Thursday, August 13, 2015

Finding the McCains: A Scots Irish Odyssey

This week Amazon has Finding the McCains: A Scots Irish Odyssey by Barry R. McCain on sale.   This book uses DNA studies and primary sources to draw insights about the McCain family of Nutfield (now Londonderry, Derry and Windham, New Hampshire). 

From Barry himself:

“This is the family of James McKeen, first magistrate of Nutfield/Londonderry.  His in-law Rev McGregor, etc., his brother John McKeen's family also settled in Nutfield.  We discovered the connections during the DNA testing, which revealed, not only were the New England McKeens the same family as the Mississippi McCains, but the kinship was a close one.  We all descend from the same McCain family that lived in Ulster late 1600s.  The immigrant ancestors of the MS McCains, Alexander and Hugh McKean are the sons of James and John McKeen.  We have now traced the family back to the late AD 1290s using DNA testing and primary sources.

Finding the McCains is an account of one Mississippi McCain’s 40 year odyssey to find his family in Ireland. Senator John McCain and his cousin, novelist Elizabeth Spencer, both include a short history of the Mississippi McCain family in their respective memoirs 'Faith of our Fathers' and 'Landscapes of the Heart.' This history is a romantic tale of Highland Scots who supported Mary Queen of Scots and who fled to Ireland after her downfall in 1568. The search for the McCains became a mystery story with clues, false turns, many adventures, and then ultimate success through Y chromosome DNA testing. In 2008 the McCains were reunited with their family that remained in Ireland, after 289 years of separation.

The McCain history includes people and events familiar to readers of Irish and Scottish history; Redshanks, Iníon Dubh, Mary Queen of Scots, the Earls of Argyll, the Ulster Migration, and the Scots-Irish, are all part of this family’s story. Faint memories of this past were told for generations in Mississippi and as the research progressed the facts behind these memories were uncovered. Another theme in the book is the Scots-Irish. Contemporary histories about the Scots-Irish present stereotyped and romanticized accounts of this dynamic group.  Finding the McCains reveals a more complex history and shows the cultural conflation common in Scots-Irish popular history.  Finding the McCains is also a genetic genealogy how-to guide for people of Irish and Scottish ancestry.”

Barry R McCain was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and spent his early life in Ouachita parish, Louisiana. He is the administrator of the Ulster Heritage Project. The Project sponsors the Ulster Heritage DNA Project and promotes research into family and general history of the nine counties of Ulster. Mr McCain's main research focus is the Gaelic families and clans of Argyll, the southern Hebrides, and the Scottish Lowlands. Mr. McCain has a degree in history from Ole Miss and he works as a writer and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.   He is the author of the blog McCain’s Corner  and the author of The Laggan Redshanks:  The Highland Scots in West Ulster 1568 – 1630, 2014

Peer Review from Dr. William Roulston:

“In writing this book, Barry McCain has done a great service not only to those interested in the McCain ancestry, but to everyone fascinated by the millennia-old connections between Scotland and Ireland. In this volume he demonstrates the complexity of those connections, highlighting, for example, the often-overlooked Gaelic heritage of many of the families from Scotland that made Ulster their home. His use of DNA analysis to investigate otherwise hidden aspects of his ancestry serves as an exemplar of the way in which this technology can be applied to family history and the search for our forebears.

Throughout this book Barry's enthusiasm for his ancestry in both Scotland and Ireland, and his love for the people of both countries, shines through. This is a book to encourage all of us as we seek to discover something more of our past.”

I haven’t read this book yet, but I have recommended it to the Londonderry Leach library and the Derry Public Library to add to their genealogy collections.   

Link to the Amazon page for Finding the McCains


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Finding the McCains:  A Scots Irish Odyssey", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 13, 2015, ( : accessed [access date]).  

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