Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Ulster Heritage DNA Project Update, May 09

We receive many emails asking how to view the results; The best way is to go to our main website, look at the menu on the left, click on DNA Project, that will open a page that will have a link to the results.

To reach our main website Google (or use your search engine) 'Ulster Heritage,' we should be the top result. Just click on that and bring up our website, then bookmark that page. You can also click on the link below:

The Ulster Heritage DNA Project


Some news on the DNA front; our lab, Family Tree will be adding some new markers to their tests, this very good for families that have succeeded in locating many branches, this will allow participants to judge the chronology of your matches, i.e. when the various branches tie into each other. I have also heard that the Family Tree lab is going to adjust the MRA computation. This is a result of the many advances made by the geneticists in discovering new subclades, markers, etc., and this will benefit your family history research.

On our main website we will reorganise the 'Scotch-Irish' section in June. As our project has grown we see a need for much more data on the families that have Scotch-Irish ancestors. There were three migrations of Scots into Ulster, the Gallóglaigh (1200 to 1400 AD), the Redshanks (1450 to 1600 AD), and then the Plantation Scots (1610 to 1720 AD). The Ulster Scot presence in Ulster is much more complex than is commonly represented in many histories and we will post information on all three groups.

Several very important Irish clans have appeared in our results and we will continue to post news of these on the main website and on the Ulster Heritage Magazine blog. The Maguires (Mag Uidhir), the O'Kanes (Ó Catháin), O'Neills (Ó Neill) are now on the results tables, along with several other historically important clans.

We are working toward creating a non profit organisation to assist research for all participant families. It is our hope, that with this funding, we can offer free analysis to participant families in the future, so wish us luck in this endeavour. We will also have a data base created which will have a home in Ireland. For those of you that travel to Ireland and N Ireland, this will give you a place to visit, have a cup of tea and biscuit, and check the records. This data base will be unique as it will be the only one in existence that will correlate surnames, DNA results, and geographic location of families.

For families that have made sufficient progress to the point they feel the need for a researcher in Ireland or Northern Ireland we can put you in contact with bona fide researchers, in fact, the top in the field; just drop me an email if you need this.

Jim McKane, our webmaster, has added several new ebooks, and puts out a newsletter; you can join the newsletter on the main website. He also runs a forum for Ulster Genealogy, which is also found on our main website. Jim has created a store also with Ulster Heritage items for those who want to celebrate their heritage, and the funds go to helping the project. On the shop you can get shirts, caps, etc., with the Brown Bull of Ulster on them. The Brown Bull goes back to the Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cualgne). This is the epic tale of the war against Ulster by queen Mebh of Connacht, fought over the brown bull of Ulster. In the tale, the young hero Cúchulainn (said Coo-hul-lan) defends Ulster. It is one of the oldest pieces of literature in Europe and is not unlike Homer's Iliad.

If you would like to assist the Ulster Heritage Project, donations are needed and welcomed. Our main costs now are the non profit start up and the need to keep our computers up to date and serviced. You can donate via the 'Buy Us a Pint' link on the main website via paypal or just mail a cheque to our PO address.

I encourage all participants to be very proactive with your DNA results. Email all your matches, if you get a geographic fix, make sure you post notices on any forums run by that County. In your personal settings, make sure you allow non surname matches to appear, this very important. Many times a non surname match can be the missing link in a family history. Irish, Scotch-Irish, even Hugenot surnames, all have multiple variations, some surnames were translated, while others were given a phonetic form variation. You will only catch these if you allow non surname matches to appear.

I encourage everyone to do as many markers as you can afford. Due to the homogenous nature of Ulster families, often the 67 marker test is needed to confirm kinship.

If you have any basic questions, just email Jim or myself. There is a FAQ section on the main website, if you are new to genetic genealogy, make sure you read that.

I know many families are making connections, as I see them in the results section. If you have trouble finding your kit listed, just bring up the results pages, do a search for your kit number. Because there are so many anglicised forms of some surnames, I list them by the original Gaelic spelling. There is (generally) only one original spelling and this is a very good way to group the various forms of the surname.

Please notice the St Columba Medal, which can be seen on the UH Magazine site. This is the creation of artist Garth Duncan. All proceeds for the sales go to a church in need of repair on the Island of Skye, in the Hebrides. St Columba is one of the most famous sons of Ulster. He is the patron saint of Ireland, Ulster, of Scotland, and Argyll, so very important to people of Ulster ancestry. If you would like a medal just contact me or Garth Duncan.

