Monday, November 28, 2011

Irish Trip of Bruce B McCain

 Bruce B McCain's note to me about his recent trip to Ireland and his visit to many of our Irish cousins. 

 My wife and I had a fun trip to Ireland!  We did research in Dublin,
Belfast, and Omagh, but the highlight of the trip was the time we spent near
the Stranorlar/Lifford area of Donegal.  We spent a very pleasant time with
Ivan Knox and his wife, Letitia.  Thank you for giving Ivan a "heads-up"
about our arrival.  He had done some on-line searching of the Presbyterian
Church in St. Johnston and came up with a marriage announcement for a
William McKain and Anne Roulston for 1862.  Based on that finding and your
findings regarding Taughboyne Parish, Donegal, he felt that my "people" were
from the  Traughboyne area.  He gave me the address of his website, and I
will see what more information I can glean.  That night, I also did some
searching on the Donegal Genealogy Resources website and found 5 McKean pew
holders at the St. Johnston Church in 1867.

Bruce B McCain with Mervyn and Jean McKean of Porthall
The next day we went to the Hall Green B&B and spent some time with the
owners, (William) Mervyn McKean and his wife Jean.  I had also invited his
cousin Ian McKean to come over and chat.  We had a wonderful conversation,
and they gave me copy of an old family photo.  Their recollections of the
McKean ancestry don't go much farther than the late 1800s.  That evening,
Mervyn invited Alice and me to their church (the Ballylennon Presbyterian
Church) for the Celebration of Praise Harvest Service (they said it was the
biggest service of the year).  There we met another cousin, Joe McKean and
Pastor Wilson who is also the pastor of St. Johnston Presbyterian Church.
We also met John Hamilton who told us he had a book on the Hamilton
genealogy written by another John Hamilton; he said he would drop a copy off
at Pastor Wilson's house the next day.  The next day, Mervyn drove us over
to St. Johnston Church and we met with Pastor Wilson.  I had hoped to look
at some of his church records, but we was not too crazy about the idea. We
had a fun talk, he copied the pages out of the Hamilton book dealing with
the McKeans, and I took some pictures of a McKean gravestone in the church's

Bruce B McCain, his wife Alice, and Ivan and Letitia Knox
I'm not sure how much progress we made on the McCain/McKean genealogy, but
we sure met some wonderful McKeans.  Have any of the Donegal McKeans had
their DNA analyzed?  Ian said he would be willing to have his analyzed (I
would pay for it), and I got the feeling that Mervyn was also interested.

Thanks again for all your help in preparing me for our trip and for your
contacts with Ivan.

Bruce B.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sandy McKeen of Hawaii

Harold R McKeen III, or Sandy as he is known to his friends.   Sandy is the lucky McCain, he lives in Hawaii.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Joe McKane, Glasgow, Scotland

Dr Joe McKane of Glasgow, Scotland, is pictured here with his beautiful wife Julie on his arm.  Joe is a distinguished and well known physician in Scotland.  His line of McCains migrated from the St Johnston, Donegal, area to Scotland in the 1800s.  We all originally go back to the McCain, or Mac Eáin, family of Kilmichael Glassary Parish, mid Argyll.

Jack and Dot McKeen

Jack McKeen and his lovely wife Dot are in the photo above.   Jack is of the New England and Nova Scotia branch of the family.   The McCains in that part of the world had an oral history of a historical McCain named 'William McKean the soldier' who was an early McCain in Ireland.  It took a lot of research and a lot of help from the DNA results, but eventually that early 'McKean' was located in records in Ulster in the early 1600 living exactly where the McCains originally settled.   

