Last updated on November 27, 2006
About seven or eight years ago, when I first began working on my family history in earnest, I discovered that much of my heritage is Scottish. My paternal grandfather was mostly German, but my other three grandparents each had some Scottish background. I am not sure about my paternal grandmother — I found a census record this year that throws into doubt whether she was born a Campbell or was adopted by a stepfather named Campbell, but until I have proof otherwise, I’ll take her word for it.
My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Campbell. The Campbells were and are a prominent clan in Scotland. Of course, as I noted, she may have been adopted, but even if she wasn’t, her last name may have been. Not everyone with the name Campbell can truly trace lineage back to the clan, because many people not of that clan took the name. However, my grandmother was born in Kentucky. The Campbells were a Highland clan, and many Highlanders emigrated to America and settled in North Carolina following the Battle of Culloden. It stands to reason, given popular migration routes, that some Highland Campbells might have moved west to Kentucky. The Campbells might be best known for their infamous slaughter of the Clan McDonald in the Glen Coe Massacre. You can learn more about authentic Campbell tartans from the Clan Campbell Society of North America.
My mother’s maiden name is Cunningham, which is derived from a Lowland clan in Ayrshire. The Cunningham Clan has been dormant since 1796 with the death of the last chief. Family legend states that the Cunninghams in my family came to America from Ireland. Cunningham is indeed derived from either Ireland or Scotland, so it may be that my Cunninghams are not affiliated with the Cunningham Clan, either.
My great-great-great-grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Kennedy ¹. Genealogy research in the family, based on the memoirs of David Kennedy (1768-1837), a prominent member of the Kennedy family, and my gggggg-grandfather, indicated that the Kennedys came to America from Scotland via Ireland. According to David Kennedy’s family Bible: “My great grandfather was from Scotland by the name of Alexander. He fled from that country in the time of the great rebellion [that would be the rebellion of 1715 in protest over bringing George I to the throne rather than the Stuart Pretender] to Ireland.” David Kennedy’s Bible records are fairly comprehensive and have been of great help to genealogists.
My great-great-great-grandmother was Sarah Elizabeth Graham ². I can trace my Graham lineage with some degree of certainty to Sarah Elizabeth Graham’s father, Gideon Graham. One resource states that Gideon Graham may have been one-half Cherokee — the research supposedly proving this exists, but I have not physcially obtained it. It is curious that he would be living in Indian Territory so very early if he had no Native American ancestry — at least as early as 1838, as he married there at that time. I do not know whether it was his mother or father who was Cherokee. If it was, indeed, his father, then it would seem he took the name Graham rather than was born with it, thus this particular clan wouldn’t be a part of my family’s history; however, I can’t be sure. His mother’s lineage is seemingly more sure than his father’s, which would tend to lend credence to the notion that his father was Cherokee; however, it would have been highly irregular for a white woman of that time to marry a full-blooded Cherokee — the alternative is much more likely. It is my hunch that he is not of Cherokee ancestry at all, though I will admit that my great-grandmother, Lucille Willis, has some Native American features. This thread at the Graham Family Genealogy Forum seems to indicate that at some point, a false genealogy was concocted for the Graham family. I have found some research that ties Gideon to John Graham and Mary Pennington of North Carolina. The Graham Clan in Scotland were Jacobites, and it stands to reason that they emigrated to North Carolina with other fallen Jacobites after 1746.
In terms of my Scottish lineage, the clan that seems most surely a part of my family’s history (based on research, both my own and that of others) is the Clan Kennedy. Records from David Kennedy’s family Bible indicate a link to the Kennedys of Ayrshire. If this link is proven, it connects eventually to Robert the Bruce through his Stewart descendants. Learning about my family’s history has awakened an interest in Scottish history that might not have been, had I not discovered links such as these. Whether they are actually historically accurate and provable or not, I am thankful for all I’ve learned about history through researching genealogy.
¹ My lineage to my first link to the Kennedy family is traced:
Dana Michelle Swier (me)
Patti Jo Cunningham (mother)
Udell Oliver Cunningham (grandfather)
Herman Cunningham (great-grandfather)
Stella Ophelia Bowling (great-great-grandmother)
Mary Elizabeth Kennedy (great-great-great-grandmother)
² My lineage to my first link to the Graham family is traced:
Dana Michelle Swier (me)
Patti Jo Cunningham (mother)
Doris LaNell Thurman (grandmother)
Lucille Inez Willis (great-grandmother)
Melvina Meeks (great-great-grandmother)
Sarah Elizabeth Graham (great-great-great-grandmother)