Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2011-10 > 1319716768
From: Bob Kissel <>
Subject: Re: [S-I] Antrim Ancestors
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 04:59:28 -0700 (PDT)
I am impressed with your knowledge. Very interesting history.
I am struggling to learn about my Irish amcestors. I have PHILLIPS, CHAPMAN,
HARPER and BLAIR in my tree.
I am having a diffcult time finding much on them. They all seem to be from
Belfast to Lambeg.
They seem to be Ulster-Scots.
I have not got back much further than about 1790.
Thank you for sharing,
From: "" <>
Sent: Wed, October 26, 2011 3:32:27 PM
Subject: Re: [S-I] FEE FAMILY IN FERMANAGH
I am sure McFee's have been in Ireland much earlier than 1690 simply because
Scotland is close to Ireland. Also the McPhees were hereditery keepers of the
records of the Lord of the Isles. The McDonald clan has official ties in Ulster
reaching back into the 1400s when through a marriage they acquired right to
Antrim. They later used this as reason to invade around 1550. They didn't invade
by themselves. They brought an army of Scots with them, all Gaelic speaking
highlanders, like themselves, Catholic. They fought with the various Irish clans
and then later with the English, holed up in Carrigfergus. The English finally
settled the brugh ha ha by murdering everyone and everything within 20 miles or
so of Carrigfergus. This created a famine which killed anything else they
missed. The local Irish continued to rebel against Queen Elizabeth until after
her death (which they didn't know about or they'd not have surrendered). Now
we're up to the very early 1600s where there wasn't!
a church in Ulster with a roof.
Her heir happened to be king of Scotland. so in the settlement, not
surprisingly, King James took the side of the McDonalds and recognized their
claim to County Antrim. He made a couple stipulations. Among them were that they
settle lowland farmers amongst the highlanders and Irish. This was fine with
Randal McDonald. Highlands and Irish, besides being largely Catholic and Gaelic
speaking, were also both very good at cattle raising but not great farmers.
Farmers helped ensure the viability of the estate. Later, in 1642 with a Scots
army was marrauding through Ulster it slaughtered a group of McDonald tenants
who, it is claimed, were loyal, but spoke Gaelic and were McDonalds. This was
enough for the Campbell army to slaughter them all. The point being in the mid
1600s even in County Antrim, many of the so -called Scots were Catholic, Gaelic
speaking highlanders. The McFees would have been highlanders.
As to when your particular group came to Ireland, we donno. How they got to
Fermanagh also is a mystery. It is possible they migrated there, possibly from
Antrim. There was lots of moving about in Ulster. I do know for certainty that
some from central Antrim settled in Tyrone.
It is possible the McPhee/McFee clan has history relating to specific groups in
various places in Ulster, but more likely they do not.
Page 59 of Bell "Book of Ulster Surnames" indicates that in the 17th century the
McFees scattered. Other MacFie sept names that came to Ulster were MacAfee,
MacFee, MacHaffie (now Mahaffy). Your ancestors could be hiding out under these
names. Unfortunately for us, the Irish and the highlanders didn't use fixed
surnames. The English liked to assign these to people so they could draft them,
tax them, and if they proved too intractable, hang them. So why would anyone
want one or be stupid enough to go by one moniker?
However you have another problem, one we all share with you. That is that it is
not for certain you should be having fantasies about Scotland at all. It was an
Irish colony. About 500 AD it seems the Scotti moved from Ireland to Scotland,
then known as "Pictland" or Alba, and inhabited by Picts. By the time of Kenneth
McAlpin the Picts were totally subsumed by the Gaelic speaking Scotti, even
Pictish was lost.
So bear this in mind when I tell you that on page 64 of the same book it tells
us that (Mc)Fee (Fey and Fie) are anglicisations of O'Fiaich, which comes from
fiach or raven. They were an Irish sept of Cenel Eoghain, descended from a son
of the founder of the O'Neill clan. Their original home was County Fermanagh.
