- Janet MacKay, SeanachaidhIs it true that the MacKays can trace their ancestry back to Adam? Alfred J. Lawrence, in his text "The Clan Bain with its Ancestral and Related Scottish Clans", puts forth a very convincing argument - complete with genealogical lines (generation by generation) back to Japeth, son of Noah. From Noah, we have only to refer to the Bible for the remainder of the names of the paternal line back to Adam and Eve!!
This is possible by tracing the ancestry of Lulach, whose daughter married Aed, Earl of Moray, and the earliest of the MacKay Chiefs on record. No records exist to provide the exact forebears of Aed, but it is known that he descends from a Norse-Pictish ancestry. However, Lulach's descent from the High-kings of Erin is considered to be accurate back to Conn "of the Hundred Battles" - as early as the second century A.D. Mr. Lawrence outlines the line of descent from Japeth, generation by generation, to Conn but cautions his readers that the accuracy of this genealogical line is questionable.
Before the Christian era in Erin, information was passed down from generation to generation by bards with especially trained memories. This system can not be depended upon to be accurate over a long period of time. Early writers, mostly monks, tried to record in Latin the information recited by these bards. Some of these monks, in a conscientious attempt to make their information agree with Biblical record, appear to have developed a list of names which extended the known pedigree backwards to show the line as descended from Japeth. "Caveat Emptor" !!!
An interesting account, told by Rev. Angus Mackay in the Book of Mackay, comes from William Forbes' preface to the "House of Forbes". He says that "Ochonochar, an Irish Lord who came over to Scotland, had a son Ochonochar, and that this second Ochonochar had three sons, who became the respective progenitors of the families of MacKays, Urquharts and Forbes.
A outline of the genealogical origin and branches of MacKays is well beyond the scope of this article. Interested readers are referred to "The Book of Mackay" by Rev. Angus Mackay (1906), and "The History of the House and Clan of Mackay", by Robert Mackay (1829). These texts can be found in the reference section of many libraries.
The branches of Mackays, as outlined in the "Book of Mackay", are as follows: Aberach Mackays, Scoury Mackays, Bighouse Mackays, Strathy Mackays, Melness Mackays, Sandwood Mackays, Dutch Mackays, Swedish Mackays - now von Key, Galloway Mackays, Argyle and Western Mackays, Erchar or Vic Farquhar, Polson, Achmonie Mackays, Mackie, Mack, and the three different forms of the name Iyeson or Mackay: Ison, Eason, and Esson.
The MacKays in Argyllshire and Galloway became a sept of the Lords of the Isles (MacDonald of the Isles). In these areas, the name MacKay is derived from Morgan's grandson, Aodh, whose mother was a MacNeil of Gigha. MacKays in the Western Isles of Scotland also form a sept of the Lords of the Isles. MacKays or MacAys of Clan Chattan, from Inverness-shire eastward, are really a sept of Clan MacDhai, or Davidson.
A number of Clan MacKay members in Nova Scotia can trace their ancestry back to The Book of Mackay. One MacKay family group is known to descend from the marriage of Aed, Earl of Moray, and his wife - the daughter of Lulach - which took place circa 1085. Then, if one chooses to follow the maternal line, back to Adam!!
See Clan MacKay Genealogy Project
(C) 1988; Janet MacKay, B.R.E., B.Sc.
First published: "The Clansman," Halifax, N.S. October 1988