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Matches W
ith Other Surnames.   

If you match someone with a different surname it could be that you are related and there was a Non Paternal Event (NPE) event in one of the lines. However, this is not common and is usually difficult to prove.

The more likely reason for your match is 
convergence (coincidence) or because you share a common haplotype.  Mutation is a random process and over thousands of years can occur in different lines so that by coincidence different "lines" end up with"matching" haplotypes. This accidental agreement is called convergence. (The more markers that are tested, the less likely it is that convergence will be observed.)

(John Chandler)

Non-Paternity Event (NPE) is a term in genetic genealogy that describe instances in which the biological father of a child is someone other than who it is presumed to be. Non-paternity (and non-maternity) may also result from hidden adoptions; that is, when a child is never told he or she was adopted.

Matches With Other Surnames - An Alternative Explanation

12, 37, 67 & 111 Y-STR marker test results can potentially provide you with the names of many individuals with whom you share a common McCracken male ancestor.  What is perplexing is why your Y-DNA results match other individuals with different surnames. 

One plausible explanation is that beginning about 1,000 years ago in Scotland & Ireland people began gradually adopting surnames.  The first men to adopt surnames were those of wealth and land.  Gradually over the centuries more and more individuals began assuming a surname. By the mid 1600’s it appears almost everyone in Scotland and Ireland had adopted a surname.  

The first male to call himself “McCracken” likely was living in close proximity to other men with whom he was genetically related but who elected to assume a different surname. So it would seem the surnames of your McCracken "relative neighbors" are reflected in today’s Y-DNA test results. 

Just because people bear the same surname does not always  mean that they shared a common male ancestor. For instance, families could be taken into a Scot clan for a variety of reasons and while living under the protection of the main clan they'd  adopt their surname.   

(Ken McCracken)

Additional information on this topic can be found at Dr. Tyrone Bowes website by clicking here


McCracken Project Groups  A & G - Their  Y-DNA matches "Niall of the Nine Hostages."

Learn more about Nial Noigiallach aka " Niall of the Nine Hostages" by clicking here

A somewhat recent study conducted at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland discovered that a striking percentage of men in Ireland (and quite a few in Scotland) share the same Y chromosome, suggesting that the 5th-century warlord known as "Niall of the Nine Hostages" may be the ancestor of one in twelve Irishmen. Niall established a dynasty of powerful chieftains that dominated the island for six centuries.

In the study scientists found an area in northwest Ireland where they claim 21.5% of men carry Niall’s genetic fingerprint, says Brian McEvoy, one of the team at Trinity. The same area of Ireland has previously been the subject of anthropological writings…and has shown a strikingly high percentage of men from Haplogroup R-M269 (85.4%). According to McVoy this area was the main geographical location of the Ui Neills, which translates as the  "descendants of Niall".

McEvoy says the Y chromosome appeared to trace back to one person. Following the genealogists trail, McVoy comments,  "There are certain surnames that seem to have come from Ui Neill. We studied if there was any association between those surnames and the genetic profile. It is his (Niall's) family."

McCracken/MacCracken/McCrackin/McCracking/McCrackan- How do you spell our name?

The origin of the McCracken surname name is unknown, as is the "original" spelling of our family name - assuming there was a singular spelling of the surname for some meaningful period of time. As with many surnames, "MacCracken"or "McCracken" has gone through multiple phonetic and spelling modulations in different locales and in different times. The variations in use currently may differ from variations used in the distant past by your direct-line ancestors. In any case, as you investigate your"McCracken" lineage, especially if during the 1700's to 1800's or prior, you may want to include different spelling variants as a routine element of your records chasing. If not, you may well ignore records that you later determine were (and are) of relevance to your direct family line.

