Saturday, July 25, 2015

Anglicized Surnames; the many forms of John

Knowing the Gaelic form of our surnames is a very helpful in genetic genealogy research.  There are many surnames in Ireland and Scotland that include the name that we say in English as "John." However, that is not entirely true as the etymology of many of the "John" surnames are not from English, but Gaelic, taken from the Latin name Iohannes, which in turn is a loan word name from the Hebrew Yohanan.
Surnames in the "John" category include Johnson, Johnston, Johnstone, Jones, Jackson, MacCain, MacCane, MacEoin, MacOwen, MacKane, MacKean, MacKeen, MacKeon, MacKeone, MacKeown, and  MacShane.   All these surnames come from the Latin Iohannes by one route or another. I discovered this complexity when researching my own surname early in my McCain genetic genealogy project.
You would think the etymology of the surname McCain would be simple enough, but it is not.  If you open a standard Irish or Scottish surname book, it normally says McCain is the anglicized form of the Scottish name Mac Iain. This is usually followed by a reference to either the Glencoe or Ardnamurchan Mac Iain families of Scotland.  What these books do not tell you is there were several dozen McCain families scattered throughout the Gaelic speaking world.  
To complicate matters, there are several Gaelic surnames that have been anglicized as McCain.   A list would include the surnames Mac Eáin, Mac Catháin, Mac Aodháin, Mac Caodháin, and Ó Catháin. Notice the surname book version, Mac Iain, is not listed.  This is because Iain and Mac Iain are late entries into the Gaelic world.  In the case of my own family, I knew the Gaelic form fortunately, which is Mac Eáin.
Eáin (said Ane) is a variation of the common Gaelic name Eóin (said Owen).  The Eáin form is peculiar to Argyll and the southern Hebrides and it is considered Scottish Gaelic in origin.  The surname was introduced into Donegal by Argyll Gaels that settled there in the 1500s.  Eóin appears in early medieval Irish sources and is the Gaelic form of the Latin name Iohannes, or as English speakers know the name, John.  Iohannes is itself a loan word to Latin from the Hebrew Yohanan (in full y'hohanan) meaning “Jehovah has favored.”   
As you read through the Gaelic manuscripts you will not find any evidence of the variant Eáin form of Eóin until 1499 AD.  That year in the Annals of Connacht one writer spelled the name of Eóin Mór Mac Dónaill, King of the Isles, as Eighín Mor Mac Domnaill, with Eighín being a slender vowel form of Eáin.  This Eóin Mór Mac Dónaill was the chief of the McDonalds in Argyll, Islay and north Antrim.  From that time on you can find the name sporadically written to reflect this Eáin form, but Eóin was still the dominant written form in literary Irish regardless if the name was said Eóin or Eáin.  Literary Irish was the Gaelic used in both Ireland and Scotland by the educated classes.
By the mid-1600s, the Mac Eáin variation had its own spelling in literary Irish.  The Scottish Mac Mhuirich family of Islay, historians and tradition keepers for the McDonalds, used several similar spellings of the surname when writing in the mid-1600s.  In their Red Book of Clanranald, they spelled the surname mac Ceaain, Mac Eaain and Mac Ea'ain.  The mac Ceaain spelling is an abbreviated form of the longer Mac Mhic Eaain, a clan surname form meaning “son of (the) son of Eáin.” This form functions much like the Ó does in Gaelic surnames, especially Irish ones.  I asked the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, which is the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye, for the current spelling in Scot’s Gaelic and they gave me Mac Eain, with no accent over the “a.”  Mac Eáin is the modern Ulster Gaelic form.
The Lallans spellings also demonstrate the pronunciation shift from Mac Eóin to Mac Eáin by the 1500s in Argyll.  Lallans spellings of Mac Eáin from that time were McAne, McEan, Makayn, Mcayne, McEan, and McKean.  In my research, I made an interesting discovery. In the 1400s, the northern Spanish and Portuguese form of the Latin Iohannes was Ean.  In the northwest Spanish dialects and Portuguese the surname form of Ean was Eanes and Eannes.  The es suffix functions like the Gaelic Mac.  So Eannes means Son of Iohannes as does Mac Eáin.  In modern Spanish, you see this surname written Yanes and Yáñes.  It did occur to me there might have been some connection there, perhaps a loan word that had come into use from Portuguese or Spanish to Gaelic due to the increasing contact between Argyll and Spain during that time, but it would be a difficult point to research.
Mac Eóin itself is anglicised as MacEoin, McKeon, MacKeone, MacKeown, Keon, Keown, and MacOwen.  It can be found from the southern tip of Ireland to the far north of Scotland, everywhere were Gaelic is and was spoken.
Seaán Ó Neill an Diomais
Seán came into Gaelic from the French form of the Latin Iohannes which was Jehan and Gaelicized as Seán.  In the northern dialects of Gaelic, Seán is said 'Shane.'  From this we get the surname Mac Seáin.  Some of the descendants of the great Seaán Mór Ó Neill an Diomais use the surname MacShane today, while others have translated their surname and use both Jackson and Johnson.  Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United Stages, claimed to be a direct descendant of Seaán Ó Neill and it is very true some of his descendants took the surname Jackson.
The Johnson and Johnston form are obvious as they are simple translations.  Some families, for reasons unknown, chose Johnston and Johnstone, as the anglicised form of their Gaelic surname.   It is a mistranslation as Johnston is from the two words 'John' and 'ton' the latter meaning a town. 
It is very helpful know the Gaelic form of your surname and the anglicised forms also.  Some of the non surname DNA matches may turn out to be just another form of your surname.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Ruaille Buaille