Monday, November 21, 2011

Garth Duncan

One of our distant cousins that was located via the McCain Family DNA Project is Garth Duncan of the Isle of Skye, Hebrides, Scotland.  His people are from Argyll.  His surname in Gaelic is Mac Donnchaidh, which was one of the surnames used by the descendants of Donnchadh Mór Mac Eáin (Duncan McCain) in the 1500s.   Gaelic surnames in mid Argyll were not fixed and changed several times from patronymic customs.  The DNA test confirms we are the same family, though does not provide a neat and tidy generation to generation pedigree.  What we do know however, is this family used both Duncan and McCain as surnames and we are a DNA match to each other.  Garth is seen above in his normal day wear.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

McCains And Tartan

Barry R McCain

I am often asked about tartans and is there a McCain tartan, etc.   No, there is not 'McCain' tartan.  The use of family tartans was a recent development in Gaelic society and took place long after our family left Argyll.  Family tartans as they are used today came about in the 1800s.  Prior to this time there were no clan or family tartan in general.  There were colours and patterns favoured in a district and so there was some sense of people in an area using the same tartan.

For those McCain who would like to use tartan, I suggest any one that you like.  To reflect our history I like several of them, the Ulster tartan, which dates to the late 1500s, early 1600s, then any of the Black Watch, Argyll, tartans.  Historically we were connected to the Mac Lachlainn clan, so any of the Argyll Mac Lachlainn tartans have historical value.  We were also allies to the Campbell family of Argyll, so their basic Campbell of Argyll tartan historically important also.  

The Ulster tartan I mention is very nice, it was found on the body of a Gael in a bog in County Derry, Northern Ireland, in the 1950s.  There are two versions, one is a faded version then the other is the colours restored to their original forms.

I am wearing a 'MacDonald' tartan in the photo above.  Like many McCains, I assumed we were 'Clan Donald' before we did the research to locate our actual history.  But, I love this particular tartan, and so I wear it.  

Any McCains having photos of themselves sporting a kilt or tartan dress, please email me the photos and I will post them.  


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Genealogy Tour of Ulster

(Several McCains are participating in this tour)

October Genealogy Tour – Northern Ireland & Dublin October 7-16, 2011

This October Time Travel will be conducting an informal exploratory genealogy tour in Northern Ireland and Dublin.  We will have hands on research time, although not required and tour the North of Ireland as well as Dublin. This tour will be a “get to know” tour for researching your roots in the North of Ireland with some very special highlights to educate you on the Irish and the Irish that emigrated to America, Canada and Australia as well as the local lore of the North. We are very excited and privileged to have some very special guests to join us on our journey. We hope you can join us!

Highlights of the Tour:

  • City Weekend Dublin!
             Book of Kells – Glasnevin Cemetery – Guinness- Traditional Irish Night
  • St. Patrick’s Trail – County Down
  • Belfast City & the New PRONI (Public Records Office Northern Ireland)
  • Walk the Walls of Derry with Historian Ronan Macnamara
  • Explore a special project on the US Marine’s WWII Beech Hill Connection where we will call home for a night.
  • Explore County Fermanagh – Visit & Lunch with The Duke of Abercorn
  • Center for Migration Studies – Lectures with Dr. Brian Lambkin & Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald.  Evening Dinner with special surprise guests.
  • Explore Donegal along the Lough Eske. Special guests: Storyteller Keith Corcoran and Local Historian and Genealogist Jonathan Kelly
  • Names being researched: McCain, Smith, McGrady, Gunn, Ferris Add your names to the list! We’d love to have you along!

Again, we hope you can join us.  We have a limited number of seats left for this tour. Please inquire directly to our Director, Ginger Aarons Garrison at or phone 503-454-0897 for more information and pricing.