Surnames came into use relatively recently for the majority of countries of Europe and the areas now called Great Britain and Ireland. Surnames did not begin to be used with frequency by the majority of inhabitants of the subject areas until about 1400 A.D. (The timeline is similar for surname adoption for many other areas of the world but the following comments will focus on surname adoption in Europe and Great Britain.) What does the timing of surname adoption have to do with your McCracken surname? If a location of interest to you for ancestry investigation includes early records of Scotland, Ireland and England, keep in mind that it was not until after the Norman Invasion of England (by "William the Conqueror" in 1066 AD) that the first royal order was given (by King William) to adopt surnames.  The order was given to his English subjects to assist the King to more easily identify and account for his recently acquired English subjects.  One objective of the King was no doubt to make the tax collection process easier. This tax collection objective may have been a key reason the populace of England was apparently less than quick to adopt routine surname usage.  More than 400 years after King William's surname decree, King Henry VIII, who did not serve until the 1500's, ordered that all marital births in his Kingdom were to be recorded under the surname of the father -that is, identifying the child to that father via a surname.  King Henry's action in the 1500's suggests that King William's original decree had not been promptly implemented by the general populace.

By the 1500's, the use of surnames in Europe and the British Isles began to become routine, although to be sure, some European countries did not (not) require citizens to have surnames until about 200 years later. In any case, surnames often originated based on an association of a person to his trade (it was typically a male who had a trade during that era.) Sometimes the association was to a physical characteristic of the individual. Sometimes it was a characteristic of the physical location where the person (or his family) lived. Examples include, "Charles", who, if physically smaller than average, may have become "Charles Little". William, who lived on top of a hill, became "William Hill."  Tom the blacksmith became Tom Black or maybe Tom Smith.  If an individual's trade was the norm in a given area with regard to surname selection (or assignment), then it was possible for biological siblings to sometimes end up with different surnames. Perhaps Tom, the blacksmith, had became Tom Smith.  His brother William, also a blacksmith but in a distant community, may have become William Black. If that same brother, William had become a grain grinder instead of a blacksmith, perhaps he became William Miller.  A third brother, Joseph, who ran a ferry, may have become Joseph Ford or Joseph Shallows. It is not difficult to imagine situations where individuals who were biological brothers chose (or were assigned) more than a single surname and centuries later, there is no paper-trail documenting the biological linkage among the apparently different family lines -and now, we have DNA applied to genealogy investigations.  As progress continues  and DNA genealogy research delivers more and more detail regarding biological linkages of our early ancestors, more and more frequently we can expect to discover individuals with significant spelling variants of a given surname for whom a biological linkage is suggested by DNA results.  This will also be true for individuals with completely different surnames from time to time, individuals for whom DNA matching indicates a shared ancestor within a period of genealogical interest.  (There are also other reasons one may find a different surname falling within a given surname's "DNA Project", such as "convergence."  See other postings in this News section for more detail.)

Given the history of how surnames were acquired (or assigned), such occurrences if different surnames that appear to have a "DNA match" can be expected to become more common - and if so, that should not surprise us.  As Y-DNA genealogy studies become more prevalent and the database size increases, we will no doubt identify more and more individuals for whom DNA matching suggests a shared early male ancestor - but the individuals who "match" via DNA comparisons may have different surnames from time to time.  We may find a Smith, a Miller and a Ford with indications of a shared common ancestor in the relatively recent past, but with no "paper trail" from the Middle Ages to permit identification of that common ancestor.  In such situations, which surname is "correct" for the subject "DNA cousins"?  Answer?  All of them!  The biological family relationship simple predates surname use.  With regard to our McCracken surname, most investigators suggest that the surname resulted from the physical location of the family home.  An ancient MacCracken/McKraking/McCracken ancestor may have lived near a large rock or "crag."  As a result of his location, he may have been known as, "John, the man who lives near the crag". His son was MacCrag, "the son of the man who lives near the crag". ("Mac" was a linguistic prefix in Scotland indicating  "the son of.")  So, the "MacCrag" son may have eventually become known as "MacCrag", which modulated over time to variants such as, "McCragen", to eventually "MacCracken", et. al., and on to the McCracken-similar variants we find today.  This proposed source of our family name is pure supposition of course, but it is one possible source of our "McCracken" surname.  

Is the proper spelling "Mac" or"Mc"?