an tábhairne
Tagann an pótaire seo isteach sa tábhairne agus labhraíonn sé le fear an tí.  "Gloine uisce beatha go gasta, le do thoil, sula dtosaíonn an ruaille buaille."
gloine uisce beatha

Déanann fear an tí gáire beag, ach tugann sé an deoch do...  agus ólann an pótaire siar é agus ansin, labhraíonn sé le fear an tí, "Ceann eile, le do thoil, sula dtosaíonn an ruaille buaille."
"Seo do dheoch," arsa fear an tí (fear an-chineálta atá ann).   Labhraíonn fear an tí, "ach cad é seo fá ruaille buaille?  Cá huair a thosaíonn an ruaille buaille?"
"Nuair a fhaigheann tusa amach nach bhfuil pingin rua agam," deir an pótaire!

Barry R McCain on Amazon 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mo Shinsir Gaeil

an scríobhnoir i nDún na nGall
Bhí suim agamsa i mo shinsir Gaeil nuair a bhí mé thart ar 12 blain d'aois, nuair a bhí mé ag léamh leabhar faoi stair.  Sa leabhar sin, bhí na Sasanaigh Eilíseach ag cuir cogadh ar na 'Macs agus Os.'  Dúirt liom mé féin, is mise duine de na 'Macs agus Os.' 
Ón lá sin bhí suim agam i mo shinsir Gaeil.  D'fhag mo mhuintir Éire i bhfad ó shin, i 1718, go dtiocfadh leat a rá mar sin gur Domhan Nua Gael mé.  Cosúil le bradán ag filleadh go dtí an sruth beag a rugadh é, bhí me tarraingthe chun filleadh go dtí an talamh de mo aithreacha agus mo mhuintir. 
Cé gur thóg sé 40 bliain seo a dhéanamh, i 2003 fuair mé mo theaghlach Mac Eáin in Éirinn agus bhí muid athaontaithe tar éis 286 bliain de scaradh.  D'usáid mé tástáil DNA a aimsiú chun iad a dhearbhú agus go raibh an teaghlach ceart agam.

Laoch Redshank
Tá mo clann Mhic Eáin scaipthe suas agus síos Ghleann Na Finne agus thart timpeall Bhaile Suingean, agus tá roinnt thar i gContae Thír Eogháin, i nDoire, agus tá uimhir beag díobh suite i iarthuaisceart Chontae Aontroma.
D'fhág roinnt na Mhic Eáin Dhún na nGall go luath (sa 1700idí) agus tá na teaghlaigh seo ins na Stáit theas i Mheiriceá agus i Sasana Nua.  D'fhad teaghlaigh Mac Eáin eile thart ar am an Ghorta Mór agus chuaigh siad go gCeanada, bhí mórán díobh i New Brunswick.

