Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In 2009 there has been some amazing, even stunning, information about the McCain clan revealed both with primary source finds and new Y chromosome DNA matches. There is a growing group of Gaelic families in the McCain Clan kinship group. Some of the surnames the McCain Clan share a paternal kinship with are Mac an Leatha, Mac Donnchadh, Mac Ailpín, and Mac Eanruig. All of these surnames are from the mid Argyll area. The DNA results have focused and led the research.
Research in the primary sources have turned up information about the flow of events surrounding the movement of mid Argyll Highlanders into eastern Donegal circa 1570 into the 1590s, which is when the McCains left mid Argyll for Ireland. Several McCain family oral histories, such as the well known 'William the soldier' lore of the McKeens in New England and eastern Canada, and the association of the McCains with the players and events surrounding Mary Queen of Scots, have collaborating circumstantial facts that have been located in the primary sources. Information on the very early connection between the Hamiltons and McCains has also been uncovered. Early next year I will be posting more information on 2009's discoveries.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I took the common sense precaution of posting the above quote from Clare Boothe Luce as it is my observation that Mrs Luce was probably referring to working on family history and genealogy when she made the quote.
I've been having the best time doing our McCain family research the last three months or so. Several things have made this so: there are now online some hard to obtain primary sources that directly relate to the McCain family in Ireland. These are collections of reports, letters, etc., written by a wide range of officials in Ireland to each other and to the Crown. The years of interest to me are circa 1750 to 1610. This is because I am trying to ascertain when the first McCains of our family settled in Ireland.
Right now, if I had to name a year, it would be 1569, possible 1570, or 71. This is when several large groups of families moved from mid Argyll, from the townships in which the McCains were living, to east Donegal. The first listing of the surname McCain by any spelling that I can find is from a list compilied in the year 1609, but in reference to events that happened in 1605 to 1607.
I have also had some interesting email traffic from a historian in Ulster, that knowing I am hunting for data on 'Redshank' Scots in east Donegal, sends me primary source material on this topic. He has sent some gems too.
When I have some spare time I will write this all up and post it as I think a pretty good history can now be constructed of our McCains using these source materials now available.
More news: on the orthogrophy front, the name Ean and then in the genitive Eáin, is the root of our surname. It from the Latin, Iohannes and said to be a variation of the surname Mac Eóin. I made an interesting discovery that in the 1300s, 1400s, 1500s, when we took that surname, that the northern Spanish form of Iohannes was also Ean.
Gaelic is rich with forms of the Latin name Iohannes. You have Seán, Seathán, Eóin, Eáin, and post 1700, Iain. Seán (said both Shawn and Shane depending on dialect) is loan word from French, from Jean, which again goes back to the Latin Iohannes.
I think a valid path of research would be to see if there might be any connection between the northern Spanish name Ean and the Gaelic name Ean. Is it possible that this form was borrowed, like Seán was?
In Spannish and Portugese, you see this name written Eanes and Eannes. the suffix of es means 'son of' like our 'Mac.' So Eannes means Son of John as does Mac Eáin. In modern Spanish you see this surname written Yanes, Yáñes, etc.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
First, there is no wrong or right answer, the answer should reflect your family's sense of self and ethnicity regarding their McCain kin. All three answers are correct.
You should tick the one you feel most comfortable using in describing your your McCains.
All of the our McCains have ancestors that lived in Ireland, indeed, many that have tested still live there. But most of the McCains I've talked with also have an oral history of links to Argyll, in Scotland. This oral history has been supported by multiple DNA matches to mid Argyll in the last couple of years.
When you go to the McCain DNA Project results you will notice several non McCain matches, the MacLea family for instance, is from Argyll, from the island of Bute. The Duncan family is also from Argyll. We think the Henry family is also from Argyll, still working on confirming that one however.
So again, there is no right or wrong answer, just put what you honestly thing about your McCains ethnicity.
And many thank yous to all the McCains taking time out to help us with this poll.
Monday, February 16, 2009
A poll? We're taking an online poll to gage our feelings of who we are?
It wasn't that long ago that those of us who can trace our American roots
back to Marsh Creek (Adams County) PA were told that no way were we
'Scots-Irish' and that such a term only displayed the ignorance of the
uninformed who used it. We were 100% native Irish; no doubt about it.
Below I read that "the DNA has confirmed we are as a group Highland Gaelic
Scots" but we're going to take a poll just to be sure.
Lawyers and scientists both require a chain of evidence or proof to validate
a legal or scientific claim. I am the former, not the latter. Rather than an
online poll (or in addition to it) I would much prefer to see the proof of
this DNA confirmation posted online. No living names need be used - kit
numbers would suffice. For example, Kit 12345 was a 25 match with 23456,
which matched 34567, who is a 90% match to 45678, etc. until we get the
chain established once and for all. Only then can someone publicly claim
that "The DNA has confirmed ..." In other words, please connect the dots by
citing actual DNA results between one or more dead or living persons.
