Monday, September 29, 2014

The Scots-Irish: Scottish historian Tim Clarkson

The Scots-Irish: Scottish historian Tim Clarkson: This blog is primarily about the Scots-Irish in the New World from Colonial times to the present.  Occasionally, I will post items of intere...

Monday, September 1, 2014

DNA Genetic Genealogy Sale

All the DNA projects I administer and assist with, use Family Tree DNA labs in Houston, Texas.  Why?  Well, they are the best, they have the largest data base and are very user friendly.  Family Tree is having a very good sale on their DNA testing across the board which includes transfers from other projects.   I recommended the 111 Y chromosome test for paternal ancestry research, but the 67 level is also acceptable to start with.  This test is for men only, and women doing paternal research must have a male proxy test for them (usually they get their father, brother, uncle, etc., to do this).   For cousin finding up to five generations back, the Family Finder test (autosomal DNA) is also a good test to use and both men and women can do that test.

If you have ever wanted to do a DNA test, this is the time to do it.

Link:  Family Tree DNA

I receive so many emails from people wanting me to help them with their genetic genealogy that have tested with other companies, that is to say, they did not use Family Tree.  I have to turn them down as it is just too difficult to do so.  The Ulster Heritage Project, the Scots-Irish DNA project, the McCain family project, the Mid Argyll Group project, are all with Family Tree DNA.  So, anyone needing a transfer to Family Tree, this is your opportunity.

My next book, which is done and is in the pre publishing phase, will tell the story of how I located my cousins in Ireland and Scotland using DNA testing.  The book is a memoir of my travels and adventures, but is also a "how to do" guide to finding ancestors and your family back in the old country.

So I say to you all.... Shake a Leg.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Scots-Irish: Scots-Irish Art Work of David Wright

The Scots-Irish: Scots-Irish Art Work of David Wright: Before the Long Hunt by David Wright Tennessean David Wright is a gifted and brilliant artist. Fortunately for us he often select Scots...

Friday, June 20, 2014

John McCain and the Taoiseach

Above is a photo of cousin John with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who served in office from 26 June 1997 to 7 May 2008.  I have spent a lot of time in Ireland myself, I have been travelling that way for four decades now.  I have met John McCain only one time and that was on the Ole Miss campus.  We talked about family history and lore.  His family as most know is from Mississippi. From the little town of Teoc, in Carroll County.  My family lived a few miles east of Teoc.  His family and mine descend from a group of McCain cousins that settled in Mississippi in the 1830s when the Choctaw Indian lands opened for settlement. Growing up I knew his branch of the family was related to mine, but when you are a child you do not give much thought to those things.  While writing my next book, Finding the McCains I researched the details of our kinship. The short version is we descend from the same immigrant ancestor who came from Ireland.

I have been over and visited the McCains in Ireland several times, which is always a great joy. My upcoming book is the story of how I located them.  This book has been several years in the writing and I am looking forward seeing it in print at this point.  It is a fascinating story, an account of my 40 year odyssey to find the McCain family in Ireland.  John McCain and his cousin, novelist Elizabethan Spencer, both include a short history of the McCain family in their respective memoirs (Faith of our Fathers and Landscapes of the Heart).  It was a romantic tale of Highland Scots who supported Mary Queen of Scots and who fled to Ireland after her downfall in 1568.  

After 40 years of searching for them I used DNA testing to find them in the end.  A lot of the oral history told by the Teoc McCains turned out to be true.  I had many adventures in Ireland, all revealed in the upcoming book.   

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Scots-Irish: Scots-Irish Books

The Scots-Irish: Scots-Irish Books: Three centuries of life in a Tyrone parish. A history of Donagheady from 1600 to 1900, by William Roulston (USD $ 12.95) Format Ebook.  ...

Monday, May 19, 2014

McCain... IRA Man? Nay...

In 1984 having a Gaelic surname could cause travel complications.  On my 1984 trip over, not only did I meet Muhammad Ali, but I also was questioned by United States security "agents" when I was returning back to the USA.  On 12 October, the IRA had planted a bomb in the Grand Hotel, in Brighton, England, because the Conservative Party conference was being held there.  Their target was Margaret Thatcher. Prime Minister Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, but five people were killed, including two high-profile members of the Conservative Party, and 31 were injured.  It was bloody business.