Teaghlach 'Redshank' ab ea an teaghlach Mhic Eáin, nó ceann de na teaghlaigh Gael ó Gaeltacht na hAlban a tháinig go Dún na nGall sa 1500s chun freastal ar Chlann Uí Dhónaill.  Is trí úsáid a bhaint as torthaí DNA agus acmhainní bunscoile a bhí mé in ann a lan a fhoghlaim fá ár stair. Is ár n-ainm, Mac Eáin, foirm de Mac Eóin sa Gaeilge ó thuaisceart Uladh agus ins na h-Oileáin agus in Earra-Ghaeil.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Second Sight among the Scots Irish

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa 1905
The phenomenon of Second sight has fascinated me for many years.  I was exposed to the Second Sight early in my life, before I even knew what it was.  My grandmother had the Second Sight.  She was Sarah Pearl McCain née Tweedy, born in Carbondale, in southern Illinois, in 1883.  She passed away in 1962, when I was only twelve years old, but I was close to her and despite her passing when I was young, I remember her countenance and personality well.  I also remember she had a unique quality to her; it is hard to describe in words, other than to say she had an other world quality.
I found out about her Second Sight through a child's eyes and ears.  I heard her friends and relatives talk about it and tell stories. She never mentioned it to me.  She had a strong case of it one could say.  She 'saw' things and had experience that exist in a world that is not well understood by our sciences. 

The Second Sight is so called because normal vision was regarded as coming first, and with certain individuals a  supernormal vision developed.  The Gaelic term is An Da Shealladh which means "the two sights," meaning normal sight and the sight of the seer. There are many Gaelic words for the various aspects of second sight, but An Da Shealladh is the one mostly recognized by non Gaidhlig speakers, even though, strictly speaking, it does not really mean second sight. 

Simply put, Second sight is a form of extrasensory perception, the ability to perceive things that are not present to the senses, whereby a person perceives information, in the form of a vision, about future events or events at remote locations.  Other manifestations include knowing things about a person just by meeting them, such as their true nature and history, or sometimes by perceiving this by merely handling an object that the person owns.  In popular culture it is also called 'the sixth sense.'

The Second Sight happens in several peoples and cultures, but it is in Scotland perhaps that it is most recognized and studied.  My grandmother's Tweedy family originated in Scotland and migrated to Ireland very early in the 1600s or even late in the 1500s.  In Scotland, the Tweedys had a penchant for getting into feuds that resulted in legal issues and even their surname was proscribed at one time.  Migration from Scotland to Ireland and other parts of the Isles was an often used path for them to 'get out of town.'   I have found records of them in the 1620s with a group of native Irish in County Cavan and being listed as 'Irish.'  This means the clerk thought them born in Ireland.  I know many of the Tweedys spoke Irish and were often Protestant and in the Established Church (the Church of Ireland, i.e. Anglicans).

Her family migrated to the English Colonies in the late 1600s, oral history remembers the place of entry as Rhode Island.  The Tweedys migrated to the Carolinas in the early 1700s.  They were what popular history likes to call Scots-Irish.  They were an adventurous family as several of them were in Daniel Boone's party that crossed the Cumberland Gap in the 1770s.  Their history is one of trailblazing adventures, ferocious battles with Indians, and eventually settling in southern Illinois by 1805.  That area was very dangerous and very few white people lived there at that time. Hostile Indians were very active and their family records has accounts of Indian raids and several brutal deaths to members of the extended family.

As an adult my research discovered that the Second Sight runs in their family.  This is not unusual and Scottish families with the Second Sight often report it as an inherited trait.  I found records of a Tweedy woman that had been accused of witchcraft in the mid 1600s.  I do not know if the woman was a relation to my grandmother's family, but it is very possible.  In the mid 1600s people with the Second Sight were sometimes accused of witchcraft and brought to trial.  Such was the case of the poor Tweedy woman whose records I read.  She was arrested and a trial held.  I found the record of the trail, her charges, and also found the brutal method with which she was interrogated.  It involved a government paid witch hunter.  He would ask questions and then stick her with long metal needles, about the size of a small knitting needle.  If the wound bled it meant she was telling the truth, if it did not bleed, this indicated a lie.  Yes, I know what you all are thinking, that is insane.  She was found guilty and did not survive the ordeal.

17th Century witch pricking needles
In my work and travels I have discovered many accounts of families that have the Second Sight, particularly in the Southern Uplands and Backsettlments.  It was a normal aspect of Scots-Irish culture well into the 1900s and even today it is known.  When you read the literature written on the Scots-Irish in their traditional homelands the phenomenon of Second Sight or 'Seers' is a common theme. 'Seer' was a common term for people with the Second Sight in the Uplands from the Ozarks to the Appalachians.   I am researching Scots-Irish families that have a tradition of the Second Sight for a new writing project now.

I am collecting stories from Scots-Irish families now that have experience with the Second Sight, have old tales of it in their family, etc. So, anyone reading this who has a story, do please contact me, I would love to hear your Second Sight experiences.

