McGills The Hunt for an Ancestor, Continued
Richard Oulahan, Master of the Hounds
The foregoing article from
the "Irish American" by "Laffan," and the letter from Daniel Macgill of
Sligo, together with comments by the writer hereof, having been forwarded
to Mr. Oulahan, brought forth the following reply:
Treasury Department, Third
Auditors Office, Washington, D. C., April 17, 1891.
My Dear Sir: Thanks for
your friendly letter and its enclosures. I return to you the printed sheet
and the letter from Sligo. A word about "Laffan :" He is an old and very
dear friend of mine. His name is Michael Hennesy, and for years he wrote
the genealogical notes for the "Irish American" free gratis for nothing.
He has been the commercial editor of the "New York Times" for about
twenty-eight years, and has the best Irish library in America. He is the
most critical and reliable writer on such matters it is my good fortune to
know. You can rely on what he writes.
I have not found anything new since
I wrote you, nor have my two expert scouts.
I would suggest to your talented
cousin, Capt. A. McGill, not to adopt theories for facts. I had fancied
that I knew pretty accurately the topography and geography of Ireland, but
the Captain says I gave "Larne" as in County Down. If I mentioned the name
at all - and I do not remember that I did - I did not take it out of
Antrim and set it down in County Down.
The fact of his people being able to
see the Scotch coast from their residence has nothing to do with their
being Scotch. None of the Scotch except those on the coast could see
Scotland, yet they were no less Scotch-Irish. Let him be content with the
historical fact that Macgill is Scotch. He appears to be doubtful about "Magill;"
McGill and Macgill are the same thing.
By the way, your Sligo correspondent
says, he added the full "Mac" to make it more Irish; why in this case he,
very innocently, has changed it from the Irish form "McGill" to the
distinctively Scotch form "MacGill."
So you see how cautious we must be in
A word en passant about the Martins.
Centuries before James I.'s time the "Martins of Galway" were the great
family of the grand old town of Galway, and here and there in the county,
too. In Hardimans (a learned historian of this Century), West Connaught, I
find many notes about the Martins. There are - not nine, but ninety-nine
chances to one, that your maternal ancestor, who was an English officer,
was of the Galway line. This, of course, makes no difference, except to
try hereafter to trace him.
A. R. McGill, Esq., Minneapolis, Minn.
I do not remember what I wrote in my
letter to Gov. McGill (which he referred to Mr. Oulahan) that provoked his
ire and prompted him to admonish me to discard theories and fancies and
adhere to historical facts. The fact is that I had been burrowing in the
most unpromising fields for historical facts and every authentic discovery
I had made disproved some popular tradition persistently maintained by
some of our home theorists.
When Mr. Oulahan took up the work I
followed him like a sleuth and every track he made was microscopically
examined and its dimensions taken. Every fragment he sent in (it was all
very fragmentary) was diligently compared with such meager historical data
as were accessible and all concurrent and co-ordinate events noted. I was
not diverging from historical facts, but was in eager pursuit of them.
Mr. Oulahan's facts were
indisputable. He quotes from the greatest and most authentic works of our
times, and his researches were most indefatigable. The point of divergence
was not on his historical facts, but in our conclusions. The question at
issue had practically been submitted to "Laffan;" at least, his statements
had been called in evidence. "Laffan" declares that the name is of "Old
Irish" derivation and that the Scotch nomenclature is the corruption of
mixed dialects, and then proceeds to prove directly to the contrary. Mr.
Oulahan indorses every statement made by Hennesy as strictly reliable, and
then recedes from his original conclusion that we were of the old Irish
and declares we are of Scotch Irish derivation, or better still, of the
Scotch Celt; and then turns around and snarls at me as if I had said
anything to the contrary. Our good and highly respectable brother from
Sligo is called up and attests the faith that is in him by turning his
name wrong end to "to make it more Irish."
Truly, our good Governor from
Minnesota has got us into a pretty mix ; all to prove something that was
never for a moment in doubt in my mind, and I do not believe it was, in
the mind of either "Laffan" or Oulahan. As to Daniel, I think he had
better be left out, at least, until he gets his name straightened out and
finds exactly on which side of the fence he belongs. History, tradition,
racial characteristics, form, features, moral and mental tendencies, with
all the indelible birthmarks of intellectuality and manly pride, religion
and nativity prove our pure Scotch Irish derivation, and so I stated in my
letter to Governor McGill, sent to Oulahan. He thinks these things "fables
or fancies." Well, perhaps they are somewhat theoretical, but when
sustained by history and well authenticated traditions they very largely
outweigh that other theory advanced by "Laffan" and indorsed by Oulahan,
that the unpretending Scotch Irish name, McGill, is a "sadly mutilated
derivation" from the ancient Irish cognomens, "MacGillashulligh,
McGillhooly or simply Gillhooly."
Now, for the edification of all
concerned we will state that our ancestors, up to the beginning of the
Nineteenth Century, in Ireland and in America, in writing their name, did
not use any form mentioned by our learned, distinguished and expert
correspondents. My grandfather, Patrick McGill, wrote his name thus M'Gill,
using the apostrophe, indicating the omission of a letter or letters
between the M and G. The letters omitted may have been -ac-ak-or simply-a
or c-as used in the forms, Macgill-Makgill-Magill, or McGill, all well
known Scotch forms of great antiquity and rarely found in ancient Irish
nomenclature. The change from the apostrophe to -c- was made by the Clerks
in the Pennsylvania Land Office when the State issued patents to the
McGill's for public lands purchased by them. Thereafter, in order to
correspond with the title, all legal documents were signed McGill and the
form gradually came into general use. The present form did not originate
in Ireland, ancient or modern, so far as our family is concerned, though,
it was probably in use there, derived from the Scotch form of MacGill. It
is easily within my recollection that the form M'Gill was in frequent use,
especially where the name appears in print in the periodicals of that day.
