This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing. Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred. Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow.
The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England and my path winds through a time when the gardens there flowered with exotic blooms and their seeds and nectar changed the entire world. This was the blossoming of the late industrial and early scientific revolution and it flowered most brilliantly in Newcastle.
I've been to trace a couple of lines of ancestry back six generations to around the turn of the 19th century. Six generations ago, around the turn of the century, lived sixty-four individuals who each contributed a little less 1.6% of their genome to me, half of them on my mother's side and half on my father's. Yet I can't name half a dozen of them. But I do know one was called McKie. So, this is about his descendants; and the path they took; and some things a few of them contributed to Newcastle's fortunes; and who they met on the way.
In six generations, unless there is duplication due to copulating cousins, we all have 126 ancestors. Over half of mine remain obscure to me but I know the majority had one thing in common, they lived in or around Newcastle upon Tyne. Thus, they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund. So, it's also a tale of one city.
My mother's family is the subject of a separate article on this website.
The McKie Family - in the mists of time
The Mc-Aodhs, sons of Aodh, originated in Scotland. The name is said to derive from the pre-Christian god of fire (Aodh) that was once something guttural, like: 'agh'. There are several variants on the spelling. The most dominant spelling today is McKay.
The 'McKie' spelling obviously goes back to a single couple, perhaps in the Elizabethan period, and is probably due to a mutation in the pronunciation. As the language has evolved so did the pronunciation of the name. McKie, spelt our way, is the closest phonetically to the most common pronunciation: 'ie' as in 'pie'. Perhaps its an Irish version but it might have gone the other way.
In his book Scots-Irish Links 1575-1725 David Dobson lists several McKies in Ireland who travelled to and from Scotland Kirkcudbright and Wigtonshire between 1643 to 1690. That part of Scotland has very close Irish connections and it's from Ireland that Christianity was reintroduced to Northern England in the medieval period. For more information go to the chapter on Northern Christianity in my travels to Northern England.
According to another reference the spelling is Scottish (Trials of Scotland, 1486 - 1660) where a Mackie was tried for, and acquitted of, 'slaughter' in 1606. Mackie is another related line of spelling pronounced 'mack-ee'. My mother's aunt Isobel married a Scotsman, Andrew Mackie, and two of her favourite cousins (Thompson and George) and a number of their offspring have that name.
By at the turn of the 18th century the two main clusters of people with the name McKie were in south western Scotland, with another group, probably about half the size, immediately across the water in Ireland.
This spelling confusion is a constant annoyance to members of our family. We are constantly telling people who try to write it the wrong way: "It's 'ie', as in 'pie'? Why are you trying to spell it 'ay', as in 'hay'?" And as to the other common mispronunciation: "In English 'ie' is not pronounced 'ee', as in see, or McKee."
The name, spelt our way, is not particularly common, even in Scotland or Ireland.
At the first relatively reliable and comprehensive Census of England, Wales & Scotland in 1841 there were just 1,282 people in Britain named McKie, 86% of them in Scotland, with around 70% of those in one big cluster around Kirkcudbright. We have most of their names and ages and even know a little of what they did. That part of Scotland is rural with very few significant towns. Just Dumfries to the east and Ayr to the north. Almost all were farmers or farm labourers. A handful were tradespeople (bookseller, grocer, tacker). A few professionals (Gas Manager, Inspector of the Poor) and others semi-skilled labourers (dyker, carter etc).
We can guess that there were around 600 McKies in Northern Ireland.
There were less than 200 individuals in England. The biggest group was in Lancashire. Many of these McKies had recently hailed from Ireland, attracted by the prospect of jobs in the 'dark satanic mills' or perhaps fleeing the potato famine. The next largest group, in Northumberland and Durham, hailed almost entirely from south west Scotland.
|Haddingtonshire (East Lothian)||Scotland||10||0.8%|
|Every McKie in the 1841 Census||1,282||100.0%|
We have long known that each of us inherited the colony of cells that each of us calls 'me' from our natural parents. Likewise, they did from theirs, and so on, in such a way that there is no possibility that any two fraternal siblings can be identical. Unless you shared the same first cell you and your brother or sister are certain to have a different mix of your grandparents' genes. But there are two exceptions to this mixing and these provides two particular lines we can follow back along our line of decent like a thread back to the common ancestor of everyone, thanks to new understanding of this process, just within my lifetime, and advances in computer technology.
One is the genome of the mitochondria in the cells of every one of us. These come exclusively from our mother, her mother and so on back to the last common female ancestor. Our fathers have nothing to do with that.
The other, like a family name, is the Y chromosome that each boy inherits exclusively from his father. His mother has no input to that little part of his genome that makes him male or his sister female. That little part came from a single male spermatozoon of his father's; that successfully fertilised his mother's egg-cell (ova); that multiplied to become him.
Thus, the sex of a child is entirely due to which of the father's sperm successfully fertilises the ova. Numerous studies (eg) have found no discernible difference in speed or size or strength or persistence between spermatozoa bearing a Y or an X chromosome. So, it is untrue, and 'an old wives' tale', that the mother can predetermine the sex of her baby in some way, for example by timing copulation or altering the environmental conditions in her womb.