Both "MacCracken" and"McCracken" spelling variants are found in early records of both Scotland and Ireland. The surname (in both spellings) is found particularly frequently in the records of Lowland Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and evermore so from about the 1600's and thereafter. The "Mc" of "McCracken" is said by some historians to have been essentially an abbreviated form of "Mac".  The "abbreviated" form was frequently implemented by Ulster Scots for many Scottish names, shortening many "Mac" to "Mc" surnames, not limited to McCracken.  When members of the respective family later relocated from Ulster to elsewhere, the descendants typically took the abbreviated "Mc" spelling with them - thus the "McCracken" spelling is probably more common in most countries now than what may have been a more common earlier form, "MacCracken".

Are you a Scot, an Irish or Scotch-Irish?

Your family history may describe your McCracken family as "Scotch-Irish" (or "Scots-Irish", a similar more recent term.)  In either case, the respective term suggests that your Scottish ancestors had relocated from Lowland Scotland to northern Ireland, emigrating to the Ulster Plantation probably in the 1600's.  At a later time, either that individual or more probably, another direct-line McCracken ancestor of yours emigrated from Ulster to another location, possibly your current country of residence.  A brief review of the history of northern Ireland and "The Ulster Plantation" may be helpful in understanding the meaning of the term "Scotch-Irish". (If Ulster's history is not familiar to you, a brief description of the"Ulster Plantation" is provided the end of this article, and more in-depth resources are also provided.)

As you consider the "Am I Scot, Irish or Scotch-Irish?" question, keep in mind three terms: (1) "Ulster Scot"; (2) "Ulster Irish"; and (3) "Scotch-Irish".  All three of these terms have been used at different times (and in different locales) to describe exactly the same individual and/or descendants of that individual. The subject individual was a Scot (and a protestant) typically living in"Lowland Scotland" at the time of the move to Ulster, which was located in northern Ireland. The original Scottish emigrant to Ulster, whose descendants are now identified by any one of those three terms, probably emigrated from Lowland Scotland to Ulster in the 1600's. He, and often his wife and children, migrated to northern Ireland and the family and descendants lived there for at least a generation or two, and maybe for several generations.  Eventually, at least one of his descendants (and your direct-line ancestor) migrated again. The subject descendant (or descendants) left Ulster for another territory, another country or in many cases, another English (or British) Colony - typically to an area where English was the common language. By the 1700's, descendants of "Ulster Scots" left Ulster in ever-larger numbers and began to emigrate regularly. These "Ulster Scot" individuals and descendants ("Ulster Scot" being a term used in Britain to describe the Scotsman who had relocated to Ulster) comprised a meaningful component of English-speaking emigrants during the 1700's and 1800's to many English-speaking countries and colonies, worldwide.  "Ulster Scots" also began to emigrate to the English colonies of America by the early 1700's.

Many of today's McCracken family lines, worldwide, are descendants of McCracken's who had initially relocated from Lowland Scotland to Ulster, northern Ireland. It is important to differentiate the migrations of the "Ulster Scot"(during the 1700's) from the later migrations of the Irish Catholic "natives" of Ireland as one investigates migrations out of Ireland for genealogical purposes.  The Irish-Catholic emigrations took place in large numbers at later times, primarily in the 1800's, and were distinct from the migrations of the Ulster Scots.  If your McCracken line emigrated to the Ulster Plantation from Scotland and then your McCracken direct-line ancestor migrated at a later time, then the terms "Ulster Scot", "Ulster Irish", and "Scotch-Irish" may have each been used to describe your ancestors in different places at different times by different groups.  In Colonial America, the term initially used for immigration purposes toward categorizing and identifying immigrants arriving from northern Ireland (i.e., the Ulster Plantation) was "Ulster Irish". This term differentiated the immigrant arriving in America from Ulster, who was typically protestant, from the arriving "Irish" immigrant who was typically Catholic. During the same time period, that same former Scottish resident who had relocated to northern Ireland was described in England as an "Ulster Scot" or sometimes as an "Ulsterman" - but again, it was the same individual identified initially in the colonies in America as "Ulster Irish" and later, in the United States, as "Scotch-Irish".  "Scotch-Irish" appears to have come into more broad use because U.S. immigration officials began to use the term for categorization purposes for individuals arriving from northern Ireland.  The individual was termed a "Scotch-Irish"immigrant (and more recently the preferred term has become "Scots-Irish".) 