All tours by Time Travel are all inclusive of Transportation, Lodging, Lectures, Admissions, Gratuities and Food.  Airfare & Alcohol excluded.*

Monday, August 8, 2011

The New Brunswick McCains

(article from the Donegal Democrat Newspaper 2000)
SAINT JOHN (Canada) - Potatoes and the Irish love for farming have established a quiet, riverside New Brunswick town as the centre for one of the greatest food empires in the world. Harrison McCain, board chairman of the international McCain Foods Ltd., says this aspect of the Irish character lies behind the success of this famous New Brunswick family.
Harrison McCain
'Definitely permeating the Irish - and also permeating the McCain family - is a love of the land,' Mr. McCain said from his office in Florenceville. It is an inherited love for 'owning the land, and being in an agricultural environment and trading farm produce and farming and that kind of thing,' he said. 'That's what our ancestors came from, and they definitely had a liking for it.'
McCain Foods and its subsidiaries have more than 50 food-production facilities operating in 10 countries, on four continents. And the McCain Group also includes companies engaged in transportation, seed, animal feed, farming, heavy equipment manufacturing and other areas. It achieved $4.1-billion in sales in the 1996 fiscal year, and employed more than 12,500 people. Worldwide, McCain Foods has the capacity to turn out 346,500 kilograms of potato products every hour, company officials say, making this the world's largest French-fry manufacturer, with over 30% of the world market.
With his company operating several French-fry plants on the British Isles, Mr McCain can't get over the fact that in the early 19th century, when the potato was the staple diet of Irish farm labourers, each man gobbled up to 6.3 kg of spuds per day. 'My God, that's a lot of potatoes,' he said with a laugh, ' I wish they'd get them doing it again!'

The Diamond, Castlefin 2002 - Click to view
The McCain history in New Brunswick began when Mr. McCain's great-grandfather (William Andrew McCain) along with his brother James and sister Jane, arrived here in the 1820s. The two brothers had come from just north of Castlefin and their sister from Ballindrait, Lifford.
There is no record of the three McCains ever owning any property in Ireland. It is the great-grandson's belief that they worked as tenant farmers on someone else's estate. 'They wanted to get hold of some cheap land and own the land for themselves.' Within a few years of working as labourers, all the McCains in New Brunswick had obtained 100-acre land grants in Greenfield, near present-day Florenceville.
'The next progression, I would say, was that they were trading farm produce - you know, hay, grain, sheep, cattle, horses, whatever they could trade.'
The small village of Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada is the international headquarters of McCain Foods Limited and McCain Foods (Canada)
For nearly a century, hay was the biggest cash crop on farms along the upper St. John River, some of which operated on barely more than a subsistence level. The picture changed in the 1920s, with the introduction here of an Irish tradition - potato farming. Instead of the tiny, spade-cultivated family potato plots which were the hallmark of pre-Famine Ireland, the New Brunswickers applied their farm machinery to grow potatoes on a mass-production scale. 'It certainly was a turning point for the area,' Mr. McCain said. 'Up until that time, farming that was done was chiefly, I would call it, living off the land.

'The original farming vocation was: you had a small farm, and you worked the farm and you kept a cow or two and some chickens and maybe a few sheep. You had pasture land to feed them in the summertime and cut some hay for the wintertime, and you killed some of your animals to eat. And you picked up what spare work you could in the wintertime cutting pulp or whatever for a little cash. But it was living off the land...There were certainly some cash trades, but I'd say the advent of the potato business, after it got to a considerable volume, was the most important cash crop that most farmers had ever had.'

And it was the potato, he said, that eventually launched the McCain family into its national and international trade. 

McCain Foods co-founders, Harrison (left) and Wallace (pointing) during the grand opening of their first McCain plant in Florenceville in 1957
McCain Foods Ltd. became incorporated in 1956 and began making frozen French fries in Florenceville the following year. The company entered the British market in 1965 and Australia in 1968. It made its first entry into the United States in 1969, the same year in which it opened its first English French fry plant.
The company has also gone into frozen vegetables, desserts, frozen pizzas, juices, meats, cheese products. It has food processing and distribution plants in the United States, Argentina, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Japan and Spain, with an emphasis in many of these plants in French fries and potato specialties.