But it's possible that a father can. On average more boys are born than girls indicating that men produce slightly more male than female sperm. As more boys are born at the end of wars it has been speculated that men can hormonally influence their sperm gender balance. So perhaps individual men of a particular age do produce a lot more male sperm while others produce more female - this is untested. Thus, any bias towards one sex or another is entirely up to the father. Maybe exercise or diet or stress or injury or even frequency of ejaculation can be factors? Yet the biggest factor remains chance. Like the flip of a coin each event is independent of the last; so six girls or boys in a row is not particularly unusual.
All things being regular, in our culture, a family name and a boy's Y chromosome go together. So, all McKie males should be able to trace their Y chromosome back to the original man of that name: McKie begat; McKie begat... And all McKie males of that name should share the same Y chromosome.
|DNA Ancestry Report of Richard McKie
The following Y chromosome SIR marker profile for Richard McKie has been obtained through PCR analysis of Y-DNA SIR loci. Y-DNA is passed down from father to son along the direct paternal lineage. All males who have descended from the same paternal lineage (same forefather) as Richard McKie are expected to have exactly the same or very similar Y-DNA SIR marker profile as Richard's profile shown below. If two males have completely different Y-DNA SIR marker profiles, it will conclusively confirm that they did not descend from the same paternal lineage, regardless of a common surname.
In 1841 our direct (Y chromosome) line of McKies and their families accounted for just six of the 29 McKies in Northumberland and probably quite a few more in Ayrshire.
My Y chromosome provides much more ancient knowledge.
Description of Richard McKie's predicted Y-DNA Haplogroup: Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b
The defining mutation for individuals who belong to Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b is a positive test for SNP marker M343.
The man who founded Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b was born approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago prior to the end of the last Ice Age in southern Europe, Iberia or West Asia.
Members of Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b are believed to be descendants of Cro-Magnon people, the first modern humans to enter Europe. When the ice sheets retracted at the end of the ice age, descendants of the R1b lineage migrated throughout western Europe. There is recent fossil and DNA evidence that the Cro-Magnon people may have interbred with the larger-brained and more robust but less communal Neanderthals.
Today, Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b is found predominantly in western Europe, including England, Ireland, and parts of Spain and Portugal. It is especially concentrated in the west of Ireland where it can approach 100% of the population.
Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b is a dominant paternal family group of Western Europe. It can also be found in lower frequencies in Eastern Europe, Western and Central Asia and parts of North Africa and South Asia.
This Y-DNA Haplogroup contains the well-known Atlantic Modal STR Haplotype (AMH). AMH is the most frequently occurring haplotype amongst human males with an Atlantic European ancestry.
It is also the haplotype of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish King in the Dark Ages who is the common ancestor of many people of Irish patrilineal descent.
Elsewhere the Genetic Genealogy website tells me that my version of the Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b, shared by almost all McKie males, is most commonly found in the people of Ireland and Spain.
Although it is nothing to do with this essay, my version of mtDNA Haplogroup H, inherited from my mother, her mother and so on, is most commonly found in the people of Central Portugal and the Pyrenees. But it is found throughout Europe, including Russia and Turkey, and among the Druze population largely found in Syria and Lebanon.
Now I realise why I felt less conspicuous in Syria than in other parts of the Middle East.
Source: Genetic Genealogy - my additions/comments in blue
As I have no reason to believe that mine is not a true copy of the McKie Y chromosome as far back as this McKie male over 230 years ago, my haplogroup is informative in another way.
The nearest Y chromosome relative in the Genetic Genealogy database is not called McKie at all but Geddes. He and I have a common male ancestor 17 or less generations back. I initially thought that a genetic generation was about 25 years but more recent investigation has found that historically a male generation was closer to 35 years and a female generation around five years less (30 years), on average. Thus, Ryan John Geddes' and my common ancestor probably lived during the 15th century, very likely in Scotland. This was after the Scottish Wars of Independence, during the Stewart Dynasty, or perhaps as late as the Scottish Reformation or the Scottish Enlightenment.
There's a McLean within 22 generations but the nearest McKay listed and I share a male ancestor within 35 generations, who lived during the 13th century. Of course, there may be many closer who have not used this DNA analysis service.
So if there has been no irregularity in Ryan Geddes' ancestry or mine, like stray roosters in the hen coop, we can assume that the change in spelling to McKie occurred somewhere after the middle ages.
Using various on-line resources, I have been able to trace the McKie line back six generations to Alexander McKie born around 1781 in Scotland. He was an agricultural labourer married to Jannet Sloan. They are the best match from census birth and marriage records as parents of William McKie who I know was my ancestor and was born in 1804. If these are his parents it means he came from in Girvan, Ayrshire in Scotland.
Just two generations back I have a Domville line, my father's mother, that could be my nearest claim to being in any way 'noble'. See my Grandmother's Family later on.