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My McAdow Family Research



I put together this page for any just starting their own McAdow genealogical research and needs some clues about where to look; or any McAdow who's just curious about where our family might've originated.

I've been researching my genealogy off-and-on since the early-1990s. As a boy, I always wondered where we came from, but dad wasn't sure and we didn't live near any of his family.

Note: I've only researched my own Ohioan family line, back to my great-great-great-grandfather, George McAdow (c.1841-1917). I've found records and info on other McAdow families during my research, but I don't have a lot of details about them.

Quick Summary

Here's a quick summary based on what I've found so far. The McAdow family:

Scotland or Ireland?

My guess is that the family came from Scotland.

Records about the McAdows' "old country" have been hard to find - maybe one of these days I can travel to Europe to do some personal research.


The McAdow family may not have a tartan or a clan like the famous Highland Scots...but that doesn't mean they're not from Scotland.

I think the McAdow family came from the Scottish Lowlands or the region of the Anglo-Scottish border. Clans and kilts weren't as common amongst the Lowland families, though some began to wear them at the early part of the 19th century. The Lowland Scots had many cultural, religious and political differences with their countrymen to the north.

The handful of references to vital and public records from Scotland that I've found, show McAdows living in several Lowland counties or districts of Scotland: Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, and Dumfriesshire and Galloway. Also, the dates and locations of those records tend to coincide with historical emigration patterns of the Lowland Scots.

I think our McAdow ancestors emigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland in the 1600s, along with other English and Scottish settlers (the "Ulster-Scots" or "Scots-Irish") to the Ulster Plantation. There are records of McAdow marriages, births, christenings from the late 1600s in County Monaghan, Ireland, and a couple from Antrim. Both of these counties were part of the Ulster Plantation with Scots and English populations, and I’ve only found pre-1800 McAdows in that part of Ireland.

Religion also provides some clues - the McAdow family have a history of association with Protestant and Presbyterian churches in Scotland, Ireland and America. The Irish have traditionally been Roman Catholics, as were the Highland Scots, into the 18th Century.


The only compelling evidence I’ve seen of an Irish origin comes from noted genealogist and author, Edward MacLysaght. In The Surnames of Ireland, he lists several anglicized variants of the Irish surname MacConduibh that are startlingly close to McAdow: Caddo/MacCaddo and Caddow/MacCaddow.

In A Guide to Irish Surnames, he adds MacAdoo and MacEndoo to the group. Other derivatives he lists don't seem as close: MacCunniffe, MacNiff, MacNeeve, Kinniff, for example.

Based on that, and the fact that there are more references to McAdows in Ireland than in Scotland, and the amount of back-and-forth emigration between Scotland and Ireland over the centuries, it’s worth considering an Irish-origin, so I'm keeping an open mind.


More evidence for Scottish origin, or...?

Recently, I took the genetic testing offered by the site One of the tests is for the males-only “Y” chromosome - it's passed down from a father to his sons. ( I received it from my McAdow father, who received it from his McAdow father, and so on.)

The results of the test identified my paternal haplogroup as: R1b1b2a1a1

This suggests that the McAdow family’s ancient roots are 3,000-4,000 years old, and from “the fringes of the North Sea in England, Germany and the Netherlands,” according to 23andMe. I highlighted those areas in the North Sea map below - in the context of other findings, it seems to give some credence to the idea McAdows originated in the Scottish Lowlands, or at least the region bordering Scotland and England.

North Sea map image.

But there's one caveat...

For this to be true, I have to assume none of my direct paternal ancestors were adopted into the McAdow family somewhere along the line. In other words, that the father of every son named McAdow was himself a McAdow.

That said, if you’re a male with the McAdow surname, you might want to take the tests at 23andMe or elsewhere, and compare your result to mine. If you do take the tests, let me know! I’m interested in comparing results with other McAdows and having as much evidence as we can to examine. My email address is at the bottom of this page.

McAdow Families of Colonial America

Based on tax, census and vital records, and Scots-Irish history, the McAdow family likely immigrated to the American colonies sometime between 1718 and 1750. They settled in Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina.

Records indicate they owned parcels of land throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania, most notably a plantation in Harford County, Maryland (possible evidence that they must have done well in Northern Ireland?). In present-day Pennsylvania, there is a log house that is still standing, built by the McAdow family in the late 1700s (see the "McAdow-McAdams-Wilson Log House"). I have found indications that McAdows received land grants in Pennsylvania for service during the Revolutionary War. They also have a history in the Carolinas, as well.

McAdow families served in the Revolutionary War and were known to have participated in the battles of Brandywine Creek, Germantown and Guilford Court House.

19th Century America and Beyond

In the early 1800s, McAdow families of Maryland seem to have migrated in two major branches: one to Missouri and another to Ohio. I'm descended from the Ohio branch. Many McAdow families continue to live in Ohio today (my father is a seventh-generation Ohioan). The Missourian McAdow families were more mobile - within a few generations they had settled across the West and Mid-West. I live in California and often see their descendants in telephone directories or on the Internet. Technically they're relatives...though our last common ancestor died over 200 years ago!

Where McAdows lived in the 1700s

Where McAdows lived in the 1800s

(Maps don't include McAdoo info; didn't learn until recently they were related to McAdows)
Click on image to view a larger version of a map
Blank USA map source: Public use images from Wikimedia Commons

Are the McAdow and McAdoo Surnames Related?

In the late-1700s or early-1800s, the spelling of the McAdow family name on records from North Carolina changed to McAdoo. Several McAdoo families in the South trace their heritage to this particular McAdow/McAdoo family. Until recently, I didn't think they were related to the McAdow families of Maryland and Pennsylvania, but someone in a discussion group shared some information that indicates both families have common ancestral history in colonial Maryland:

...members of the old Nottingham Presbyterian Church at Rising Sun Maryland and about 1750/52...decided, as a body, to move to North Carolina. They obtained lands on which to settle in what is now Guilford County, from Earl Granville, who did not sell the lands outright to them, but retained an interest in it. Here the families settled and established another Presbyterian congregation called the Buffalo Presbyterian Church. Rev. Hugh McAden had been their minister for a short time...

From Tennessee Cousins by Worth S Ray, Monroe County section, page 436

The town of Rising Sun is located across the Susquehanna River from Harford County, where a McAdow plantation was located. You can read more about the North Carolinian McAdow/McAdoo families here.

A little bit of trivia: with the Internet, I've been able to conduct a kind of informal survey of how people pronounce their McAdoo and McAdow surnames (so far, the only respondents have been Americans) and interestingly, the results have been unanimous: McAdoo as MACK-uh-doo, and McAdow as MACK-uh-dow ("-ow" as in "cow").


Last updated on September 2013