Saturday, June 30, 2018

Irish And Scottish Female Ancestor Surnames

Irish and Scots Female Ancestor Names in Primary Sources

Finding the name of a male ancestor is fairly straight forward.  It will appear in some anglicized or phonetic spelling of the original Gaelic surname.  Most people are familiar with male surnames prefixes; Ó means “descendant of” and Mac means “son of.”   Mag is an alternative spelling of Mac and was sometimes used when the name that follows it began with a vowel.   

The ladies used a similar prefix system. Girls and unmarried women with an Ó surname are written Ní.  A Mac prefix surname is written as Nic.

A married woman would take her husband's surname, but the prefix form was different than the male form.  Ó became and Mac became Mhic.  

This name change did not always hide the surname of the woman’s father however.  In traditional Gaelic society some women retained their father's surname due to the strong sense of family and clan affiliation.  This was done when the woman was the daughter of a land holding family and had high status within society.

 Two examples from the mid to late 1500s that I located in my own research are:  Fionnuala Nic Eáin married Dónaill Mac Ailín.  Her “married name” was Fionnuala Mhic Ailín.  In actuality, she retained her maiden name in the community and is listed by that name in the records.  Her name appears crudely anglicised as Finvall Nikean.  Here is an entry from the Argyll records: 

In the same year (1572) Finvall Nikean, the wife of Donald M'Alane V'Donile of Dunnad, resigned to James Scrymgeoure of Dudhope constable of Dundee the twenty shillinglands of Carnyame, the said Donald warranting the constable free of all harm in respect of the lands from the heirs of the deceased Lauchlane M'Donald V'Alane.

This data allowed me to connect Fionnuala Nic Eáin to the House of Dónaill Mac Ailín's cousin, who was Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín, who used the clan surname of Mac Eáin. (the man's name in the above document 'Donald M'Alane V'Donile' is Dónaill Mac Ailín Mhic Dhónaill, the 'Mhic' here meaning grandson or descendant of.) 

As you progress with your genetic genealogy research you will eventually reach a point where records were not written in modern English.   The records are often in Gaelic or written in an English dialect, such as Lallans or Hiberno-English, with the surname anglicised into a phonetic Gaelic form.
Dun Na Muc in Kilmichael Glassar

Another example connected with the family of Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín, is Aifric Nic Dhonnachaidh Rua the wife of Malcolm Scrymgeour.  Again, this Gaelic woman does not use her husband’s surname, but rather a surname that identifies her clan.  In this case once again, to the family of Donnchadh Rua Mac Ailín of Dun na muc. He was a thane in Glassary.  In the actual record her name is recorded as “Effreta nein Donche roy.”

With men’s names this does not present too much difficulty if you are familiar with their Gaelic forms. Do not overlook the possibility of locating a female ancestor from this time period.  Most records and pre 1600 genealogies tend to feature only male names.  However, in some cases the name of a female ancestor will appear, but you will need to know how to recognize the surname when you see it.

When you get on the trail of your Irish and Scottish ancestors be aware of both male and female Gaelic surname forms.  You might make a great find.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice 2018

This is the Summer Solstice today.   It is the Midsummer festival which is often celebrated with a bonfire.  Saint John the Baptist was associated with the festival in Christian times and there were prayers for God's blessing upon the corps at the height of the growing season.  Of course, the festival is much older than St John and dates back to pagan times.  St John was a relative newcomer to the Midsummer event and it was none other than An Dagda, also know as Cromm, who used to bless the crops. 

In astronomical speak, it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere... and the shortest night of the year.  Midsummer is, and has been, a prominent cultural event in ancient Europe and still going strong in the 21st Century.  

Sucellus (Dagda's cognate in Gaul)
Midsummer is celebrated on or near the Summer's Solstice throughout Northern Europe.  Festivals and celebrations are held from 19 June to 25 June.  Midsummer festivals are held throughout Ireland on the weekend closest to the actual Solstice day.  Bonefires lit on the hill tops are a tradition. 

It customary to have a fire on the eve, or on the night, of the Solstice and advisable to run and jump over the fire to evoke the blessings of Dagda.  A toast to the Solstice, to Dagda and to ole St John as well, all advisable.  A bonfire is best, but a small fire in a fire-pit we do splendidly.  And for those apartment dwellers, it is fine to just light the candle and open the wine and make your toast.

So, Shake a Leg and Pull a Cork and Welcome in the Solstice!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Laggan Redshanks

Dave Swift from the Claoíbh in Redshank attire
(Link to Claoíbh on Facebook)

In the sixteenth century Scottish Highlanders settled in the Laggan district of east Donegal. They were called Redshanks. Their story is told in the book The Laggan 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 maneuvers, and the Redshanks themselves.

The Redshank settlement in the Laggan took place in the tumultuous years during the sixteenth century that were dominated by Elizabethan English attempts to bring Ulster under the control of the Crown.  The Redshanks were vital players in these affairs and it was their military skills that delayed the conquest of Ulster until the beginning of the next century.  The Laggan Redshanks were part of a military build up to protect and support Clann Uí Dhónaill (clan O'Donnell).  They settled on Clann Uí Dhónaill lands in east Donegal that border the Foyle River.  One of their main functions was to protect the river harbours on the Foyle.

The Redshanks came primarily from mid Argyll.  The first cousin of the Earl of Argyll was the famous Iníon Dubh and it was she that organised the Redshank military forces that supported the O'Donnell clan.  Iníon Dubh married the taoiseach (chief) of Clann Uí Dhónaill in 1569 and this set the stage for the Redshank settlement.