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa late 1800s
Barry R McCain on Amazon

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Sale on Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey

The good folks at Amazon are doing a Summer Sale on my new book for the stellar price of US $14.96.   Very good time to purchase.   The book is getting excellent peer and reader reviews.  I am pleased as a book with Irish and Scottish history, that is a biography of a family, a memoir, a mystery story, has a brush with a Bean Sí in it, and has the Beatles, Mohammed Alí, a WWII German officer, Phil Robertson, all and more, in it, is difficult book to classify, so very pleased my peers and readers like it.

Link to purchase: Finding the McCains, a Scots-Irish Odyssey

Finding the McCains, A Scots-Irish Odyssey
Finding the McCains is an account of a man’s 40 year odyssey to find the McCain family in Ireland.  Senator John McCain and his cousin, novelist Elizabeth Spencer, both include a short history of the McCain family in their respective memoirs Faith of our Fathers and Landscapes of the Heart.  Their history is a romantic tale of Highland Scots who supported Mary Queen of Scots and who fled to Ireland after her downfall in 1568.  The search for the McCains became a mystery story with clues, false turns, many adventures, and then ultimate success through Y chromosome DNA testing.  In 2008 the McCains were reunited with their family that remained in Ireland, after 289 years of separation.

 The McCain history includes people and events familiar to readers of Irish and Scottish history; Redshanks, Iníon Dubh, Mary Queen of Scots, the Earls of Argyll, the Ulster Migration, and the Scots-Irish, are all part of this family’s history.  Faint memories of this past were told for generations in Mississippi and as the research progressed the facts behind these memories were uncovered.

The Y chromosome DNA results revealed that the McCains of Mississippi, which include Senator John McCain’s family, are the same family of Wallace and Harrison McCain, the founders of Canada’s McCain’s Foods, one of the most successful corporations in the world.  They are also the same family as James McKeen who organized the 1718 fleet that began the great Ulster Migration to the English Colonies.  All these families are paternally related and they all descend from one Gaelic man named Mac Eáin that lived in Kilmichael Glassary parish, in mid Argyll, in the Scottish Highlands, in the 1400s.
The book tells of the author’s many trips to Ireland in search of his distant cousins there.  There are anecdotal stories, some humorous and others involving “famous” people; such as, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, Mary Coughlan (Irish Tainste or vice president), Cindy McCain (wife of Senator McCain), Seán Mac Stiofáin (1970s head of the IRA) , Alan Heusaff (WW II German officer in Dublin who later became president of the Celtic League), and Muhammad Ali.
Another theme in the book is the Scots-Irish.  Contemporary histories about the Scots-Irish present stereotyped and romanticized accounts of this dynamic group.  Finding the McCains reveals a more complex history and shows the cultural conflation common in Scots-Irish popular history.

“In writing this book, Barry McCain has done a great service not only to those interested in the McCain ancestry, but to everyone fascinated by the millennia-old connections between Scotland and Ireland. In this volume he demonstrates the complexity of those connections, highlighting, for example, the often-overlooked Gaelic heritage of many of the families from Scotland that made Ulster their home. His use of DNA analysis to investigate otherwise hidden aspects of his ancestry serves as an exemplar of the way in which this technology can be applied to family history and the search for our forebears. Throughout this book Barry's enthusiasm for his ancestry in both Scotland and Ireland, and his love for the people of both countries, shines through. This is a book to encourage all of us as we seek to discover something more of our past.”

Dr William Roulston, Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation

Monday, July 13, 2015

Billy the Kid Was a Gaelic Speaker

Yesterday my brother sent me an interesting magazine article on Billy the Kid.  The article was written by Chuck Usmar, a writer, historian, and scholar, on the life of Billy the Kid.  I learned from the article that Billy the Kid was a Gaelic speaker.  Usmar discovered this fact in reading primary sources, i.e. interviews, with people that knew Billy the Kid. 
There were a lot of Irish and Scottish immigrants on the frontier in those days and Gaelic speakers were common in the Old West.  It might surprises some to discover that this Gaelic heritage is still around.  For example, Butte, Montanan, had at one time a Gaelic language newspaper.  Eamon DeValera visited Butte in 1919 and Irish President Mary McAleese also visited there in 2006.  Butte today has a very active Gaelic language organization that sponsors yearly immersion Gaeltacht seminars for Gaelic language learners and speakers.  Personally, I can not imagine a better backdrop to practice one's Gaeilge than Montana; think cowboy culture, barbecued beef ribs, beer, beautiful mountains, a dry cool air, and speaking Gaelic.  Mining, railroads, homesteading, and ranching, brought many Irish immigrants to the West.  In Butte the large Irish population came mostly from Counties Cork, Wicklow, and Donegal.  In August each year Butte enjoys a large outdoor Irish festival. 

