Friday, November 12, 2010

McQuiston Magic

McQuiston, with all its spellings and pronunciations, is quite the amazing family. I have been studying our history for about 40 years, having first seen Leona McQuiston's book - "The McQuiston, McCuiston and McQuesten Families 1620 - 1937" back when I was a teenager.

The 1937 date was the publishing date of her book, however she worked on it, in the days of no computers, and even few telephones in homes, for about 19 years. She amassed about 10,000 name records and traveled all over America and to Scotland and Ireland, where she was able to study in some pretty exclusive libraries. There are some errors in her work, but considering she was using information given to her by others, and the lack of the amazing internet to double check, she did a wonderful job and anyone with this name owes her a great debt for her work.

Leona was aided by Ed McCuistion, who wrote the foreword to her book and provided history he had been collecting since the late 1800s especially concerning the North Carolina McCuistion and McCuiston branches, and the Texas McCuistions, of which he was a part. The love these two people had for the family is easily apparent in their writings and this has been carried on by so many others. 

I personally have been helped by so many people who send me packets in the mail, emails, web addresses to look at, or who hand off pages of copies at family get-togethers. It has been a group effort, and I am always pleased to be one of those sorting out the stories, patching the tapestry together, filling in the blanks with educated guesses or new-found information, and publishing it in a variety of forms.

It is my hope that this blog can become my clearing house for any and all related stories of the Celtic life I try to maintain in an ever-changing world. This is to a large degree my anchor and you are welcome to attach your boat to it, too.

The date of 1620 in Leona's book title comes from the earliest solid records she was able to find of a name similar to our modern spelling. The two in particular are James McQuiston, who was serving under the Earl of Antrim, Northern Ireland, who became "earl" in 1620, and John M'Queisoun, in a record from July 27, 1620, in Ayrshire, Scotland. There are a couple of reasons to believe that James of Antrim was in fact the father of John of Ayrshire. In a later record, his will, John lists a James as his father. There are others clues, but that story is for another time.

There was a constant connection between these locations in Antrim  and Ayrshire since the ferries that connect these countries, even today, still run between these places. The ferry actually lands in Wigtonshire, Scotland, where many McQuistons have been found, even today, and Ayrshire is just above this, where the McQuiston Cup is a golf match at the famous Troon golf course, and where another Jim McQuiston is an archivist and historian working at Dundonald Castle.

On the Irish side, the ferry lands at Belfast where the McQuiston Church stands as the largest ever Presbyterian congregation in Irish history, and the old McQuiston School has become the Belfast School of Music.

So it is easy to see that James and John were just two of many family members considering Antrim, N.I. and the coast of Scotland as pretty much the same country. In fact is was – for thousands of years. This was the old kingdom of the Gael, the land of Dalriada, from where the great Celtic/Viking heroes Somerled, Angus McFergus, and many other early Scots heroes ruled the Gaelic world.

Even today, Ireland is split to a degree into three areas - Northern Ireland, with heavy Scots influence (the old Dalriada); the English-influenced counties around Dublin, once known as "The Pale," from where the expression "outside the pale" comes; and those counties that have remained more truly old Irish, especially County Connacht and the west of Ireland. As the Scots infiltrated Northern Ireland and the English infiltrated the Dublin area, many if not most old Irish families moved particularly to Connacht, and other western counties.

Other records follow those of John and James. The next dated record is of Bryise M'Queistene on Aug 23, 1622. However, I have found many earlier records of names from our tradition of our descent from Hugh of Sleat that are very close to modern spellings or at least phonetically attach us to his family.

Hugh of Sleat or Uisdean McDonald was born about 1436 and we know that he died in 1498. He was likely born in Dingwall Castle, in Dingwall, Scotland, and he most likely died at Paisley Abbey, in Paisley, Scotland. His Gaelic name of Uisdean (sometimes spelled Uisdein or Uisdeann) was pronounced as somewhere between Ooshdn and Ooshn. Ooshdn seems to be the closest when compared to early English spellings of the name and to some modern pronunciations of the name. Other pronunciations given are Oosh - tchen, and Ocean.

In a small pub on the Isle of Skye, where our name was born, I was told by Angus McLean that Uisdean was a name created from the sound of ocean waves hitting the shoreline. In fact, it makes sense that the Ocean was also named for this very sound. George Black, in his great book, "Surnames of Scotland," says Uisdean is pronounced as Ocean.

There are a group of McDonalds who refer to themselves as the "Ocean" McDonalds and this no doubt comes from their relationship to Uisdean McDonald.

I have heard Uisdean pronounced by a handful of Scots and it is difficult to capture, in English, which one of these pronunciations best represents the Gaelic sound of the name. To complicate matters, another version of the name is Eystien, which comes from the Norse bloodline, which makes up a large part of our family background.

It is obvious that this name is so unique that it has been spelled and said many ways over the centuries, from its very beginnings until today. It is perhaps this mystery of spelling and pronunciation that has sparked so many family members to look into the history of the name.

Uisdean or Ooshdn became McOoshdn, or "son of Uisdean", when Hugh's first son was born. His name was recorded in 1494 as John Roy Makhuchone, by English speaking historians. I have also recently found it written in an old book as "John MacHuistean."

The "Black Book of Clanranald" describes the descendants of Hugh of Sleat as Siol Huistiuin, or "Race of Hugh". It also records Hugh's first four sons as -

Domhnall gallach mc huisdiuin,
Domhnall hearach mc huisdiuin,
Eoin mac huistiuin,
and, Giolla asbuig mc huisdiuin.

Domhnall gallach mc huisdiuin is the man we all most likely descend from and he is listed elsewhere as Donle VhicHuiston, vhic being a variant of Mc but referring to a grandfatherly figure.

There are a handful of other similar early finds of names that match ours in phonetics, if not in exact spelling, and they all tie exclusively into the Hugh of Sleat tradition. Much of the family of Domhnall hearach mc huisdiuin took the name of Hearach or Harris, and in DNA testing many Harris men match McQuiston men in their DNA results.

There are other names, particularly Martin, Houston and Hutchinson which come directly from the Hugh of Sleat tradition and we also have a fair number of men with these names that match our DNA, along with McDonalds, McConnells and other obvious names that should match.

We have been named a "clear subset" of Clan Donald by that clan, through this DNA analysis, and so it seems that the stories Leona and Ed told us, back in 1937, which had been handed down for five centuries, are for the most part true, even if a few details here and there have been or need improved upon.

As a family we have influenced the world. I have told and will continue to tell stories that prove this.

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