Magh Gaibhlín, Porthall, Donegal, castle of Iníon Dubh
The Laggan Redshanks remained on their lands in Portlough precinct after the Plantation began in 1610.  Their Campbell connections, Reformed faith, along with their reputation as elite fighting men, made them acceptable to the incoming Stewarts who took over the east Donegal lands of Iníon Dubh.  The Redshanks were Gaels in every sense, but could be considered British subjects in an ecumenical sense, complete with appropriate loyalties, and a version of the Protestant faith.  In the Portlough area, the incoming Planter Scots came from Ayrshire and Lennox.  Lennox included lands in the Scottish Gaeltacht and parts of Ayrshire were still Gaelic speaking in the early 1600s.  The Scots from these areas were familiar with Gaelic language and customs and were ethnically similar to the Campbell Redshanks.

Many of the descendants of the Laggan Redshanks migrated to the English Colonies during the Ulster Migration and became part of the Scots-Irish people. Of interest to the genealogist, the book includes appendices of the Portlough muster rolls and surnames of the Redshanks and notes on their point of origin in Scotland.

Link: The Laggan Redshanks 

Link: Barry R McCain 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Cultural Continuum II

Walking up to the summit of Loughcrew
This photo taken on the same day as I had the strange experience at Loughcrew in County Meath, at Sliabh na Callí, which is the main hill at the site. It is the abode of Béara, who is a Bean Sí (faerie woman) and one of the Tuatha Dé.  There is a passage tomb on top, in which at the equinox sunrise, the rays of the sun shine down and illuminate the inner chamber.  There are the graves of extremely ancient dead kings, queens, and warriors there.  I give a full account of my strange and singular experience at Loughcrew in my book 'Finding the McCains.'  

These Celtic faeries are not your wee, cute type, of the Victorian era children's books.  They are not small, and do not have wings, and are not cute. They are tall, fair, powerful beings of light, that are dangerous to be around.  Mysterious beings from another world of existence, who occasionally, still have interaction with our world.  There are several interesting theories about their existence. I will go into these matters in my next book in some detail where I explore the phenomenon of Faeries from a perspective of quantum physics and morhpic resonance and self organising fields of existence.    

Béara is remembered throughout Ireland and Scotland, in the old Gaelic homelands. She is, or has become in legend, a primordial nature spirit and Queen of Winter.  She can appear as an old woman or as a beautiful young maiden, tall and fair.  

Cailleach Béara is called Cally Berry in Ulster English and has other names in other regions.  You will also hear Gentle Annie, Old Woman of the Mountains, and she is known as Caill Bhuere in Argyll.  Cailleach is often translated as the Hag or Witch, but Cailleach really just means the Veiled One.  The word Cailleach is used in several Irish terms.  A Cailleach Phráta is a shrivelled potato and a Cailleach Oiche is an owl.  A Cailleach Feasa is a wise woman or fortune teller and a Cailleach Dhubh is the term for a nun. 

The mystery of Loughcrew and my experience there added to my understanding of the people and culture from which my family originated.  Béara is still remembered in Kilmichael Glassary where the McCain family originated.  Stories of her were told around the McCain hearths for centuries.  These stories of the Old Faith did not please everyone however.  

In 1560s, Seon Carsuel, Bishop and pastor to the fifth Earl of Argyll, complained about the Gaels in mid Argyll, where my family lived, just a short couple of miles from the Bishop's residence.  In his writings, Bishop Carsuel cited the stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann as the survival of paganism among the Gaels there.  Bishop Carsuel lived at Carnasserie Castle, and he could literally look out to the smoke from the hearth fires of McCain homes where the stories of Béara and the other Tuatha Dé Danann were being told.  The Bishop was not please with the survival of Gaelic pagan lore .

To quote Bishop Carsuel, ... darkness of sin and ignorance and design of those who teach and write and cultivate Gaelic, that they are more designed, and more accustomed, to compose vain, seductive, lying and worldly tales about the Tuatha Dé Danann and the sons of Mil and the heroes and Fionn Mac Cumhail and his warriors and to cultivated and piece together much else which I will not enumerate of tell here, for the purpose of winning for themselves the vain rewards of the world.

Bishop Carsuel wrote that in 1567.  Two short years later my own family left mid Argyll and moved to Donegal.  They were part of the the Gaelic military build up connected with Iníon Dubh and her marriage to the chief of the Ó Dónaill clan.

Myrddin (Merlin) the Druid of the Old Faith
Carsuel, in his writings on the beliefs of the Gaels, was describing a cultural continuum that was still alive in the 1500s and had it roots in the Bronze Age (or earlier).   At Loughcrew, I had experienced something that would have been familiar to my McCain ancestors that lived near him.  What would the good Bishop think if he knew centuries later that at least some Gaels still enjoyed the 'vain, seductive, lying and worldly tales' of the Tuatha Dé Danann?  No offense meant to the good Bishop, but it is reassuring to know that tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann still live and I had been fortunate enough to participate in one.  

Placing an 'intention' on a Faerie Tree
I have loved Celtic myths since I was a young boy.  It is not only my McCain family that I have this love, the other lines in my family are also from Ireland on my paternal side and from Wales on my maternal side.  My father's mother's father's line, the Tweedy family, has the Second Sight. I have been aware of the Second Sight since I was a young boy.  I am researching the Second Sight now for upcoming writing projects.  As many know I had a stroke back in late September, which laid me low for six months.  I am back writing and researching now and I have another personal experience to include in my research.  A Tweedy cousin of mine had a Second Sight experience last summer.  The vision was a portent about me and related to my health... and a month or so later, the event happened.  This gets into the topic of morphic resonance, i.e. the nuts and bolts of how Second Sight works.

Old beliefs, our tales of our people, our tribes, etc., it still lives after all this time.   We are our ancestors.  

© 2018 Barry R McCain

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