The well known English leftist newspaper, the Guardian, recently ran an odd article supposedly to debunk the reported ancestry of the popular American Republican presidential candidate. The head line of the piece proclaims…
John McCain, veteran war hero: yes. But a descendant of Robert the Bruce? Baloney
Then we get the hard hitting gist
... Asked by the Guardian to investigate McCain's family history, genealogist and medieval historians described the link to Robert the Bruce as 'wonderful fiction' and ' baloney'...
It is an odd article to the educated reader as the subjects of the sentences toggles back and forth between John McCain’s paternal and maternal lines. The article is not in fact about John McCain’s paternal McCain ancestors, but rather those of two of his maternal lines, the Earles and Lamonts and their connections to Robert the Bruce. The writer of the article is unaware of some basic biology or prefers paternal surnames when leveling remarks that could be taken as less than flattering to the Republican Presidential candidate.
The Guardian asked a panel of experts it selected to ‘investigate’ an oral history told in John McCain’s family, which has never been offered up by the family as the written-in-stone truth, but rather exactly what is stated, an oral history passed down. Despite this aspect of the Senator’s story, the newspaper felt it necessary to debunk it none-the-less.
Rather than rely upon the speculation and guesses of an English newspaper’s selected genealogists and medieval historians it is now possible to turn to the brutally honest science of genetics to examine one’s ancestors. So how do John McCain’s ancestors stack up?
John McCain’s roots go back to the McCain family of Teoc, which is in Carroll, County Mississippi. The Carroll county McCains and their relations has been the subject of a five year running Y chromosome DNA tests. The results have been very revealing and also confirm John McCain’s ‘oral history’ about his paternal line. There was some Victorian era colour brushed upon the tale, but the basic facts were spot on.
John McCain’s paternal line is a Gaelic one, from County Antrim. They are not really Scots-Irish, but rather an old order Gaelic family that had links to the mid Argyll. For those readers not familiar with Gaelic history, Irish and Scottish Gaels moved back and forth from Ulster to the southern Hebrides and Argyll for centuries. In the late 1400s into the mid 1500s there was a large movement of Gaels from mid Argyll into Ulster to settle, encouraged to do so by the leading Gaelic clans of that day, such as the McDonnells of the Glens and Route, the O' Neills of Tyrone, the Aodh Buí O’Neills of County Antrim, the O’Kanes of County Derry. The DNA results place the McCains among these Gaels that moved from Argyll into Ulster circa late 1400s to mid 1500s.
Gaels of Argyll origins often were part of the Irish Gallóglaigh caste, left is a late Medieval stone carving of a Gallóglach.
The Y-chromosome haplogroup that the McCain family belongs turned out to be interesting. This haplogroup is centred in the geographic area of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Raida, i.e. County Antrim, Ireland and mid-Argyll and in this area it even out numbers the famous Niall of Nine Hostage (R1b1c7) haplogroup discovered by researchers at Trinity. It is very possible these McCains belong to a paternal dynastic family long associated with Dal Riada; additional research will likely reveal even more details.
While the Y-chromosome DNA research into the McCain family does not relate to the validity of the Earles and Lamonts in John McCain’s ancestry, the research does show that the parts of John McCain’s family’s oral history that has been researched, did in fact turn out to be true.
In the hurry to obtain readers and ratings the media increasingly presents stories before facts and research have been done. It might be a good idea, that prior to announcing that a prominent family’s history has been debunked to have actually done some in-depth research relative to the matter. The Guardian-led investigation is mere speculation which when given the labels wonderful fiction and baloney suggests political motivation rather than a desire to provide its readers with the facts. In fact, the article offered no evidence of in-depth research on these families’ link to Robert the Bruce. The matter is as yet unknown. Perhaps one day there will be such research, perhaps both mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA testing could be a part of this research. Until that time it might be wise to hold off on the gleeful debunking. The Guardian may be thinking ahead here as one of the experts went on to say Robert the Bruce was ‘an absolute scoundrel’. I guess this is to cover their bases just in case Senator McCain’s link to The Bruce turns out to be bona fide.
Barry R McCain (c) 2008