Monday, January 13, 2014
Genetic Genealogy for Highland Scots
The photo above is an example of what can be accomplished through genetic genealogy. That is Joe McKane on the left and Jim McKane on the right, kneeling at the head of the burial slab of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Eáin, the progenitor of the McCain family. Joe and Jim are both my cousins, who I located when I participated in the McCain Family DNA Project. Joe is from Scotland and Jim is from Canada. We all descend from that Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Eáin, a Gaelic lord of Clann Mhic Lachlainn of Glassary. His settlement was located at Dunamuck just a short distance from the present day village of Kilmichael Glassary, in the parish of the same name, where the burial slab is located.
Using DNA as a vector I not only found my cousins, in Ireland, Scotland, and in the Diaspora, but eventually, was able to uncover our history. Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Eáin was the first man in his clan to begin using the surname Mac Eáin which is anglicised as McCain, McCane, McKane, McKean, McKeen, and a few other spellings. Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Eáin would be anglicised as 'Red Duncan McCain.' He also was given the name 'Mór' which appears on his burial slab, which means 'big' or 'great.' Some books list him as 'Duncan Mór McCane.' Donnchadh was born before 1450 we know, he was fairly active and appears in documents from the district several times. He passed away circa 1513 or so. His family provided captains for the Earls of Argyll, who were the heads of Clann Chaimbeul. The sword on Donnchadh's burial slab represents a martial family.
DNA testing was crucial to my finding out our real history. I simply could not have done it without the DNA testing and the crucial matches that it turned up. Tracing old Gaelic families is difficult for many reasons. First, we were not English speaking and our past was a Gaelic past. So much information and history is lost when a people, when a family, changes languages. There is also the culture of migration. Highland Scots were widely dispersed, we have our Diaspora. The McCains left Scotland for Donegal, Ireland, around 1570. We began leaving Ireland for the New World in 1718. Family history, old ways, tend to get lost, or half remembered, with so many changes and relocations.
Not all was forgotten, one branch of our family from Teoc, Mississippi, in Carroll, County, kept alive an oral history that correctly remembered several important aspects of our story; we were a Highland family, we were connected to the events and times of Mary Queen of Scots, and that we left Scotland for Ireland after her downfall. All these things turned out to be correct.
Any and all out there wanting to find your history and have struck that 'brick wall,' do not despair, it can be done. You have to be proactive and spend some time and money on it, but you can do it.