Garth's website is: Duncan House

Cheers agus is mise le meas mór,

Barry R McCain

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Plantation of Ulster Conference

The Plantation of Ulster, 1609-2009: A Laboratory for Empire:

25-26 June (Goldsmiths, University of London); 3-5 July 2009 (University of Ulster, Magee) and 23-25 October 2009 (Trinity College Dublin).

Between 25-26 June, 3-5 July and 23-25 October 2009, Goldsmiths, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Ulster will convene a series of three major academic conferences to mark the 400th anniversary of the Ulster Plantation. This importance of this event to the shared histories of Ireland, Britain and the British imperial world would be difficult to overstate. It copper-fastened the English and British conquest of Ireland, and dramatically transformed Ireland?s physical, demographic, socio-economic, political, military and cultural landscape. In effect, the plantation became England, Britain's and the City of London's first successful attempt at plantation and the latter's vigorous attempts to protect this investment would have enormous implication for the collapse of the Tripartite Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. Furthermore, it provided a successful template for British conquest, plantation and imperialism in the Americas, the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent. Finally, its historical, political, cultural, environmental and visual effects have impact on the two cities and islands until the present day.

Scholars from Ireland, Britain, Europe and the American will re-assess the plantation and its disputed histories and heritages in its various local, national, international and global contexts. This conference will commence in London (25-26June 2009), proceed to the Plantation Citadel of Derry/Londonderry (3-5 July), a fitting location given its subsequent importance as a blueprint for plantation in the first British Empire. Finally, it will conclude in Trinity College Dublin - a major economic beneficiary of the plantation and archival receptacle for its cartographic, historical and literary records, on 23-25 October 2009 with a conference on the 1641 Rebellion.

For details contact: Christhomps84388@aol.com

Friday, 15 May 2009

Yoknapatawpha Arts Council Picnic


The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council hosts its annual membership picnic on 16 May, in Taylor, Mississippi. Yoknapatawpha is the name of the mythological county in which the Nobel Prize winning writer, William Faulkner, set many of his novels. William Faulkner valued his Scotch-Irish ancestry and his writings include many typical Ulster American families and themes. Yoknapatawpha has a place in the heritage of Ulster.

William Faulkner said, "the past is not dead . . . it isn’t even past." And this is very true for much of the South where Ulster folk settled in great numbers.

The picnic will be held at the Plein Air neighbourhood, in Taylor, MS, from 5 -8 PM. The event is free to members of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and people can join the arts council the day of the event. The arts council's mission is to foster the arts, to create opportunities for artists and for the community to experience a wide array of programs. Joining the arts council is a great way to support the musicians and artist that add so much richness to our society, and is also a way to have a very good time.


Oxford, Mississippi's Donovan McCain



Music this year will feature singer and songwriter,
Donovan McCain, Shannon McNally, and Guelel Khumba.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Ulster Origins of an American Icon


a rural settler scene played out many times in colonial Americas, from the New England backcountry to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghenies. The name 'Hillbilly' reflected both the ethnicity and geography of the Scots-Irish pioneers in North America. Illustration by Fergus Elder.

The article below was submitted by Fergus Elder, a native of Northern Ireland that has lived in Lancashire, UK, for some ten years now, where he teaches school.

One note from the editor's desk... the terms Hillbilly, Redneck, Cracker, etc., all refer to the same group here in my native South. The terms are not necessarily derogatory, it entirely depends on context. All three are still to this day commonly used affectionately within Anglo-Celtic society in the South. This community is more diverse than the media stereotypically defines it and you will find it has Plantation origin Ulster Scots, but also many Highland Scots, Highland Scots from Ireland (Redshanks), native Irish, Border English and Scots, Welsh and even Manx, and all went into the making of the Hillbilly.



The Ulster Origins of an American Icon
by Fergus Elder


Hillbilly. American [sic] colloquialism., often derog. A person from a remote rural area in a southern State. Oxford English Dictionary


Hillbilly. Noun. A disparaging term for an un-sophisticated person.
…a pejorative term for people who lived in isolation in mountainous regions of North America such as the Appalachian Mountains and Ozarks. Webster’s American Dictionary


I have chosen an expression which crops up frequently in popular use but which few people (even relatively well informed people) seem to know the origins of; add to this the paradoxical and apparently undeserved present day connotations associated with it, and we have an idiom which is somewhat misunderstood – “hillbilly”.