Like many of you, I have focused my McCain genealogical work on discovering
my direct ancestors here in
filling in the blanks of known, named persons until the list is complete as
possible. I also appreciate the work of those whose focus is overseas and
longer ago. We have been repeatedly asked to post our GEDCOM files online to
build up the McCain database. But where is the McCain GEDCOM that connects
the Marsh Creek McCains to Highland Gaelic Scots or any other distant group?
Yes, I know there are living McCain cousins in
But my GEDCOM cannot go back much further that Robert McKean at Marsh Creek
- maybe one more generation to an Alexander. But that's where I and many
others hit the wall. So I am always intrigued when I read about "results"
that connects us further back, but I have never read how or why.
Frankly I don't care which of the four poll option groups I came from. Can't
do much about it now anyway. But I do very much care about the science and
chain of proof in our collective and individual efforts. That's why I have
always greeted new claims with a healthy degree of skepticism until I see
So, before we take a poll, I ask that Barry post the evidence to support the
claim that, "The DNA has confirmed we are as a group Highland Gaelic Scots,
that moved to east Donegal and a few of us later to northwest Antrim." That
would make for fascinating reading. Otherwise, we are left with a McCain
project that is once again long on conclusions but short on facts.
Very good points all and I do forget that some McCains have not kept up or are new to the DNA research.
First of all, the DNA results are available to the public and have been for some years now. The DNA matches to men with links to mid Argyll are in those results.
Next, the reason why we have been careful with terms is several of oral histories were proved wrong the first few months of the DNA test. Hence, I learned not to say we were this or that. Starting out with two strikes made for caution.
We started out believing we were exiles from the McCains of clan Donald, which turned out not to be true. Next we looked at connections to a McCain family in north Antrim, descended from the Ó Catháin family, that too turned out not to be true.
Our method of testing is good, straight Y chromosome DNA testing, and the answers came back in black and white, i.e. we were not Clan Donald McCains nor were we Ó Catháin clan McCains.
We did find out however that we did come from Ireland as we matched Irish McCains, the two McCain families in Scotland that we matched are from east Donegal. So yes, in that sense we are 100% Irish. And for a long time that all we really could say for sure.
However, a couple of years ago, we did have several dramatic DNA matches to men with links to mid Argyll. But, if you are hunting for a Gedcom file to connect you with the gentleman name Mac Eáin that lived in the 15th Century, then I am sorry to tell you this, but you will never have that. If the Gedom file is required, then all you can prove is back to the 100% Irish model.
Now for me, I like science, and trust it, when I see DNA matches to men from mid Argyll consistently, then I know there is a link there as this is a fact, not speculation. Next, I find primary source records confirming a McCain family from that location and related to the surmames we are pulling up DNA matches with. Now this will not produce the neat and tidy Gedcom file required by Bruce R McCain, but on the other hand, it does produce facts about the general origins of the McCain family and our progenitor.
The reason for a poll is of course not to see what we are. That would be silly. The reason for the poll was to gauge the way the various McCain families 'think' about themselves. For this reason, it is subjective. The objective part the DNA demonstrated, it is the image that each family has of themselves that we are polling. I know some 50 plus McCain families in our group, I've noticed that some like to call themselves Irish, others Scots-Irish, and still others Highland Scots. I find this very interesting, the poll was really to discover if there was a dominate sense of ethnicity.
One thing I've discovered in running the McCain DNA Project is that families have very different goals. Some families need a Gedcom to feel like they have accomplished anything, while others could care less about that aspect, and are overjoyed just to locate their paternal kin in Ireland and go visit them. Then there are many McCain families that aspire to goals in between those two goals.
I hope this clears up the nature of the poll, it is just to see how each McCain family thinks of themselves. The facts are already available in the DNA results.
To answer Bruce R McCain's question and presentation of facts...
I have posted the long story of links to Donegal, Antrim, and mid Argyll, many times on various blogs, forums, websites, etc. I spoke and presented papers at both the 16th and 17th Ulster American History Symposiums in Knoxville, TN, and Omagh, Co Tyrone. So the facts have been out there for some time. One can't do much more than that, short of giving a personal briefing.
The DNA project does not take on the responsibility to do eveyone's personal genealogy, alas that part is still up to each individual family, just as it was for me.
More questions are very welcomed.
Barry R McCain
Monday, January 5, 2009
Paul F McKean and his lovely wife, of Maryland. Paul was one of the early participants of our McCain DNA Project and descends from the Marsh Creek settlement McCains. The McKean spelling was common in the 1700s and Paul's family liked it some much that stuck with it.