Monday, February 16, 2009

The McCain Ethnicity Poll

Bruce R McCain out on the west coast was kind enough to write an email with some interesting points, which I include below.

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 North America (and beyond), painstakingly
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 Ireland and elsewhere today.
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
the proof.

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.

Bruce R. McCain
Portland OR
via Marsh Creek PA


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




3 comments:

M. McKain said...

Greetings. I am Michael McKain, Keith's son. Just a thought on the identity issue; our ancestor William settled in 1813 in Irishtown, now part of Marietta in Lancaster County. Many of the other family names from that time period and later are classic "Irish" names. Wouldn't this be a clue that by that generation, the self-identity of the immigrant McKains was predominantly Irish? My understanding of this neighborhood is that it was more or less and Irish ghetto. Just a thought.

GeoSci64 said...

Unless I am mistaken - all Barra wanted was to have us CHOOSE a general LABEL for the group - our preference and nothing more. Nothing scientific - nothing that changes any of the research we have done - nothing that challenges the DNA results - just a general thing - a way to answer - in a word or two - "What is your heritage?"

I am a McKain and can trace that surname back to Antrim. But I am much more German (my Antrim ancestor married a German girl - and the other side of my family are all "Pennsylvania Dutch" - German). So what should I be called?? Pennsylvania Dutch - German - Prussian - Irish (that is what they called us when I was growing up in Irishtown) - Scots-Irish (or Scotch-Irish) - Highland Scots living in Ireland - Gallóglaigh Irish????

We are talking about a general label - nothing more. In reality - it does not matter.

Keith
The Irish - Northern Irish - German - Austrian - French - English - Pennsylvania Dutch - Scotch-Irish ------ Oh - the )(()^%$ with it.........

Keith

GeoSci64 said...

Unless I am mistaken - all Barra wanted was to have us CHOOSE a general LABEL for the group - our preference and nothing more. Nothing scientific - nothing that changes any of the research we have done - nothing that challenges the DNA results - just a general thing - a way to answer - in a word or two - "What is your heritage?"

I am a McKain and can trace that surname back to Antrim. But I am much more German (my Antrim ancestor married a German girl - and the other side of my family are all "Pennsylvania Dutch" - German). So what should I be called?? Pennsylvania Dutch - German - Prussian - Irish (that is what they called us when I was growing up in Irishtown) - Scots-Irish (or Scotch-Irish) - Highland Scots living in Ireland - Gallóglaigh Irish????

We are talking about a general label - nothing more. In reality - it does not matter.

Keith
The Irish - Northern Irish - German - Austrian - French - English - Pennsylvania Dutch - Scotch-Irish ------ Oh - the )(()^%$ with it.........

Keith