Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sorting McCowns and McKowns in Fermangh and America

I have taken the liberty of reporting to you, in his own words, some very interesting thoughts in regard to the DNA matches between Jim McKown, and me, and research sources from William Roulston, Research Director,
Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Dear William,

That is very interesting to have found such a close match. One wonders
whether your earliest ancestor in America and his were brothers,
uncle/nephew or cousins, and whether they emigrated together and then
went their separate ways in America.

With regard to the McKowns in Fermanagh in 1911, I carried out an
exercise comparing these names with the 1901 census. Interestingly, not
one of the McKowns in 1911 turns up with that spelling in 1901.

There were, as you have noted, 7 instances of McKown in Fermanagh 1901
(all in the townland of Crocknagrally, and interestingly Protestant
(Church of Ireland)) - again their surnames were spelled differently in
1911 (McKeown).

The difficulty you have is the fact that official records of emigration
from the British Isles do not begin until 1890. Before that you are
depending on the survival of a passenger lists or records in America of
people arriving there.

Have you had a look at Janie Revill, 'A Compilation of the Original
Lists of Protestant Immigrants to South Carolina, 1763-1773', Columbia
SC: The State Company, 1939, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical
Publishing Company, 1968. It might be worth checking that out.

Another difficulty is that we still are not certain where your ancestors
left from. Certainly DNA has shown that your McCown ancestor was
originally a Maguire and therefore his origins lie in County Fermanagh.
However, the considerable disruption to Irish society in the 17th
century meant that people ended up in areas perhaps some distance from
where they came from. Our friend from the early 1600s, Edmond Maguire
McCown, turns up in Tyrone. There were even Maguires in Strabane in the

As emigrants often maintained a degree of kinship, what could be useful
would be to assemble a list of the surnames that occur in the immediate
environs of the McCown homestead in South Carolina. Would that be
something difficult to do? Then by comparing the names with their
distribution here in Ulster it might be possible to see patterns that
could lead to where your ancestors lived in Ireland prior to their

An interesting discovery that I've just made is that of a Lawrence
McQuoan in The Five Towns, Creggan parish, County Louth, in 1766. He was
a Catholic. One can easily imagine McQuoan being pronounced in much the
same way as McCown.

A further interesting discovery, perhaps even more so, is that of a
Laurence McCowen in Lisburn, a town near Belfast, in 1766. He was a
Protestant. It was the combination of names in both instances that I
found so interesting. Law(u)rence is certainly not a common
'Scots-Irish' name. Lisburn and the Lagan Valley certainly was an area
associated with with large-scale migration to Colonial America.


Dr William Roulston
Research Director
Ulster Historical Foundation
49 Malone Road
Belfast, BT9 6RY
028 9066 1988

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