The"Scotch-Irish" term did not (did not) suggest that the person's biological ancestry consisted of Scottish and Irish ancestors - any more than did the colonial term "Ulster Irish" or the British terms "Ulster Scot" or "Ulsterman".  The respective terms simply identified a former resident of Scotland who had relocated to the Ulster Plantation, and the term was confirming his recent geographical ancestry was not that of a "native" Irishman. The "Scotch-Irish" term is said to have been invented in the United States.  It was probably was popularized when it began to be used by U.S. immigration officials and in the lay press for the purpose of identifying Scots who had lived in northern Ireland. The "Scotch-Irish" term is not used (and has never been used) with any frequency in Scotland, Ireland or England. The British term "Ulster Scot" continues to be used in Britain and in many Commonwealth countries to describe the same individuals who are referred to as "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish" in the United States. Some are of the opinion that the British term is more succinctly descriptive of the person's geographical heritage than is "Scots-Irish."  The British term also does not imply both Scottish and Irish biological ancestry.  Primarily because of the "Scotch-Irish" term, many McCracken's in the United States have anticipated that their biological heritage included ancestors from both Scotland and Ireland. While that may be the case for a given family, the terminology as used by U.S. immigration officials had no intended purpose to describe biological ancestry.

The take-away message? If your McCracken family's oral history includes reference to your family as being "Scotch-Irish", you had a McCracken ancestor or ancestors who were most probably from Lowland Scotland and your family relocated to the Ulster Plantation of northern Ireland for at least some period of time - and you may have cousins who still reside in what is now Northern Ireland.

Note re: "The UlsterPlantation"

The Ulster Plantation came into structured existence in 1609, when King James I of England formed the"Plantation of Ulster" for political purposes. The King had assumed ownership of lands previously the property of Gaelic Chiefs (Irish nobles). These former Irish lands formed the site of "The Ulster Plantation" of northern Ireland.  The Ulster Plantation was located directly across the North Channel of the Irish Sea from Scotland. At the closest point, it is only 13 miles distant from Scotland. About a half-million acres comprised the Ulster Plantation, which included all lands of the Irish counties of Tyrconnell, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Coleraine and Armagh. Most of the counties of Antrim and Down were also included in the Plantation, although those areas were populated "privately" and by a different mechanism than were the six counties.  The King, after taking the lands from Irish "Lords", offered the former Irish lands to Scottish and English Lords, allies of the King and most of whom were also veterans of English wars with the Gaelic Chiefs of Ireland. These Scottish and English nobles were granted lands in the Ulster Plantation subject to several conditions. Important among these conditions, (1) the recipient must vow continued allegiance to the King; (2), he must agree to "plant"in Ireland, on the Ulster Plantation, only English-speaking protestant farmers and other protestant settlers (i.e., not including Gaelic-speaking Irish Catholic farmers or settlers.) The relocating tenant farmers did not own the land upon arrival in Ulster. They remained tenant farmers, not land owners, but each farmer typically received more land to farm than had been allocated to him previously, and it was comparatively better and more productive farm land than was that of his prior location. This improvement in farming conditions was said to have been particularly advantageous for tenant farmers who were previously located in Lowland Scotland, thus their rapid response, in relatively large numbers, to the relocation offer. Given the King's conditions and the nearness of Lowland Scotland to Ulster, it is no surprise that Scottish Presbyterians comprised both most of the initial and also the dominant protestant immigrants into northern Ireland. The Catholic-Irish, both the former land owners and other prior residents, were either displaced or became subservient to the new Scottish and English land owners.

Lowland Scots moved to Ulster for a period of almost 90 years as part of the organized settlement effort from about 1609 to about 1697. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Lowland Scots crossed the North Channel and settled in Ulster during that 90 year period.

Additional resources re:

The Ulster Plantation:

re: "Scotch-Irish"


This article owes much these identified resources, including also:

(1) "McCracken, A Family History", by Milton P. Moore, R.L. Bryan Co, Columbia, S.C.;

(2)"The Scotch-Irish, A Social History", by James G. Leyburn, Univ of NC Press.

© Ken McCracken.