In September 1985, Patrick Magee was found guilty of planting the bomb, detonating it, and of five counts of murder. Magee received eight life sentences.The judge recommended that he serve at least 35 years. Later Home Secretary Michael Howard lengthened this to "whole life". However, Magee was released from prison in 1999, having served 14 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

As for me, I was making the return flight to the USA in early September of 1984.  Security was understandably heightened.  Macs and Os doing unusual things on international flights were suspect. I was making a connecting flight between Aer Lingus and Delta back in Newark and was running late.  Aer Lingus, being the sports they used to be, whisked me through customs by some semi-secret door, and presto I was making my way toward the Delta aircraft.  Then "security" caught up with me.  It was Federal agents, I forget the brand name, but they had guns and the whole business.  You see, the IRA bombers were thought to be leaving the UK and trying to make for the USA and here comes this man name Barry McCain (a suspiciously Irish sounding name) that is being allowed to go around the customs station and placed directly on his flight. 

Well, the Federal agents were, with their guns, expecting a hard core IRA man, but instead got an educated Mississippi Redneck of Gaelic ancestry  The interrogation should have been taped as it was not without its points of humor. Back then there were clever people working as these Federal agents, it took the older man with gray highlights in his thinning hair about thirty seconds to realize exactly who and what I was, he began to grin. Now the younger ones, full of piss and vinegar were not ready to give it up, but gray hair trumps.  He allowed me to pass and even helped me get to my plane in time.

Meeting Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali September 1984

One day I met Muhammad Ali.  t was 11 September 1984 on one of my many trips over to Ireland.  I was flying out of Newark, New Jersey, to Shannon, in County Clare, Ireland.  I had an hour or so to kill so was just sitting in the waiting area of my loading gate.  I notice a large black man come into the area and take a seat.  Now I recognized him immediately, it was Muhammad Ali.  And do not ask how I knew, in my age group, one knows Muhammad Ali.  I had seen him on television many times dating back to the mid 1960s, he was iconic to say the least.  I was a fan of his, had always pulled for him in his bouts.  I liked his style in the ring and also his rebel spirit. I was intrigued that he was by himself.  I got up from where I was sitting, walked over and sat down beside him and say, "hello Muhammad, what brings you here."

I am six foot two inches and fairly well built, so I was not overly impressed with his size, but I did notice the easy way he moved, the way athletes move, fluid and with power there. There were introductions and we talked.  I told Muhammad I was a native born Mississippian, to which he smiled broadly.  This grew into a conversation about ethnicity, the War Between the States, race relations in the North, in the South, things in Ireland, etc.   Muhammad was friendly, talkative, and liked my up front casual nature with my Southernness.  He told me he had great respect from the white Southern male as he found dealing with them straight forward and honest.  He was interested in my travel to Ireland as I told him I was hunting for ancestors.  We also had fun talking about the pilot, who was female.  In fact, the airline people told me at the time this was the first woman trans-Atlantic pilot when I went to check in.  For some reason they wanted me to know.  Muhammad made some good natured humorous remarks about our upcoming flight and female pilot. We had about twenty minutes to talk and were having a very good time.  Then the local airport security realized they had a major celebrity in their midst. A guard appeared, then two, then several of Muhammad's entourage came up, I suppose they had been checking luggage or something.  Within five minutes around twenty people were gathered around him, within thirty minutes there were near a hundred as word got out that he was there.  It was no longer possible to talk to him at this point, and I wished him well and got up to leave.  Then, for some reason, I decided to ask him for an autograph, just to prove to others the conversation had taken place, as a rule, I do not ask autographs from famous folk I meet, but I did this time.
11 September 1984

Monday, May 12, 2014

Francis McKane and the Lisbon Maru

As mentioned earlier, both Senator McCain’s father and grandfather, and my own father, served in the Pacific Theater in WW II.  It is a large part of the Mississippi McCain legacy.  One of the McCain cousins located by the McCain DNA project is Joseph Patrick McKane of Glasgow, Scotland, a well-known physician.  As we got to know one another he told me the remarkable story of his own father in the Pacific during WW II.  Joseph’s father was Francis McKane.  Francis joined the military during the Depression years in Scotland.  He served in the Royal Artillery and shipped out to Hong Kong in 1938 where he rose to the rank of Senior Sergeant.