The term hillbilly can be broken down and simplified into the more easily understood, if less comprehensive definition; “hill” – mountain dweller or person who lives in the hills and, “billy” – a protestant of mainly Scots-Irish descent and follower of William of Orange. Bill or Billy is short for William hence, “hillbilly” – a protestant who lives in the hills. Both the Oxford English and Webster’s American dictionaries give the definition for hillbilly as being made up of - part modern social perception and part geographical fact. The term itself is an historic one which dates back to the latter part of the 17th Century and the reign of James II. James was the catholic incumbent and as such, was much disliked by the mainly protestant inhabitants of Ulster, who’s allegiance lay firmly with the Dutch Prince, William of Orange who, it was hoped might himself accede to the English throne and by doing so, re-establish a protestant monarchy. In 1689, he did just that, with the help of first and second generation Scots and English Planters now living in the north of Ireland. Due to their fierce loyalty to the protestant King, William III, they became known as “Billy-boys”, a term still in use today in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, although few would dispute its negative, sectarian connotations. Within a generation, the nickname had crossed the Atlantic to the American colonies and, in its new guise, would reflect the destination of choice for a significant number of 18th century Scots-Irish settlers, namely, the low hills and ridges of the eastern Appalachians ◊. The expression Hillbilly was born.

It is unfortunate, not to mention odd, though, that a title first used to describe a group of pious and enterprising settlers has, in more recent times, become synonymous with rustic vulgarity, ignorance and slovenliness. Is it fair, for instance, that a people such as the descendants of the backwoods and mountain dwelling farmers of Scots-Irish heritage – the original hillbillies - should have become, not only connected with, but the focus of, such long standing ridicule within American society - a society on which they, as a group, have had a no small measure of influence?

Today, the term hillbilly is used insultingly, in reference to, on the whole, white, working class Americans. Interestingly, another word, “redneck” like hillbilly which it pre-dates, can also be traced back to Ulster-Scottish roots. The name is taken from the religious group known as the Covenanters who met in Edinburgh in 1638* to sign a document which would assert their rights as Scotsmen to follow a religion other than that of the Church of England. In doing so they advanced the cause of their own more fervent and, ultimately democratic, Presbyterian faith.


Many signed in blood as a symbol of their commitment and afterwards, would wear pieces of red material around their necks in order to identify themselves with the movement. They became known as red-necks. Later on, as a result of persecution in Scotland, many Covenanters moved, first to the north of Ireland and then to the American colonies. They took the name redneck with them and today, like hillbilly, it is used to the detriment of lower-class whites. It should be pointed out however, that those who signed the National Covenant were in the main, high ranking noblemen and clergy, members of the upper echelon of Scottish society and that those for whom the term redneck was originally adopted were, if not aristocratic, at the very least learned and radical. These are hardly phrases synonymous with apathetic stupidity or ill-educated loutishness.

In America, the term wasn’t always meant as derogatory but more likely an innocuous label which allowed for easy distinction to be made between similar frontier settler groups living in relative proximity and comparable circumstances. Groups of settlers such as Germans, Scandinavians and, those (more adventurous) English colonists, willing to leave the safety and security of the cities to step out along the trail - groups who, despite their differences in origin and heritage, shared many qualities and characteristics, not least their protestant faith. Their closely guarded independence notwithstanding, all would have come into contact at one time or another whether to trade goods, to fight, marry or to form political alliances. It stands to reason that each group should refer to the other in the context of where they’d hailed from and where they now lived. Therefore the term hillbilly would have seemed a natural title for the Scots-Irish members of the young society. Better still, not only was the term accurate in a geographical sense but it also had hard line religious and even militant connotations. Given the harsh social circumstances and the political climate of colonial North America, it might be argued that the tag ‘hillbilly’ was in fact advantageous and even, enviable. Could it have been, in a contrary twist, a term of reluctant respect? Perhaps not, although what is certain is that an expression which latterly became a negatively loaded and judgemental one, formally was simply descriptive, appropriate and “relatively inoffensive”*.

