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The McGills
The Hunt for an Ancestor, Continued—
Freefield to 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 Auditor’s 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 our investigation.

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.

Sincerely yours,

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.

First find:
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."


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.

Very sincerely,


Feb. 19, 1891.

With the above came the following:

Dear Gus: What do you say about these folks? Are they of our crowd?

Yours, A. R. M.

Further finds,

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.

Page 462.

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 officers.

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 were concerned.

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 proprietor.

Motto - Is significant of the ruling idea of the house.

Bordure - Margin around the shield.

Gu. (Gules) - Red perpendicular lines on the body of shield.

Ar. (Argent) - In silver field.

Ppr . - In colors.

V. - Last colo r -in silver or gold.

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