated to Scotland and the descendants now live outside Glasgow. In Ireland itself few remain and these are found around Coleraine, in Dublin, in east Donegal and northwest Tyrone.

The McCains are an energetic and successful clan and have distinguished themselves in many fields. They have produced frontiersmen, writers, historians, church leaders, musicians, sport champions, attorneys, doctors, entrepreneurs, business magnates, admirals, generals, and statesmen, and their saga continues.

The Clan McCain Website:

The Clan McCain Blog:

Barry McCain © 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congratulations Mac!

John McCain won the Texas Republican primary on Tuesday, 4 March and clinched the number of delegates needed to win his party's presidential nomination. Good to see the old Teoc McCain family doing so well and frankly, I think we shall need Senator McCain’s experience and wisdom in the coming years. Also a nod of thanks to Governor Huckabee for running a good and honourable campaign that kept important issues before our citizens, one hopes we will see him in a prominent position in the McCain Whitehouse. Well Done Mac.

Barry R McCain
Oxford Mississippi

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Our Amazing Glasgow McCains

(left, Dr Joe McKane and sisters Mags and Mary)

The Glasgow wing of our family include Joe McKane and his family and extended family. Now everyone read about Joe’s remarkable father, Francis McKane, and his ordeal of being a prisoner during World War II. The story actually continued on from there. Francis McKane was discharged on medical grounds in 1947, after being told he had only 6 to 12 months to live because he had contracted a bad case of tuberculosis while a POW. To have gone through the hell of being a prisoner, tortured and starved, then to survive only to find out your life was over, you would never have children, would never feel the fire of your own hearth. What a blow. But, not really, because you see Francis lived to be 81, passing away in 1998, he had 8 children, one of which is our Joe McKane who participated in the McCain DNA Project.

Joe with daughters Angela and Janey

Joe lives in the Glasgow area and leads the very busy life of a physician. Joe’s family descend from James McKean that left Donegal circa 1846-47 and settled in the Renfrewshire mining are in the west of Scotland. As our readers know, the McCain clan has two branches, one in north Antrim, but then another large group in east Donegal, in the Finn Valley and around St Johnstown.