McCown DNA Project- Background
McCoun, McCowan, McCowen, McCowin, McCown, McCune, McEwen, McGown, McKeown, McKown, McOwen, McQuown
Welcome to the McCown DNA project. McCown, McCowan, McCoun, McKown, McCune, McKeown, McEwan, McQuown are surnames that typically have an etymology related to the Gaelic (Q-Celtic) name Mac Eoghain. In the Gaelic language, Mac/Mc is a prefix that means “son of”. Depending on the regional accent, the anglicized version Eoghan can be pronounced as either “Yewen” or “Owen”. Many modern day McCowns pronounce the “ow” like "cow" or "town". Other possible etymologies can be found on Wikipedia.
Some McCowns descend from Ulster Scots that immigrated to the new world in the 1700s. Ulster Scots predominantly migrated from the Lowlands of Scotland to Northern Ireland in the early 1600s to work on the Ulster Plantations. They were typically Presbyterian in contrast to the native Irish Catholics that they supplanted. This migration of Ulster Scots has led to lots of confusion in determining which McCowns are Irish and which are Scots.
Y-DNA has shown that not all McCowns descend from the same male progenitor. The name Eoghan was very popular in the Isles and likely resulted in several separate lines taking the surname. The McCown Y-DNA project attempts to determine which McCowns share a common male progenitor and which ancient tribes they might belong to.
There are over 10 different male lines (haplotypes) currently in this project. Many of these slow-mutating haplotypes predate the consistent use of surnames by Gaelic people. These haplotypes are typically 1000 – 2000 years old. People of the region began using surnames around 900 years ago after the Norman Invasion spread its culture across the lands. Since these Y-DNA haplotypes predate surnames, you’re likely to have multiple surnames in your FTDNA list of genetic matches. In order to determine your McCown’s deep ancestral origins, it helps to look at the other surnames that share your haplotype and look for clues.
Bellow is an attempt to consolidate the clues for each of the different haplotypes in this project. Not all haplotypes currently have tangible clues, so not all haplotypes are represented bellow. If you have a clue, please share it.
Several of the haplotypes in the McCown project have tested positive for the R-L21 SNP. Everyone that has tested positive for the R-L21 SNP descended from the same male about 3725 years ago. L21 is strongly associated with Celts of Western Europe. The haplotypes in this project that are L21+ include (M222+), (P66+) and (L193+) and Mike’s Variety 1426.
R-M222+ Niall of the Nine Hostages
The M222 SNP is one of the largest sub-groups of L21+. It is believed that this SNP is about 1480 years old. Those that test positive for M222 are possibly related to Niall of the Nine Hostages whose family ruled Northern Ireland. This group of McCowns name might come from Clan MacEwen of Otter that claims to descend from the Cenel Eogain.
R-L193+ (11-13 combo )
The L193 SNP is around 1279 years old and is part of the 11-13 combo cluster which is defined by DYF406S1=11 and DYS617=13. Some believe that the haplotypes with the 11-13 combo may descend from Hallstatt Celts.
This group of McCowans appears to share a common ancestor with Clendenins who take their name from Glendowyne Parish in Westerkirk, Dumfrieshire. There is also a match with the surname Elliot whose clan lived near the same area in the border region of Scotland. Both of these surnames are known as Border Reiver clans.
R-P66+ ( 11-13combo )
R-P66 is part of the Airghialla 2 haplotype and also has the 11-13 combo. Airghilla 2 is about 789 years old. These McCowns have similar Y-DNA to the Maguire Clan from Fermanagh Ireland. Generally, Maguires do not test positive for the P66 SNP. However, there was an unusual result of P66 showing up in Italy which may be explained by descendants of Cuchonnacht Maguire who lead the Flight of the Earls. It may be that this P66 line changed their name from Maguire to McCown to avoid detection after the Nine Years' War. William McCown has written extensively in his blog trying to uncover the origins of this group of McCowns.
Mike’s Variety 1426C (DF41+)
This haplotype currently has the most McCown Y-DNA Project members. A study was done by Leonard McCown on the descendants of Francis McCown who emigrated from Ireland to Augusta VA around 1740. The results of that study can be found on the Results page.
Mike’s Variety 1426 is named after the mutations of DYS392=14 and DYS447=26. Other notable mutations include DYS437=16 and DYS456=15. Current estimations date this haplotype at around 1036 years old, which barely predates the consistent use of surnames in Gaelic regions.
Surnames found in Mike’sVariety 1426C include variations of McCown, McCune, McLellan, Wilson, Wright, McBurnie, Cannon, Smith, Miller, Majors, Chamberlin, Heffernan, Bratton, Arthur, Elder, Henry, Webb, Edwards, Ramsey, Turner, Daugherty, Robinson, Tait. The biggest clue to the origin of this haplotype is the surname McLellan. Clan MacLellan is from Kirkcudbright in Galloway Scotland. However, there is still some uncertainty if this is where McCowns also descend since the haplotype predates the known history of the MacLellan Clan which begins around 1217 A.D. Some claim that MacLellans were Irish prior to obtaining their lands in Kirkcudbright. Others speculate that they descend from the Novantae Tribe or the Nidaurian Picts of Galloway. However, there is no evidence for any of these claims. Adding even more confusion is that Galloway was a cultural melting pot of traders and Norse-Gaels, which traveled the Isles.
There are McCowans that have a history in Nithsdale, Cumnock and Ayrshire which are considered part ofthe Galloway region.
These two quotes bellow are taken from Dr. Bruce McCowan’s web page on feudalism.
"McCowan is a family name of distinction for hundreds of years in the Kirkconnel area.[Robert the] Bruce had a company of McCowans in the upper Nith district, an honour of which Sanquhar is proud."
"The name here may indicate descent from Owen the Bald (the Eugenius Calvin of Simeon of Durham), King of the Strathclyde Britons, who was killed in 1018."
There were also plenty of McEwans in the area as well. Patrick McEwyn was Provost of Wigtown in 1331 and Elspeth McEwan was executed in Kirkcudbright in 1698 for witchcraft. Since Mike’s Variety 1426 also has matches with McCune, it’s hard to know which pronunciation might have been used by our common ancestors. Until McEwans and McCowans with ties to the area take the Y-DNA test, it will be hard to determine to which we might belong.
Stay tuned for information on additional haplotypes in the project. Coming Soon.