Francis McKane

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and on the next day they attacked Hong Kong and Francis McCain was in the thick of it. He volunteered to act as spotter for his artillery battery, which placed him in an obsolete biplane flying into the face of the fighting to observe the effects of his unit’s artillery fire.  His battery was the last one to fall in the defense of Hong Kong and he became a prisoner of war.  In September 1942, 1816 prisoners that had been captured when Hong Kong fell nine months before were loaded on the Japanese transport Lisbon Maru 

Hong Kong Under Japanese Attack
 The Lisbon Maru was called the Hell Ship as the POWs were kept in conditions of filth, disease, and malnutrition. They were being transported to Japan as slave labor. On 30 October, 1942, the Lisbon Maru was spotted by the US Submarine Grouper off of Shanghai. The sub maneuvered during the night and then the next morning fired six torpedoes and immediately came under attack from Japanese patrol boats and aircraft.  The Grouper dived deep and quickly left the area. One of its torpedoes struck the Lisbon Maru. The US sub of course had no idea there were Allied prisoners of war aboard.  The Lisbon Maru began taking on water and the prisoners were locked below decks with no food or water and stifling heat.  On 2 October the ship finally sank and there was a chaotic dash by the prisoners to try to escape. Some made it over the side, some escaped through port holes.  Francis McKane was among the prisoners that managed to get off the sinking ship.  The Japanese were shooting the escaping men and many never had a chance to get off the ship and drowned; some 846 men died that tragic day.  The prisoners that reached the water swam three miles through shark infested waters, eventually making their way to a small island. The men that reached the island were again taken prisoner by the Japanese on 5 October.  They spent the rest of the war as slave laborers in Japan.  Francis worked in the shipyards in Osaka. Over 200 died during the first winter from diphtheria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition. 

The bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came just in time to save Francis McKane and the surviving prisoners who were by that time walking skeletons, with their numbers shrinking daily.  Even with the Japanese capitulation he had a long road to get back home.  He was taken by hospital ship to Canada first.  Doctors in Canada told him that he would not survive, that malnutrition and disease had so damaged his body that they had little hope of his recovery.  Francis did survive and return back to Scotland to have a family and his son Joseph, joined the McCain DNA project and found his cousins, including the Mississippi McCains.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Present the Indigo Bunting

An Indigo Bunting showed up at my bird feeder today.  What an amazingly beautiful creature. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer

I had the pleasure of talking with Elizabeth Spencer in February.  She is a cousin of mine, her mother a Teoc McCain.   In her memoir Landscapes of the Heart she has a chapter devoted to the McCains. In the chapter she has a short history of our clan, which in my research over they years I discovered was remarkably accurate.  It is a romantic tell of Highland Scots who supported Mary Queen of Scots and migrated to Ireland after her fall from power, which is pretty much what happened. My current book project is Finding the McCains which is the story of why and how I located our distant McCain cousin back in Ireland.

Elizabeth Spencer is the daughter of Senator McCain’s paternal grandfather’s sister.  Elizabeth Spencer is a talented and accomplished writer of novels and short stories; she could walk into a room with William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and take her place among them.  As Eudora Welty herself put it:

"It has never been doubted that Elizabeth Spencer knows the small, Southern, backwoods hilltown down to the bone.  This she transforms by the accuracy of her eye and ear, talent and a certain prankish gaiety of spirit into a vital and absorbing novel."
Perhaps the best known work of Elizabeth Spencer would be her 1960 short novel, The Light of the Piazza.  It is a very poignant story set in Italy that was made into a feature film in 1962 staring Olivia de Havilland, George Hamilton, and Yvette Mimieux.  Elizabeth is still writing at age 93, her latest work is Starting Over, a collection of short stories and highly recommended.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Laggan Redshanks

ruins of Mongavlin Castle where Iníon Dubh lived

In the sixteenth century Scottish Highlanders settled in the Laggan district of east Donegal. They were called Redshanks.  The history of the Laggan Redshanks has many fascinating elements which include Clann Chaimbeul and their dynamic leader the fifth Earl of Argyll, Gaelic sexual intrigues, English Machiavellian manoeuvres, and the Redshanks themselves.  This book not only tells the fascinating story of how a Highland Scottish community became established in the Laggan, but also includes the surnames of the Redshanks and notes of their origins in Scotland, which will be of interest to family historians and genealogists.

Available as a paperback on Amazon and there is also a Kindle version.

Link:  The Laggan Redshanks

Monday, January 27, 2014

Scotland Anno Domini 570

In the map above pay attention to Strathclyde, the upper part around Loch Lomond.... that is where the DNA suggests, our McCains originated.  This was a kingdom of Cumbric speaking Celts at that time.  Over time, the next couple of centuries, they became Gaelic speaking.

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.