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McKee Beginnings-Clan MacKay

Condensed from Clans of the Highlands of Scotland-Thomas Smibert, 1850, which Compiled by Alan McNie (this publication available from Cascade Publishing Company, Jedburgh, Scotland)The powerful and numerous clan of the Mackays has long been established in the far north of Scotland, or in that portion of it directly looking towards the Hyperborean Seas.

By maps of the country drawn up in the fifteenth century, it appears that the disctict in question was then called Caithness, though now included mainly in Sutherlandshire. An earlier name than either for the region, however, was Strathnaver, the loch, stream, and vale of the Naver giving origin to that appellation.

The possessions of the Mackays received the common designation of "Lord Reay's Country" from the title of the ultimately ennobled chieftan of the tribe. The changes which have taken place in respect to the boundaries of Caithness and Sutherland house, and the quarto of Mr Robert Mackay of Thurso on his own sept, are only too diffuse and lengthy to serve conveniently for sources of reference.

The earliest member of the Mackay house of note was undoubtedly Angus Dhu or Dow, son or grandson of Iye, the presumed founder of the clan name. MACKIE, MACKEE, MCKIE, MCKEY. These names are all forms of MacKay and are descended from Martin, grandson of Alexander, progenitor of the MacKays.

William Makke was witness in Stone in 1491, Lang McKe was put in the stocks in Wigton in 1513. The mid-Galloway MacKies were a rich and powerful family in the 16th century and supported the Covenanters. Associated names have a hazy history. Sometimes they had more than one origin; also clouding the precise location of a particular surname might be that names proscription or of course a migrant population. Even the spelling of surnames was subject to great variations, shifting fromusually Latin or Gaelic and heeding rarely to consistent spelling. In early records there can be several spellings of the same name. Undoubtedly contributing to this inconsistency is the lhandwriting in official records, which was often open to more than one spelling interpretation.

With regard to the Mac prefix, this was, of course, from the Gaelic meaning son of, It wasn't long before it was abbreviated to 'Mc' or just M. until we have reached the position now where there are more Mc's than Mac's.

THE FOLLOWING from Raymond Walter McKees "Book of McKee" a letter printed in the book from the Scots Ancestry Research Society, Edinburgh, Scotland : This society does not profess to be an authority on the origin of surnames as our main interest lies in the tracing of particular ancestral lines.

We note however that Dr. George F Black in his authoritative work 'The Surnames of Scotland' states that the Scottish surname McKee is a variant of McKay. It is possible, of course, that the Irish surname McKee has a different origin. Dr Blacks book states: MacKee- a variant form of MacKay, q.v. John M'Kee was servant to John de Crauforde in 1460 and Patrick Makkee had a grant of half the lands of Dunguild, Bute, 1506. A man named Lang McKe was taken furth of the 'stokkis' wherein he had been placed by Simon McCristen, sheriff-depute in Wigtoun, 1513.

"The unique Gaelic charter of 1408 was granted by Donald, lord of the Isles, to Brian Vicar Mackay of Islay. In Islay and in a lesser degree in Kintyre the a of Mac is prolonged, the c becoming prefixed to the surname, thus MacAoidh becomes MacCaidh on the east side of the Island next to Kintyre, Mac Caoidh in the middle as at Laggan. It is MacAoidh iin the Rhinns. M'Akie 1559, McCa, McCaa, McKa, and *McKaa all 1684, Mac Cey 1719, Mac Iye 1781, Mackai 1619, Maickie 1600, McKeiy 1618, Makhe 1538, Makie 1558, Mackkye 1588,Makkcee 1506, Makkie 1600, M'Ky 1663, Makky 1567, Meikkie 1649, Makcawe, McCei, Mackaw, Makay, M'Kee, McKey, McKeye, Makkay, Makkaye, Makkey, Makee, Makkee, Macky, McKy, McKye.

Major George Wilsons McKees able volume THE MCKEES OF VIRGINIA AND KENTUCKY deserves to be reprinted for the two reasons that it is scarce and exceedingly important to many thousands of McKees who are descended from ROBERT, WILLIAM OR JOHN. It was the conclusion of Major McKee that the name McKee is merely a variation of the name MACKAY. If he found proof of this he omitted to identify the authoritative sources upon which he relied, but from the passages quoted below there can be no doubt that he had satisfied himself concerning the truth and soundness of his thesis: "from my investigations of ancient records, and study of the histories of England, Ireland and Scotland, I have no doubt whatever that the McKees originated in Ireland, and that quite a company of them, as adventurers, came over to Scotland in the 12th century, during the reign of King William the Lion, to assist in driving the Danes from the north.... they remained in Scotland until the religous troubles arose between the Protestants and Papists from the time of Henry VIII to the time of William III. Some of them still continued in Scotland after these bloody troubles, in which they had all taken a part, were decided, while others emigrated to the NOrth of Ireland, at the time the province of Ulster was forfeited to the British Crown from the date of the unsuccessful rebellion of lthe Earls of Tyrconnel and Tyrone" ,... "In Scotland the violence among all parties, accompanying the Revolution and the accession of William and Mary, exceeded that of England.

"The state of affairs in Ireland is well known, and almost beggars description. In Scotland the McKees, being Presbyterians, or Covenanters, were engaged not only in defending themselves against Dundee, but against their hereditary enemies, the Mackintoshes. This feud with the Mackintoshes had been going on from the 13th century. The remnant of the clan, after a great fight with Mackintoshes in which they were nearly exterminated, partly sought refuge in France, where they intermarried the Huguenots and it is said that , after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, they were nearly all murdered by the Catholics. Whether this is true or not, it is certain that the survivors fled into Holland and there joined the army of William, Prince of Orange. They went to Ireland with some of his forces, or adherents, and were engaged in the seige of Londonderry, where they ' aquitted themselves with great gallantry and suffered patiently the privations of that awful seige".(to see further information including a correction on *McKas to McKaa please go to McKee Family Matters #14