McKinstry- Background



Kingstree, MacKinstray, McKinnistrie, McKinster, McKinstry, phonetic variations


I want to use Y DNA to investigate how the various McKinstry familes are related.

The name McKinstry is not common.   Nevertheless there are 16 McKinstry families in the U.S. that I so far know of, plus inumerable strays.   There are 18 if one counts two old and sizeable McKinster family groups.  

The McKinstry surname appears to originate in two adjacent parishes in southern Galloway, Scotland. The name first appeared in records there just before 1500 - with umpteen phonetic variations of "McKinnistry". Woulfe, author of a reference on Scotch Gaelic names, thought it was Mac An Astrigh and meant "son of the traveler" or "son of a wanderer". Scotch Gaelic was still spoken and Gaelic patronymic names still used in Galloway until atleast 1600. The name spread through Galloway and adjacent Dumfries, and to nearby parts of northeastern Ireland.

In addition, Willis, author of a 19th century book on New England McKinstry families, claimed that atleast two of the families carried a tradition of having been near Edinburgh. He also cited vague ancient family traditions that the New England families were related.  One of these, Rev. John McKinstry, was born to Roger McKinstry in 1677 in "Brode", Ireland, and another, William, was born in Carrickfergus about 1723, and came to Massachusetts as a runaway ship's boy and/or indentured servant.  It is not necessarily true that a family living in Edinburgh did not originate in Galloway, particularly since this family were diehard Presbyterians. It is very likely that most McKinstry lines originating in Galloway share a single Y DNA lineage. The New England families share a Y DNA lineage with each other if they are related.

An American McKinstry who has been in touch with McKinstry's in Ireland, got a letter from an elderly McKinstry, who still lives, and farms, in Ballycarry, which was Templecorran/ Broadisland, which states that Rodger McKinstry came from Scotland in 1669, and had three sons, one of whom founded the County Armagh family of gentry, one of which was Rev. John McKinstry of New England, and one of whom was Samuel, who stayed in the Templecorran area and had many progeny, many of whom eventually went to North America. 

Many American McKinstry's came from County Antrim or Carrickfergus.   The Griffith's Evaluation, a mid 19th century tax census, for County Antrim, shows several geographical clumpings of McKinstry's in northeastern Ireland.  A very distinct clump of maybe as much as two dozen McKinstry households, lived immediately northeast of Carrickfergus.  Most lived within several miles of each other in and around Ballyclare, but a half dozen lived closer to Templecorran, Carrickfergus and Islandmaghee, only six to eight miles away.   This could be because a single founder settled there long ago, or because that piece of land is where people travelling by boat across the Irish Sea from Galloway would most likely land.   This group did not form the majority of McKinstry's in northern Ireland.   Another big group of McKinstry families lived on the western edge of County Antrim, around Ballinderry.   A few lived in Shankill, near Belfast, and a small but very prosperous McKinstry family lived mostly in Lisnadil parish in County Armagh.

McKinstry families carry strong traditions of leaving Scotland on account of religious persecution and religious war, but local Minnigaff and Newton Stewart historians insist that they most likely migrated to Ireland one at a time over a long period of time, in search of a bit of land and a girl to marry.   The sheer numbers of people, the greater bulk of them from little Galloway, who gave rise to the Scotch Irish migration, and seem moreover to have been confined to particular places in Galloway, must surely have pushed the limits of the poor hilly upland that the emigrants disproportionately inhabited, even more so because the moorland hills seem ot have been devoted to raising cattle and sheep for market.   At times, famine drove people to migrate.   Records in Scotland show a contuous spread of McKinstry's outward from Minnigaff in a stepwise fashion.   One would expect some of these families to have reached the Irish Sea around 1600.     Records show some of them living in the little seaport town from which one could easily row over to Templecorran, or to Larne, and boats or ferry lines presently travel to Belfast, at the end of hte same bay as Carrickfergus.  Carrickfergus looks like a small town on the map, but in medieval times it was considered a big town, and it was the main town of the area until eventually supplanted by Belfast.  

Many online think that all McKinstry's in northern Ireland are descended from a single man, Rodger McKinstry, who migrated from Scotland to Ireland in 1669, during the Covenanter rebellion, and is known to be the father of Rev. John McKinstry who went to New England.   Susan of sent letters to McKinstry's still living in northern Ireland, and got back a letter from an elderly farmer in Ballinderry, who claimed that all McKinstry's in Ireland are descended from Rodger McKinstry, and also that the Ballinderry McKinstry's are descended from the Ballyclare McKinstry's.  

As far as I can tell, Carrickfergus is a town, and has little or no farmland.  Yet atleast one family claimed to be from there and farmers.  I suspect that most McKinstry's who claimed to be from Carrickfergus lived in the farmland immediately northeast of that place.   It is routine for people to move a long distance and refer to a local landmark or population center in describing where they are from.   Carrickfergus and nearby Templecorran are often tied together in Presbyterian history, and in the history of the SCottish planters of that area.  

McKinster is a common variation of McKinstry, and also an independent surname.  It was very common on documents for the name McKinstry to be mangled to McKinster.   The name has no apparent history of its own.   It isn't found in Scottish surname references nor in reference works on Scots Gaelic names, but McKinstry consistently is.    I suspect that it's a variant form of McKinstry.   It has a research project on Facebook. People named McKinster are welcome to join this project, and we'll see how independent the two names are.

There are other common variants of McKinstry, particularly in Scotland and Ireland.   The C or the K often get left out.   Variants of the original four syllable Gaelic name are common, like McKinnistrie.   MacKinstray is often seen.  

This web site seems to be notably missing any link to the project join request form, which one is supposed to get to by a lengthy separate process.    Here is the link.