|Isle of Coll|
Is it possible to reconstruct ancestry based solely on Scottish
naming patterns and reported patronymics?
No matter how long I stare at the GPS, not even in the ballpark.
What one can do is construct hypotheses based on sparse
sources. That may be all one can do. Ever. Highland ancestry
was long based on oral tradition until events of the eighteenth
century initiated the cultural breakdown. There is a point past which
written genealogical records, as such, do not exist ‒ but perhaps only as
tidbits buried in historical papers.
Spellings of names and places vary in transliteration.
and grandparents of Donald McFadyen ~ identified as Donald the
Soldier for clarity ~ are
what I seek. Ancestry of my island-bred McFadyens hinges on
what I call "the pivot." Namely, the 1776 Isle of Coll List
compiled by the newly arrived clergyman, Charles Stewart, to test
every soul on the island for his or her knowledge of the religious
The survey did not apply to children of an age estimated between
seven and eight years or younger, but all the same, Mr Stewart
dutifully noted all names in each household. Beyond that list
we currently have no available documentary sources until 1716 when
adult men on Coll were recorded by an agent of the Duke of Argyll;
the duke was confiscating weapons among his tenants in the wake of
the recent Jacobite rebellion.
candidates who had an untested young
Donald among their children in 1776 were
at Arnapost, and a third un-named
man whose widow was Mary at Totronald. Nicholas
(hereafter NMB) believes
the deceased man was an
From other sources (military and ship's
list) I can narrow Donald's birth year to ca.1773.
we go on my Hypothesis.
|Abandoned house, Arnabost|
"choose" Lachlan and his wife Flora McLean as my Donald's
parents. Why? The names Duncan (and that of his wife Catherine) do
not occur in my family, nor does the name Mary, although Angus does.
My Donald named his oldest son Lachlan. Angus was the name given to
his second son (and also to the seventh son, perhaps implying the
first-named Angus did not survive childhood ... but even that is
debatable, as many families had two boys or girls with the same name.
Because the pool of both
forenames and surnames was so limited in the
same-names were endlessly repeated. Sample: Donald the Soldier's wife
and mother were both named Flora McLean.)
naming pattern existed but it varied. Here, children of Donald the
Soldier and wife Flora McLean with potential namesakes in
(father's paternal grandfather or uncle)
(mother's maternal grandfather or uncle of a parent)
(father's maternal grandfather or brother of a parent)
McPhaiden and wife Flora McLean produced siblings for their son
Donald the Soldier, all born later — Neil (1777) Allan (1782) John
(1784) Lachlan (1786) Mary (1788) Marion (1791) Catherine/Kate (1794)
their first son Donald: does that imply Lachlan's father was a
Kate was the widow of James Johnston, Arnabost, when she married
McFadyen (1800-1886) of Ballyhough in 1824.
Ancestry and descent of this Angus McPhaiden (but
not Kate's) have
by NMB and
Mary married Lachlan Kennedy in 1819; they
came to Cape Breton as per census returns
and authored sources.
some sons are named after brothers, why does Donald the Soldier have
no Neil or Allan?
if I pose Donald the Soldier's father as Lachlan, and Lachlan's
father as either Donald, Neil, or Allan, where does that get me? Will
it reach as far as the adult McPhaiden men on Coll in 1716, sixty
years earlier? It is quite possible that Lachlan's parents are alive
in the 1776 list; with one young child then, Lachlan could have been
in his twenties. Is there a likely McPhaiden or McLean parent for my
couple who produced Donald the Soldier?
|Click to enlarge|
and maybe. The list had to be sifted for eligibility and relevance,
i.e. a man or couple in middle or elder age, therefore living alone
or without children of untested age ... a lot of guesswork. There
are no other McPhaidens at Arnapost. There is no Donald,
Neil, or Allan
at all! There is Mary McPhaiden, a widow, alone, at Feall; Angus
McPhaiden with wife Ann McKinnon at
being the only two in their household. And we have Angus
McPhaiden at Ardnish, wife
Kennedy; they have older (tested) children Allan, Julia, and Mary;
the household includes
servant Roderick Beaton and his family.
Ardnish couple –
McPhaiden and Flora Kennedy –
traditionally close to Maclean of Coll at Breachacha Castle. I
son Allan (unmarried in 1776) has known descendants through four of
who married widow Catherine (McPhaiden) Johnston of my family. One
more mystery: regarding that 1824 marriage of Angus and Kate, I have
no answer to why NMB noted Kate's father Lachlan
"merchant in Arnabost." Merchant?
the McPhaiden exercise is inconclusive. ANN (McKinnon) at Breachacha
is the only wife of that name. Someone, somewhere, supposed that this
couple were the parents of Angus in Ardnish. I've not been able to
track down that hypothesis. It would make four living
generations in 1776: from Angus and Ann in Breachacha to Angus and
Flora in Ardnish to Lachlan and Flora in Arnabost and their young son
Donald. How likely is that in days of shorter lifespan? But NMB, the
recognized authority, on his 2002 chart does not show Ann and Angus
in that direct line, even though their location is contiguous with
for McLeans (Flora's father) – the most prolific surname on the
island – it's again a matter of searching for a Donald, Neil, or
Allan. The total McLean heads of household with those forenames were
four Allans, one Lachlan, one Neil, and six Donalds. Couples with
young children are unlikely candidates (but could be Flora's
brothers!); eliminate any couple with a daughter Flora; eliminate
households with servants — one is (the laird) Maclean of Coll and
others are closely related families.
remaining McLean "eligibles" seem to be ―
Cornaigbeg, wife Mary Gillis, three grown children
Sr, Cliad, wife Mary McLean, mixture of children ages
Grimsary, wife Marion McLean, one grown child Neil
Totronald, wife ANN McLean, underage children Donald & Mary, also
Ann (slightly older child?),
mother Catharine McDonald, uncle Allan McLean
Feall, wife Catherine Campbell, mixture of 5 children
we are, as far as I can
go for the time being. Donald
McLean, potential maternal
grandfather of Donald the Soldier. The others are not necessarily
eliminated. It would be serendipitous if the great hive of fellow
researchers pitched into this with any relevant or corollary information.
have bridged the gap from 1776 to 1716; I can't say with how much
confidence. Many have more local, historical, and linguistic
knowledge than I. We always hope for information to surface in
documentary papers and manuscripts of landowners and important local
figures, so often kept in private hands. Rather recently, the Friends
of The Argyll Papers began tackling the massive, important Campbell
Family Archive at Inverary Castle to catalogue and conserve for
public access ― exciting for Collachs, because the Earls, then
Dukes, of Argyll were part owners of Coll for a long time. Combing
through papers and correspondence could yield fragments of
information, such as the "1716 list" itself.
The collaborative success of Facebook pages ‒ MacFadyen Genealogy
and DNA, Isle of Coll Ancestry and DNA ‒ is becoming evident. The
best part of being Coll MacFadyens: we who research the same surname
on the same small island truly ARE all one family!
|Standing stones at Totronald|
"List of the Inhabitants in the Island of Coll Dec2nd 1776,"
in Coll Kirk Session Minutes, National Archives of Scotland,
Email NMB to me, 7 August 2010.
Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, West Highland Notes
Series 3, No. 5 (November 2002), Special
MacFadyen Issue. The
issue includes an NMB-compiled chart showing earliest known McFadyen
men and descent with most certainty from Angus McPhaiden and Flora
History of the County of Inverness, Nova
Nelson and Mae
Poole, "Lauchlin Kennedy,"
The Poole Family
The chart as mentioned in Note 3.
2019 Brenda Dougall Merriman