Friday, 11 January 2008

Senator John McCain and Ireland

I have received many inquires into Senator McCain’s family’s origin. Is it Scottish or Irish? I can not tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. What is the true story? More than a few of our readers have noticed that the Ulster Heritage DNA Project is run by two members of the McCain family, i.e. Jim McKane from Ontario, Canada, and Barry R McCain of Oxford, Mississippi and so it is understandable that so many people email or call us asking about Senator McCain’s connections to Ireland.

The short answer is his people are indeed from Ulster, from County Antrim, Ireland. They left from Coleraine town circa 1719 and appear on the border of the Pennsylvania and Maryland Colony in the early 1720s. His immigrant ancestor was named Alexander McKean and yes, the two lads who run the Ulster Heritage DNA Project are from the same McCain family.

Those that have read Senator McCain’s autobiography, Faith of Our Fathers, will know that he addresses his McCain roots briefly in that book. He gives a short history of his McCains being Highland Scots, connected to Clan Donald. So, how does that tie into the reality of his Antrim roots? Well, he made a slight, but very understandable error in his family history, one which many McCains of this family have made, including myself. The story he gives was one that circulated widely among the members of our family from the early 1900s well into the 1980s. It was a story crafted by early researchers who meant well, but were totally lost in the very Gaelic world of the early McCains. It was only recently and after he completed his book that a more complete and accurate history of this McCain family was recovered. This recovered history was the work of several McCain researchers, both native born Irish McCains and McCains in Canada and USA, who used DNA testing and primary source research to find out what they could about the family.

Senator McCain’s family has Mississippi roots, they are the Teoc McCains. Teoc, which is in Carroll County, Mississippi, is the little community that grew up around the plantation of this branch of the McCain family. Teoc is a Choctaw word, a shortened form of Teoc Tillila which means Tall Pines. Their patriarch, William Alexander McCain, named his plantation Waverly, but the Choctaw name stuck and the area is called Teoc to this day. I am rather glad the Choctaw word stuck as it is a lovely name.

Senator McCain’s second cousin is the author Elizabeth Spencer. In her memoir Landscapes of the Heart she writes of her days spent at Teoc and her McCain kin. She has a fascinating bit of oral history relating to the McCain family. I mention this because being a writer as she is, she is also a listener, and in her memoir she relates what she heard about the McCain history as a girl at Teoc. It is a romantic story of the McCains, again remembered as Highland Scots, being supporters of Mary Queen of Scots and having to flee after her downfall in 1568.

Now we have to go into the Byzantine world of late Medieval Gaelic families and politics circa 1480s into the mid 1500s, for that is the real world of the McCain family which became planted in north Antrim. There is the very complex history of Gaelic families of the old order, of Gaelic military castes in Argyll moving to Ireland and becoming the Irish Gallóglaigh. Then there are the Earls of Argyll and their intrigues in Ulster and support of Irish clans, their sending Gallóglaigh and Red Shanks to Antrim, their support of Mary Queen of Scots, etc., and somewhere right in the middle of this stood the McCain family.

This is where the research into this family is at present; both the primary source research and the DNA testing suggest they were one of many Gaelic families that moved back and forth over the Irish Sea and part of the Gallóglaigh kindreds. Research is still ongoing so it is premature to come to final conclusions, but Senator McCain’s roots go back to this Gaelic world. He is of Irish ancestry; this is certain, but there is an old link to Argyll and to Gaelic Scotland as well. Given the dynamic history of his family, his father, grandfather, and now his son, this history fits them well.

Additional material on this McCain family is lcoated here:

Barry R McCain © 2008

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update January 2008

First some requests:

We ask that you make sure you have your early ancestor data enter on your Family Tree Page. On your Family Tree homepage, click on User Preferences, scroll down toward the bottom of the page until you reach Displaying the Most Distant Known Ancestor; there you can enter the birth data of your earliest ancestor on your Paternal side and his location using longitude and latitude. There is a link in this section that will give you the proper longitude and latitude; all you have to do is enter the closest town that you can place him in. You have to enter the Early Ancestor data for his name to display on the results tables.

Next, please remember to upload all your markers to the Ysearch, many people only have their 25 markers uploaded.

Also, please remember to keep your email contact data on your Family Tree Page current, it is the only way we have to contact you.

We have 446 members in the project now and we are growing by the week. We are very pleased to see the entire spectrum of Ulster folk in the project; we have Antrim Glens men with old Highland and Island links, plenty of native Irish from around Ulster, then a good number of Ulster Scots, and even several old Norman families.

The Results has been interesting, several families have located their kin still living in Ulster, in some cases after nearly 300 years of separation. There are a lot of R1b1c7s turning up as we expected, they are the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a very dynamic tribal group with originated in east Donegal. One surprise to me is the number of Norse origin men in the project; we will report more on that later as the geneticists are still fine tuning how to tell a Norse haplogroup results from a Friesian or northwest German.

The majority of men who have tested are R1b1c and variations on that. These are men whose ancestors go back to the base Celtic population of the Isles, their stock is older than the hills. We know now that Celtic society developed from the indigenous population rather than the Victorian concept of ‘waves of invaders’ replacing existing populations.

As always if you have questions about the DNA project please write. If you notice errors in the posting of results, please contact us. Jim and I are very busy and it may take awhile to correct found errors, but we will do so.

Also if you have suggestions for links, books, etc., that you feel would help our participants with their research, please send us your suggestions. We now have a book shop on the site with titles of interest to people of Ulster ancestry.

We ask that all participants tell their friends about the project and give your friends the address address.

Many people have contacted us about several of the Ulster family websites, about how to set up one, or develop a clan website. We do offer free hosting to non commercial websites and Jim McKane our webmaster can give you technical advice. You can visit the McCain Clan website to see how one family does it, also in the links you will find several other families that have their own family or clan websites, please take a look at these to gain to ideas and tips.

Many of you have written me of your experiences in finding your relatives or unravelling your family’s history using your DNA results; we would like to have short articles on this topic if any of you would like to take pen in hand. Just write it up on a MS Word doc and send it in to us. Not only is it interesting reading, but will show others how some families use their DNA results.

We are also partial to any good photos of your travels in Ulster.

Other News:

The project has received complimentary emails from some of the top historians that study Ulster History, such as Dr Barry Vann and Dr Michael Montgomery. Their books for sale in our bookshop.

We are going to experiment with putting more news and updates on the UH Blog, which we call the Ulster Heritage Magazine, you can access it from the main web site via several links to it there. We will also add a recommended reading list.

We are looking into the logistics of adding maternal DNA results and we are looking into adding a forum as well.

Jim McKane, our webmaster is on his annual migration from Ontario to Arizona. We all wish him safe travels as the roads are very wintery this week. I will see if I can get him to post a couple of photos of his rig, impressive.

Wishing Everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year

Barry R McCain
Ulster Heritage DNA Project