Article extract from : The luck, and pluck, of the McCains By Mac Trueman
McCain Photographs: © McCain Foods Ltd.
Castlefin Photographs: © Finn Valley Web Design
The McCain brothers' great-great grandfather was born in Meenahoney just outside Castlefin and emigrated to Canada in 1823. For some years, Mr Wallace McCain has been trying to trace his family tree and during his brief visit to Donegal he was shown the original farmhouse where his ancestors were born.

It is the third time that Mr. McCain and his wife Margaret have visited Donegal, but on this occasion they brought with them their two sons, Scott and Michael, their daughters Martha and Eleanor, seven grandchildren and three in-laws.

'My wife decided we would make this trip as part of my 70th Birthday celebrations but no doubt I'll get the bill,' Mr McCain quipped. He acknowledged that Castlefin had changed much for the better since he first visited Donegal in 1990. 'When we were here last fall we noticed a remarkable change to Castlefin from our first visit. The place is looking really well,' Mr McCain said.

Mrs Margaret McCain, who has enjoyed a successful political career in Canada, serving a term as Lt. Governor of Ontario, said that the local townspeople deserved the utmost credit for the improvement works carried out in recent years. 'Castlefin looks just like New Brunswick where Wallace's ancestors first settled when they arrived in Canada. They started working in the potato business, first as farmers and later as exporters,' she explained.

McCain Foods, founded by Wallace and his brother in 1957, has grown to become a multi-national business which employs almost 14,000 people across the world. On their arrival in the Diamond, the McCain family were taken on a walkabout tour of the village during which they were shown the remnants of the local narrow gauge railway which ran through Castlefin, and a famine pot.

Music was provided by members of the McElhinney family and Sean O'Neill while a dancing display was provided by members of Terry Lafferty's School of Dancing as Mr McCain and his family enjoyed lunch.

Books and flags were exchanged between Mr McCain's grandchildren and local schoolchildren before the McCain family boarded their coach once more, this time bound for Dublin and London before flying back to Toronto. 'We sailed over from Canada on the QE2 and the journey was just perfect. The weather was wonderful, just like it is here today. Do you get weather like this over here all the time?' Mr Scott McCain asked.

Article and photograph © The Donegal Democrat 2000

McCain DNA Update, the 111 Marker Upgrade

The McCain DNA Project is asking all members of the 01 McCain family upgrade their DNA kit to the 111 marker level test.  This upgrade will allow a better understanding of the time to the shared common ancestor of the various branches of the McCain family.  To date, we know that one or more McCain men left mid Argyll to settle in Taughboyne parish in east Donegal.  The exact date of this migration is not known, but we do know that a large group of men did migrate from the area where the McCains were living in Argyll to Taughboyne parish in early Autumn of 1569.  There were other groups that followed them in the 1570s until the mid 1590s.  The McCain family is appear in paper records in Taughboyne parish in 1630. There was no influx of mid Argyll men from mid 1590s until post 1630, so it appears the McCain family were already living in Taughboyne parish by 1600.

The 111 upgrade will allow us to see if all the McCain branches that have been located descend from the McCain men that have been located in Taughboyne parish in 1630.   

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Mid Argyll Kinship Group

above, DNA results link the McCains to Kilmichael Glassary in mid Argyll

As most of our clan now, especially those who are participants in our DNA project, the McCains are part of the paternally related Mid Argyll Kinship group.  The families in the group are Duncan (Mac Donnchaidh), Henry (Mac Eanruig), McAlpin (Mac Ailpín), McCain (Mac Eáin), McDonald (Mac Dónaill), and MacLea (Mac an Leagha).  There has been considerable progress made in located primary sources records on this family circa anno domini 1430 to 1600.  The surnames in the group are not 'clan' surname, but rather are surnames taken from the normal patronymic customs in Argyll during this time. During the important 16th Century surnames were not fixed and clan surname were not in common use.