We're told that the O'Fees and the Cosgraves were erenaghs of Derrybrusk near
Enniskillen. The 'census' of 1659 supposedly records O'Fee as a principal name
of the area. Your research would tell you if this is near where your ancestors
They spread to Armagh and Cavan (Cavan was a 'native' plantation and the higher
parts of Armagh have never appealed to Scots or English). The book also tells us
that (Mac)Fee is also common in Antrim, where some were probably Scots. The
Antrim McFees probably cluster in the Glenns. Many Glenns people are highland
Scots in origin. Many remain Catholic and consider themselves Irish, not Ulster
So how do you sort this out? I suggest to you the quickest and cheapest way is
to have your DNA tested. There are many firms you can google for, but largely
there are two: www.familytreedna.com . They seem to have cornered the market on
Y chromo testing. You will have to find a male relation whose surname is McFee,
meaning a direct male line. He would bear the family Y chromo. ORder a 67 marker
test (almost worthless with less -- our DNA is very alike). If you are +M222,
you are probably descended from the Irish sept. M222 is the marker for northwest
Irish DNA. If something else, maybe Scots. The DNA experts can tell you more.
Meanwhile, you've got at least six weeks to kill, till test results arrive. You
can spend it gathering information.
The first thing to know about Irish genealogy is it is local history, local
history, and more local history. Buried in the local area where your family came
from may be the history of your specific group. Parish histories (especially NOT
of your ancestor's religion) are useful. One place with a huge collection is the
Family History Library in Salt Lake City. They also have copies of the
Parliamentary Records relating to Ireland. The depositions from the 1641 rising
are now free on line too. You may catch wind of them there. Be sure to check a
zillion spelling variants. You'll be interested in knowing what happened on the
estate and townland where your ancestor lived.
For example one client of mine line was first seen in the barony of Dungannon,
largely in Tyrone. This is where the last O'Neill castle was - the heart of the
kingdom. His DNA is Northwest Irish, though the family came to America in the
early 1770s and became hillbillies, like the rest of us here <grin>. Lots of
hillbillies are Irish.
The only traces we can find of the surname earlier are 1. on a townland that was
part of a Church of Ireland estate and that was leased to a local landowner. At
the time of the public Plantation by King James, the British landowners were
supposed to kick off the Irish and only rent to British. They couldn't do that,
because not enough British settlers came, but many were dispossessed. The church
was not required to do this, so many Irish fou nd refuge on the church estate.
This particular townland, even in 1800, was peppered with Irish surnames. So
even without DNA, we'd suspect his ancestors were Irish. What's the history of
the townland where your ancstors lived?
The second clue is in the Parliamentary Papers which indicated that a man with
this name was 'out' in rebellion in 1641. He was a cowman for a local landowner.
This part of Ulster was lost to the British, who fled or were killed. So if it
is living in that area of Tyrone in, say, 1650, it's Irish or an English soldier
(not many of those about, either). Did that happen in your area? I don't know.
Other important clues you haven't provided are the religion. It's touchy, but
we'll all too old to threaten you <grin>. People did change religions. My case,
above, did, but we don't know when. We do know they were poor folk because
they're not in the Convert Rolls. Only people who would have to prove they were
Protestant bothered to officially convert. We didn't find them, but it confirmed
that they were poor folk. No estate to lose. important clues.
The other clues are their social position in Griffiths and the Tithe
Applotments. How much land were they farming and did they have tenants? They
seem to have been better off -- they actually had tombstones, you're telling us.
Not a lot of us have ancestors with tombstones. This means you might find more
out in trade records (blacksmiths, etc), town records (were any freemen in
Enniskillen?), and even land records. The indexes are terrible, but by drinking
a lot of good Irish whiskey (very slowly to keep from passing out prematurely),
you can gradually read them and learn if your ancestors might be named in
memorials or as tenants in deeds.
In another family I researched, DNA is O'Neill, though most believe they're
Scots, in the Tithe Applotments and Griffiths, there's one with the name who had
a whole townland, which he sub let out to many relatives. Though he had to be
Protestant to own this much land, after Catholic emancipation, the family helped
build the local Catholic church and were buried as Catholics. Somewhat typical
By the time you do this, you've researched the estate. You might find that the
estate was that of a prominent Scots family from one of the areas where the
Scots McFees came from. You may find out where the estate records are and be
able to find more about the family in the records. This is more likely if they
were better offs than if they were very poor. Since you have tombstones, you are
probably in good stead.