It is estimated that, over the course of the 18th Century, a quarter of a million Scots-Irish emigrants left their Ulster home for America*. They followed in the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers of a century before and settled first, not in Appalachia ◊ but in New England. Initially the new arrivals were not welcomed by the Puritan population of Boston however, it didn’t matter. An innate desire for the independent rural existence they’d always known caused most ‘Scotch-Irish’ as they’d become known, to leave the city almost immediately and drive west and north. Families with all too familiar Northern Irish names such as Crawford, McClintock, McFarland and Hunter were moving to outlying English communities, in order to (in the words of one grateful Governor of Massachusetts concerned with Indian attacks on outlying villages) “…help defend the menaced western frontier, 50 miles from Boston.”* Other families with names like Anderson, McCulloch and McCurdy moved even further away, founding the towns of Colrain(e) and Warren, Massachusetts. The Alexanders, McKeens and Weirs founded Londonderry, New Hampshire, while members of the Orr family, the Montgomerys, McCobbs and McCrackens headed up the coast into what is now Maine. Some of them remained by the sea and founded Belfast.* Others explored inland, up the Wiscassett and Kennebec Rivers establishing backcountry homesteads and townships where they farmed and fished and reared their families. The hillbilly had arrived in America. He’d travelled from Scotland via Ulster to get there, and he wasn’t about to let others’ perceptions or prejudices stop him from making his mark.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Plantation of Ulster Conference

The Plantation of Ulster, 1609-2009: A Laboratory for Empire:

25-26 June (Goldsmiths, University of London); 3-5 July 2009 (University of Ulster, Magee) and 23-25 October 2009 (Trinity College Dublin).

Between 25-26 June, 3-5 July and 23-25 October 2009, Goldsmiths, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Ulster will convene a series of three major academic conferences to mark the 400th anniversary of the Ulster Plantation. This importance of this event to the shared histories of Ireland, Britain and the British imperial world would be difficult to overstate. It copper-fastened the English and British conquest of Ireland, and dramatically transformed Ireland?s physical, demographic, socio-economic, political, military and cultural landscape. In effect, the plantation became England, Britain's and the City of London's first successful attempt at plantation and the latter's vigorous attempts to protect this investment would have enormous implication for the collapse of the Tripartite Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. Furthermore, it provided a successful template for British conquest, plantation and imperialism in the Americas, the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent. Finally, its historical, political, cultural, environmental and visual effects have impact on the two cities and islands until the present day.

Scholars from Ireland, Britain, Europe and the American will re-assess the plantation and its disputed histories and heritages in its various local, national, international and global contexts. This conference will commence in London (25-26June 2009), proceed to the Plantation Citadel of Derry/Londonderry (3-5 July), a fitting location given its subsequent importance as a blueprint for plantation in the first British Empire. Finally, it will conclude in Trinity College Dublin - a major economic beneficiary of the plantation and archival receptacle for its cartographic, historical and literary records, on 23-25 October 2009 with a conference on the 1641 Rebellion.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Cornbread, a Scotch Irish Icon


In the 18th Century when many thousands of Ulster's sons and daughters came to New World to settle on the frontier, they brought with them their folkways, music, etc., and also their foods and methods of food preparation. Many of the cooking styles and foods became in time quintessentially 'American.' Foremost among these would be the humble and incredibly delicious cornbread.

The Ulster settlers brought with them a tradition of cooking flat oat breads on a griddle, something that had been done for several thousands years in Ulster. Now, in the New World these Ulster settlers quickly adapted to the new foods available to them. In the Ulster settlements oats and wheat quickly gave way to corn and the traditional griddle cooked oatcake gave way to one made of corn. This trait of adaptation and borrowing from other cultures they were exposed to was one of the reasons for success the Ulstermen had on the frontier.

Griddle cooked cornbread quickly became the bread of the Scotch-Irish communities and the bread followed them west as they conquered the nation. This wonderfully simple food is still commonly found in those areas where the Scotch-Irish settled and it is to this day a staple on the supper table of the descendants of these Ulster folk, especially in the American South.

The bread is simplicity itself, a little cornmeal, an egg, some leavening, a pinch of salt, and enough buttermilk to make a batter. This is poured onto a cast iron hot skillet with bacon grease or oil in it. In the past the bread was cooked in a skillet next to the fireplace or anyplace where coals were available. When Dutch ovens came into use, the cooking of cornbread was often done in them. Later still, when ovens became a common kitchen appliance, the cornbread recipes were adapted for the modern oven, where it came into its present day form.