But, back to Billy.  Billy the Kid's real name was Henry McCarty and he was born to an Irish immigrant family that lived in New York City on 17 September 1859.  His early years are still elusive to historians, much is known, but elements of his early life are still unknown.  By 1872 his family had moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico, and this is where the legend of Billy the Kid begins.  Billy was a good looking young man, he stood 5' 8" tall, had blond hair, and a smooth complexion.  And, he was drawn into an event called the Lincoln County Wars which involved cattle, land, water rights, and armed cowboys.  His history is well known, so I will not go into further detail, but will turn to his Gaelic language abilities now.

Three Rivers area, New Mexico

Billy sold cattle to another Irish immigrant, cattle rancher, business man, Pat Coghlan.  He was born in Clonakilly, County Cork in 1822 and arrived in New Mexico in 1874. Pat ran the Three Rivers Ranch which was located north of Tularosa, New Mexico.  It is a beautiful, wild, area, still to this day.  Billy often stayed at the Three Rivers Ranch because of his business connections with it.  Pat Coghlan had the US government contract to sell beef to Fort Stanton, where from there it was prepared and taken to the Mescalero Indian Reservation. 

In the late 1870s Mary Coghlan, Pat's niece, came to live at the Three Rivers Ranch.  She came straight from Ireland and did not know English at all, her only language was Gaelic.  Pat Coghlan did not have enough Gaelic to speak with Mary and her having no English made for a difficult time.  Pat asked Billy the Kid to act as interpreter as Billy knew both languages fluently.  On interest, Billy could also speak fluent Spanish, so he was a handy man to have around.  Writer Chuck Usmar discovered Billy's Gaelic language ability while reading through interviews with people who knew the Coghlans and Billy.  It is another interesting piece of Old West lore.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Sale on Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey

Loughcrew, County Meath
Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey, is now in the Ingram wholesale system and for sale through all book stores.  And, with that in mind, Barnes & Noble, is running a summer sale on my new book for the excellent price of US $14.95.   The biography of a well known American and Canadian Scots-Irish family, the story of Highland Scots migrated to Ireland as Redshanks in the 1500s, a mystery story as their past was uncovered using DNA testing, and a good 'how to' guide for genetic genealogy. 

Link to the Barnes & Noble sale of Finding the McCains, a Scots Irish Odyssey

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Y-DNA test When No Paternal Relative Is Available II

This post will again address genetic genealogy for Irish, Scots, and Scots-Irish, when no male relative is available to DNA test.  Why is a male needed?   In surname studies we use the Y chromosome, it is only passed from father to son. 

Women cannot take this test.  And males that are researching a line other than their father cannot use their Y chromosome test to find matches.  Males only carry the Y chromosome of their father and no other Y chromosome will show up in their DNA test. 

So, what do women, and men researching lines other than their father's, do?  

Here is an example:  I have already researched my father's paternal line, all the way back to Ireland and Scotland.  Found them, have been over to visit, found the progenitor in the primary sources.  Total success. 
But, I wanted to research my father's mother's father's line.  Their surname is Tweedy and I do not carry the Tweedy Y chromosome.  However, I do carry a lot of Tweedy DNA, just not the Y chromosome.  I used another test which used this other DNA material.

I did the Family Tree autosomal DNA test.  They call it their Family Finder test.   Through this test I located a female Tweedy cousin.  She had a brother.  He did carry the Tweedy Y chromosome and we had him do the Y chromosome DNA test.  Through this simple method we obtained the Tweedy Y chromosome and are using it to research the family.

I manage several large Scottish and Ulster DNA projects.  There are hundreds of people that have used this method to research a family line where they do not have access to a known male descendent. 

Autosomal DNA testing does have limitations.  As a research tool, it can only go back around five generations.  But, most people can locate a co-lateral line they need within this time frame.  In my case it was fourth cousins and the time connection was mid 1800s. 

All you need is one good match to the family you want to research and then have a male in that family test their Y chromosome.

Once you get the Y chromosome, you are set.  The Y chromosome does not have time limitations, you will find close cousins, find distant cousins in Ireland and Scotland, confirm real clan connections,  and even research tribal histories going back several thousand years. 

My recent book, Finding the McCains is a guide that illustrates how much can be accomplished through a well run Y chromosome genetic genealogy project 

Good luck with your research and do not fret about those brick walls, they can be smashed.