I have set up a blog to post news about the kinship group.  Link is here:

Please patronise the advertisements and sponsors on the page as they allow these blogs to flourish. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wallace McCain Dies

The article below is from the Canadian Star newspaper.  One of the more interesting aspects of the McCain Family DNA Project was the discovery that the New Brunswick McCains, were the same family as the Mississippi McCains, the New England McKeens, and part of the same Mac Eáin family that originated in Kilmichael Glassary, Argyll so many years ago.  The McCains have several well known personalities, such as Senator McCain, but it can be said that Wallace McCain accomplished a great deal in his life and is certainly our brightest star.  May he rest in peace in God's house.

Wallace McCain (centre-left) is seen in 1957, the year he opened the first McCain Foods potato processing plant in Florenceville, N.B. with a staff of 30.
Wallace McCain (centre-left) is seen in 1957, the year he opened
the first McCain Foods potato processing plant
in Florenceville, N.B. with a staff of 30

Wallace McCain, co-founder of McCain Foods, dies at 81
Published On Sat May 14 2011

Dana Flavelle Business Reporter   The Star

 Wallace McCain, co-founder of McCain Foods and chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, has died after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81. The son of a New Brunswick potato seed exporter, McCain became a scion of Canadian business and a major philanthropist. Together with his brother Harrison he co-founded McCain Foods Ltd., now a $6-billion-a-year frozen French fry empire that exports to more than 60 countries.

Later ousted from the firm in a succession battle, Wallace and his sons, Scott and Michael, bought a stake in Toronto’s struggling Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and through acquisitions built another multinational brand.

With his wife Margaret, McCain was also a noted philanthropist, supporting a range of causes, from Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital to Canada’s National Ballet School and New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University.

For the past year, the man described as a straight talker with a self-deprecating manner had faced another kind of battle, this one with cancer.

“Wallace McCain was an inspiration, as a father, businessman and humanitarian,” said Michael McCain, Wallace’s son and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Foods.

“His incredible success in business was always balanced with the importance of family and community. He had unwavering values that defined him and everything he did. My family and the entire Maple Leaf community deeply mourn his passing, but also celebrate his life and the contribution he made to so many people.”

Born in 1930 in the small farming village of Florenceville, N.B., Wallace McCain was one of six children of Laura and A.D. McCain, a potato seed exporter.  In their 20s, Wallace and his brother Harrison, with the support of their older brothers Robert and Andrew, decided to start their own business.

They opened the first McCain Foods potato processing plant in Florenceville in 1957 with a staff of 30. The company grew rapidly into a multi-billion dollar global French fry and frozen foods business.  But the brothers had a falling out over who should succeed them.
In 1995, with the help of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Wallace and his sons bought a 33 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Foods.

Together, they built the food-processing firm into a $5-billion-a-year firm, acquiring such leading brands as Maple Leaf, Schneiders, and a majority stake in Canada Bread Inc., makes of Dempster’s brand bread.  “Wallace made an indelible impact on Maple Leaf Foods, our country and the food industry globally,” said Purdy Crawford, Maple Leaf Food’s lead director.  “He had a rare gift for business that was driven by his personal courage, love of people, and sharp insights. His incredible accomplishments came about because of his perseverance, humility and belief in others.”

Wallace’s passing comes at a critical time for the leading food processor.
The Teachers’ Pension Plan decided to sell its stake last year and an activist investor, West Face Capital, bought into the firm and demanded a seat on its board.

Maple Leaf Foods has since undertaken a major restructuring program that includes consolidating and upgrading many of its plants, entering new products categories.
The move came two years after the company had finally begun recovering from a tragic listeria outbreak that claimed 21 lives. Michael McCain was credited with saving the company by taking full public responsibility for the problem and swift action to address its cause.

Wallace is survived by his wife Margaret, who became New Brunswick’s first female. Lieutenant Governor, his four children and nine grandchildren.  His successor as chairman will be determined by the Maple Leaf Foods board.  His funeral will be held at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto on May 20. For more information, please visit