The cooking of cornbread in the South is an art as well as a science. Many families have special cast iron skillets, often that have been in the family for generations, in which the cornbread, also called a corn pone, is cooked. Many women have wooden bowls and spoons handed down in from past generations, in which the batter is made. It is served with butter with a meal and can also be served after a meal with honey or sorghum syrup, as sweet.

Cornbread is a wonderful food, simple, tasty, and also part of a many thousand year cultural continuum, from Ulster.

Barry R McCain

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Thompson Brothers














The article below is written by Mark Thompson. Mark is a 21st Century, Ulster Scots Renaissance man, equally at home with the pen or mandolin. Part of the vast richness of Ulster is her music. This music includes ancient Gaelic melodies of haunting beauty, of ballads that mark historical events and people, rich traditions from both Ireland and Scotland come together in Ulster. One aspect of Ulster music all too often overlooked in an increasingly secular materialistic world is the sacred music of Ulster and this aspect of Ulster's music the Thompson Brothers perform, part of a living and much welcomed tradition.

Mark Thompson and Graeme Thompson are the founders and original lead vocalists of the Low Country Boys. These days they are doing something similar, but simpler - old-time gospel music in the classic mandolin/guitar "brother duet" tradition of the early 1900s.


During the 20s, 30s and 40s, before bluegrass had developed, one of the most popular styles was the brother duet. It was simple, clean-sounding, using only a guitar and mandolin and two-part "close harmony" singing style. Bill Monroe invented bluegrass around 1945, but for the previous decade he had played with his brother Charlie in one of the most influential of the duet acts - the Monroe Brothers - founded on the Scotch-Irish folk music traditions of their home state of Kentucky, and a heavy influence of their rural Baptist upbringing.


"...(Bill) Monroe used only guitar and mandolin accompaniment on religious songs… all emphasis was placed on the total performance of the song in a reverent and ritualistic way; this is the hymn, it’s treated seriously..." (ref. Bluegrass p 236-237)

"...Hillbilly music achieved a level of purity and simplicity with the development of brother duets. It was generally held that those of the same blood would naturally empathise musically... The best of the early brother duets were the Blue Sky Boys, the Delmore Brothers and the Monroe Brothers. Where much hillbilly music was considered to be coarse, vulgar and badly presented, brother duets were more acceptably clean and precise. The singing was high-pitched, with one voice carrying the melody and the other harmonising a third or fifth above. Instrumentation was a strummed guitar and mandolin playing rhythm on the off-beat, with the occasional punctuated riff or "turnaround". The finest and most commerically successful of the brother duets were the Louvin Brothers, Ira and Charlie (pictured above). Many of the songs they wrote and recorded during the 1940s and 1950s, such as "I Don't Believe You've Ever Met My Baby", and "When I Start Dreaming", became big country hits and part of the repertoires of singers such as Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons two decades later. The brother duet form went on to influence the way popular music was to develop. Ricky Skaggs claims that the Monroe Brothers had "the greatest influence on twentieth-century music". This bold statement starts to hold some water when he goes on to explain: "the Monroe Brothers influenced the Louvin Brothers, the Louvin Brothers infuenced the Everly Brothers, the Everly Brothers influenced John Lennon and Paul McCartney..." from World Music, the Rough Guide.

As Bill C Malone puts it in the best book on the subject, these early musical styles emerged from the cultural fusion of "...rural folkways, evangelical Protestantism, and political individualism...". Even solo performers like Hank Williams demonstrated this: ".. neither Williams nor his music can be understood apart from the religious context in which he was born and raised... the Baptist church... All of Hank's religious material was deep-dyed fundamentalist fare, basically no different from the songs favoured by the Louvin and Bailes Brothers..."

Today, you can hear echoes of the brother duet style throughout most forms of folk and country music, right up to the altCountry style pioneered during the 1990s by bands like the Jayhawks, to the 2008 IBMA bluegrass award winners Dailey and Vincent, and present-day brother duets like the Gibson Brothers. It's a proud legacy and an enduring tradition - we hope that in some way we're helping to carry it on.

Mark Thompson

The Thompson Brothers blog will tell you more about the great brother duets, and other aspects of evangelical rural American culture and its Scotch-Irish / Ulster-Scots cultural roots - and a wee bit about their own music too.

The Thompson Brothers