If you take a course in Irish genealogy they'll tell you it is almost impossible
to trace non-gentry before church records start around 1820 or later. This is
really not true, though it isn't easy. It is easier for Protestants because
their church records usually start earlier and they are more likely to be named
to various types of records that do survive, like muster lists.
If you want more URLs, etc, let us know. OR search the archives of the list.
However I suspect your people are Irish, not Scots, because they seem to be
located where an Irish sept lived. This is often the case for us here as many of
the Irish used the same sept names as the Scots and basically spoke the same
language of Gaelic. They were all basically the same people. The history of the
last 300 years has largely 'un-united' them.
Another book I found useful was Mullin's "Ulster Clans". There's a film copy at
the Family History Library.
Also don't go to Ireland -- go to Salt Lake. It's all in one place there and the
library is open for long hours of the day. In Ireland various kinds of records
are all over the place where the hours are short. You can view what is at PRONI
(public records office of Northern IReland) on their website and do much, much
research there on line. HUGE amounts of research. 70 or more film are in the
FHL. The catalog for the Linen House Library is also on line. If you see a book
there you can use Worldcat to find a copy nearby (or orderable through
interlibrary loan), or in the FHL in Salt Lake.
Not a lot of Scots soldiers came to Ulster in 1690, or 1650. The reason is the
same: all the land was already held by British so there was little available. In
both cases the settlements were in southern Ireland. Cromwell's settlement was
largely of English soldiers, not Scots, anyway. He had had a little problem with
the Scots, you might recall. They supported King Charles (before he lost his
head) and Cromwell invaded Scotland. The thought of an army of Scots no doubt
gave him heartburn. The Scots army came in 1642 to Ulster. Largely it harried
everyone, didn't really do much more, though many remained, marrying rich widows
and the like. It was largely a Campbell army, though it's possible a McFee was
The other possible origin of a McFee in Ireland is the galloglass soldiers. In
the 15th and 16th century thousands of highland Scots soldiers were brought to
Ireland in the pay of Irish lords and also the English. Ten thousand came as
part of one bride price! They were huge, heavily armed fellows, unlike the
lightly armed, small but fast Irish kern. Excepting the few who had castles,
most habitations had one room. And the lord would make his tenants and clansmen
house these guys. Not surprisingly, you find Scots galloglass dna in every
county in Ireland. Some started their own Irish clans. They assimilated into the
Irish nation having nothing in common with the British, culturally or
Most likely you will not find records that can establish the ethnic origin of
your specific ancestors unless that was a mighty huge tombstone they had. You'll
need some DNA.
If you can't locate a cousin, do autosomal testing. This is trickier and can be
done at the same place or www.23andme.com. 23andme has the market cornered (so
they have the largest number tested). In any case, check to see if there is a
McFee or O'Fee DnA project...I see a McDuffie (associated sept in
Scotland....though it means 'son of blackie' and so of course you've got a lot
of black haired Irishmen too...sigh).
It's good to test a couple family members with the autosomal because you do not
have all the DNA of all your ancestors. Only some. So you might not have any
McFee DNA to compare with. But I'd bet you're an O'Neill. After all, if its
under an apple tree, it's probably an apple and not a peach <grin>.
Best of luck in any case,
----- Original Message -----
From: "sean roche" <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 2:22:12 PM
Subject: [S-I] FEE FAMILY IN FERMANAGH
I AM LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON THE SCOTTISH MACPHEE OR MACFEE MIGRATION TO
FERMANAGH AND N. IRELAND IN GENERAL.
MY EARLIEST KNOWN ANCESTOR IS BURIED IN AN ANCIENT GRAVEYARD IN FERMANAGH, AND
HE WAS BORN IN 1715.
THE FAMILY FARM IS CLOSE TO WHERE HE WAS BURIED, AND HIS SON APPEARS IN THE
TITHE APPLOTMENT RETURN DATED 1832 LIVING AT THE FARM.
I HAVE READ ABOUT MACFEEs COMING TO N IRELAND TO FIGHT IN 1690, SO WONDER IF
THERE IS A CONNECTION THERE ?
OR MAYBE WHEN THE SCOTS WERE OFFERED LAND TO FARM IN N. IRELAND ?
ANY INFORMATION OR RESEARCH IDEAS WOULD BE MOST WELCOME.
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|Re: [S-I] Antrim Ancestors by Bob Kissel <>|