Sunday, 17 August 2008

The McCanes of County Laois

One of the joys of running the Ulster Heritage DNA Project is meeting people in Ulster or that have Ulster roots. Our readers have perhaps noticed a bias toward McCain news, this is not by design, rather the McCain family DNA project was the first large and successful projects that used Y chromosome DNA testing to locate family members in the Diaspora and Ireland. It was the prototype project in many ways and its success was the nucleus from which the Ulster project grew. This is why so many McCain families appear in our news. They are not all the same family however. There are at least five McCain 'clans' that have been located. Some are Irish and others are Scottish or Manx.

There are the McCains of Antrim and Donegal from which Senator John McCain is a descendant. Other McCains descend from the McDonald clan chiefs. Another other source of McCains in Ulster is the very old and distinguished Ó Catháin clan of Derry and north Antrim. Via DNA tests we confirmed that some of the Ó Catháin branches anglicised their surnames as McCain, McCane, etc., in addition to the more common O'Kane, Keane, etc. We also have noticed the surname Mac Canna being anglicised as McCain and the surname of Mac Eáin in turn sometimes being anglicised as McCann rather than the normal McCain. It is complex, but with DNA testing we can thankfully sort out who is who.

In the photo above are two participants in our DNA project, Aidan McCane of Portlaoise , County Laois Ireland and Dr Giles Keane of Dartmouth , Devon U.K. (formerly of Co. Clare). Dr Keane's family is listed in Burkes Peerage and they have Family Seats at Clare and Waterford. Aidan McCane and Dr Keane met to discuss some of the finer points of McCane and Keane genealogy and explore possible links between the two families.

Aidan McCane's family has a fascinating and true oral history of being from the North, either Ulster or the Isles, and the patriarch of their family coming south to fight in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. During the retreat north after the battle their man settled in Porlaoise giving rise to the McCane clan of that district. I think John McKane the well known UK country musician is also of this line.

DNA confirmed Aidan McCane's people belong to the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages haplogroup and his closest DNA matches are to two men surname Cain and McCann. The Cain participant is a descendant of the family of Manus Rua Ó Catháin, the famous Irish commander that lead a regiment under Montrose.

Barry R McCain (c) 2008

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