These several forms all mean the same and are pronounced alike, and
philologically considered establish the fact of our Scotch antecedents.
But we have promised the field to
Richard Oulahan and give place to the result of his valuable researches,
only going back a few days for a starting point.
Feb. 19, 1891.
From King James' Irish Army List, A. D. 1689.
By John D'Allen, Barrister-at-Law.
Page 648 McGill
Captain Arthur McGill-
This officer appears by the
description of his attainder of A. D. 169i, to have been of Carryroan,
County of Antrim.
"At the Court of Claims in A. D.
1700,Hugh Colville preferred a petition for the revision of a
chattel interest which this (the above) Arthur held in that county, and
the claim was allowed."
"Rory Magill of Larne and Bryan Magill
also forfeited lands in same county."
"In Colonel Cormack O'Neill's Infantry Cormack McGill
was a Lieutenant, and Neill McGill was an Ensign."
Attest. RICHARD OULAHAN.
J. K. Moore, Esq.
Dear Sir: From a very scarce and valuable work of mine
I have made the above extracts for your friend, Governor McGill.
The above mentioned officers of James' Army were
undoubtedly Catholics, and this, as well as the confiscations that
followed the defeat at the Boyne (1690), would indicate that the
Governor's ancestors were of the old Irish, rather than of the
Scotch-Irish stock ; the latter only settled on the North of Ireland in
the reign of James I., about A. D. 1608.
If I can further trace the McGill family I shall be glad
to let you know.
Feb. 19, 1891.
With the above came the following:
Dear Gus: What do you say about these folks? Are they of
Yours, A. R. M.
On the same trail.
The Irish Landed Gentry when Cromwell came into Ireland.
By John O'Hart, Dublin, 1880.
Page 16. At the battle of Tieroghan, June, A. D. 1650,
a great deal of the Irish, including 3 Generals, 20 Colonels-Majors killed
(not taken prisoner, as I fear, my note handed to Mr. J. K. Moore stated),
Major Bryan MacGill (killed).
Forfeiting Proprietors, Ireland,
County Monaghan, Barony of Trough.
* * *
Page 299. Richard MacGill. * * *
A. D. 1661-1665
Grants of Charles II., to those who were loyal
to Charles I., and to himself.
Names of persons in the grants :
* * *
James MacGill or Magill.
Hugh and James Magill.
One of the Acts says :
"Protestants and also innocent papists to have titles." (i.
e. Grants or restoration to their lands.)
NOTE - It seems strange that as early as A. D. 1650,
Major Bryan MacGill should be found on the Irish side-if he or his father
were "undertakers" under James I., less than forty years before the
battle. Indeed, all the above named MacGills were on the Irish side.
U. S. Treasury Department,
3rd Auditor's Office,
March 9, 1891.
J. K. Moore, Esq.
Dear Sir: While you are still at your home and within
striking distance of your friend, Governor McGill, I wish you to say to
him that I shall make every effort by careful research to oblige him.
Assure him that as a student of Irish history and genealogy I only seek
the truth and would not cater to any class or race.
It certainly staggered my old opinion that MacGill is
what is known as Scotch-Irish, when I found officers of the name serving
under Charles I. and II. because if the ancestor of the Irish McGills went
over with the great Colony between, 1602 and 1610 (James I.) it is strange
to find one or more of them fighting under Charles I. and getting a grant
of land (was restored in part from Charles II.) as one of the A. D. 1649
I still incline to think that McGill is Scotch-Irish
and hope in a few days to settle this question once for all. Keeping in
mind what I have said as to my unprejudiced mind, I fancy that the
Governor's ancestor, if he were Scotch, who first went to the North of
Ireland, may with his immediate descendants have been Catholic in
religion, for if so, the side on which the McGill officers fought is
understood. Per contra, I find Cromwell confiscated the property of some
who fought under Charles I., as malignant Protestants, i. e., enemies of
the Commonwealth. * * * Never mind; the skies will be clearer by and by,
or "Molly Stark will be a widow."
With great respect to Governor McGill, the lineal
descendant of the martial Princes of Leix (Pr. Lace),
I am, truly yours,
Richard was a great hunter, but he could not cover his
trail, and regardless of his admonition to the talented Captain he
switches off into byways and indulges in fancies not very reliable
material for history. But we must follow our guide and plunge into the
intricate mazes of heraldry and tradition.
is the science of recording genealogies and emblazoning
arms and ensigns armorial. It had its origin in feudal times and developed
largely during the Crusades. It was originally a distinct military device,
but later became a badge of distinction in civic affairs. In most of the
old countries it is regulated by laws and traditionary usages. In England
there is a college of heraldry at the Court of St. James that regulates
the emblazonry to be mounted on the shields of those entitled to the
distinction of a "Coat of Arms."
It is useful in tracing genealogy and perpetuating the
history of notable events in which the bearer or some of his ancestors
My knowledge of heraldry is exceedingly limited, but
the following explanations may be useful to the reader in deciphering some
of the cabalistic signs in the next chapter :
Arms - Coat of Arms.
Crest - Usually represents bird, or beast, or some
significant device-is often emblazoned on anything pertaining to the
Motto - Is significant of the ruling idea of the house.
Bordure - Margin around the shield.
Gu. (Gules) - Red perpendicular lines on the body of
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