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Scottish Clans in My Family’s History

Posted in Genealogy and History

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)

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  1. […] Forgive my recent lack of updates. School is back in session, and I found that once again, my genealogical interests had to take a back burner to career and family. Ever since I began teaching, I have found my summers to be a mad pursuit of my family tree, while the rest of the year keeps me too busy to do much research. I never totally stop or drop it altogether, but I just can’t devote as much time to it as I do during the summer. It was, for example, the summer after my first or second year teaching that I discovered I had some Scottish ancestry and devoted a lot of time and energy into uncovering different Scottish clans and celebrated all those famous ancestors I found in my tree. […]

    October 1, 2006
  2. Hi,

    I am very interested to read about the connection to the Ayrshire Kennedys. Would you be able to share a transcription of the Kennedy genealogy inscriptions from David’s family bible and the Kennedy pedigree you have built up? Many thanks

    Iain Kennedy

    November 27, 2006
  3. Kimberly Chambers
    Kimberly Chambers

    Jesse Graham 1804-1887
    Martha (Pasty) Fannin 1811-1894

    John Graham1843-1911
    Martha Jane Sartin 1835-1880

    Malcolm Robert Graham 1869-1925
    Mary Alcone Owens 1868-1925

    Perlie Myrtle Graham 1889-1962
    John Francis Finster 1880-1968

    Wilburn Woodrow Finster 1918-1989
    Gertrude Elaine Johnson 1916-1989

    Gayle Elaine Finster Living
    Lloyd Allen Kaase Living

    Kimberly Jeanne Kaase Living
    Weldon Randall Chambers Living

    This is my connection to the Graham’s. Jesse & Gideon Graham were brothers. I have a book given to Perlie Myrtle Graham-Finster by Gideon Graham THE DAWSON-GRAHAM AND ALLIED FAMILIES written by (Senator) Gideon Graham.
    Gideon’s Grandfather Captain Gideon Graham and Grandmother Elizabeth Minnix Graham. Her father was Nathaneil Minnix pure Irish and his wife Elizabeth Renfro was of Scotch lineage.
    John Wesley Graham (the second born son of Gideon and Elizabeth) married Missouri Ann Dawson (first wife) her father was James Dawson 1815-1891 and mother Temperance Buttler 1820-1893. Robert Dawson 1812-1886 married Jane Watkins (first wife) birth and death unknown. There Children were Elburt, Samuel Riley, Jasper, Elizabeth, Francis Marion (Bud), John Josephene (nee Pierce), Joseph R.(Joe), and Jane (nee Blassingame)
    In the book it states that from these two brothers comes our Cherokee lineage. James and Robert Dawson.

    August 6, 2008
    • Beth Graham
      Beth Graham

      Missouri Ann Dawson-Graham is where the Cherokee blood enters the line. She married John Wesley Graham (Gideon’s son) and had Senator Gideon Graham (named after his paternal grandfather) with him.

      July 16, 2010
  4. Hi Dana,
    I thought you might like to hear from another “branch” on your family tree.
    I am working on the Meeks Family Tree, which ties into your Graham tree.
    Your great great great grandmother Melvina J. is a sister to our line Volney Sharon Meeks, the son of Nathan Taylor Meeks and Sarah Elizabeth Graham.
    As you know, Sarah Elizabeth (parents Captain Gideon Graham and Elizabeth Minnix) had a brother John Wesley. It is John Wesley who married Missouri Ann Dawson and she was of Cherokee heritage. Her parents were James Dawson and Temperance Butler, but that is all the information I have on them.

    July 3, 2011
    • Marilyn Meeks Raymond
      Marilyn Meeks Raymond

      Hi! I am trying to research my Meeks father’s family reportedly came to N.C. From Scotland. I have only been able to go back 5 generations to Charles Meeks in N.C. I would be most interested and very appreciative if you have any info beyond that. Thanks for your consideration, Marilyn

      September 20, 2014
  5. Mroczkowski-Graham family, Belgium
    Mroczkowski-Graham family, Belgium

    Missouri Ann Dawson’s mother was Polly Ann Rogers (wife of Samuel Dawson) she was Cherokee (mother Alcie Vann), she was Cherokee, her half sister Tiana Rogers was the Cherokee (2nd) wife of Sam Houston. They were daughters of a Scottish
    trader known as “Hell-Fire” Jack and they are related to chief John Jolly (painted by George Catlin in 1834)

    My wife is a decendant of Jesse Abner Graham, the older brother of John Wesley.

    You can trace the Graham family al the way to at least the 12th century, trough their clan history.
    Progenitor in the US is William Alexander Graham Born in Ulster northern Ireland in 1746, son of Richard Graham, Jr. born 1711 Inveraray, Argyle, , Scotland.

    They are descendants of William de Graham, who fought with king David the 1st to claim the throne of Scotland, also of the famous sir John de Graham, captain to Scotland’s national hero William Wallace,
    Here is his grave inscription:

    Here lyes Sir John the Grame, baith wight and wise,
    Ane of the chiefs who rescewit Scotland thrise,
    Ane better knight not to the world was lent,
    Nor was gude Graham of truth and hardiment

    Descendants also of James Graham 1st Marquis of Montrose, soldier and poet and ” lord lieutenant of Scotland” (maybe the greatest af all of the Grahams),_1st_Marquess_of_Montrose

    Also to John Graham of claverhouse,1st viscount Dundee (Bonnie Dundee) nobelman and general for the Jacobite cause who, defeated the English but fell at he Battle of Killiecranckie

    Their Motto is ” Ne oublie” (do not forget)…
    check out the clan Graham website for more info



    February 13, 2016
  6. Tim graham sr
    Tim graham sr

    Jesse abner graham sr is my great great grandfather
    The old graham cemetery was at ft.hood until
    Some graves were moved to gatesville city new graham
    Cemetery gatesville tx Jesse graham and Martha
    Fanning and others are there we go to the old graham
    Cemetery every year at Memorial Day on ft.hood
    They close the high impact area for the family

    October 20, 2021

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