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McAdoo/MacAdoo, with its many variants such as: McAdow, McAdoe, McAdo, McAdue, McDow, McAdon, is a relatively rare surname. It has been estimated that in the late 1980s there were less than 1500 McAdoo households in the world. Of these, about 90 percent were in the United States of America, with most of the balance in Great Britain (3.5%), Canada (2.5 %), Northern Ireland (2 %), the Republic of Ireland (1 %) and Australia (1 %). North Carolina, where McAdoos-McAdows have resided since the mid 1700s, is currently the most populous State in the USA for persons of that name.

McAdoos are primarily of Presbyterian Scotch-Irish origin who emigrated from the Province of Ulster in Ireland to America and elsewhere. A few came to the new world in the first half of the 18th century as part of an exodus of Presbyterian Scots from Ulster to settle in the Alleghany region of Virginia and the Carolinas and who became the pioneers of the American backwoods. While immigration from Ulster has continued into the 20th century, it is believed that the majority of McAdoos in America today are descendants of those early pioneers.

The McAdoos of Ulster came to Ireland from Scotland as tenant farmers for Scottish Undertakers, most of them likely after the Irish Rebellion of 1640. The majority, if not all, were Scottish Lowland Presbyterians, from Ayrshire and possibly Galloway and Renfrewshire. Eight persons of that name have been identified in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1663-1669, three in Antrim, three in Donegal, and one each in Fermanagh and Londonderry. Within three generations their sons and daughters began migrating to America.

Why is the McAdoo name so rare? No Scottish Clan has claimed it as a Sept. One of the earliest references to the name is the baptism of Janet, daughter of Walter McAdo and Janet Stewart, 26 Feb 1625 at the Glasgow High Church, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Janet's parent's marriage was recorded as: Walter McIndoe and Janet Stewart, married 10 March 1624 at the Glasgow High Church. Perhaps the name is a variant of McINDOE which is a sept of the Buchanan clan. Or perhaps it is a name adopted by a member or members of one of the broken Highland clans, such as the MacFarlanes or MacGregors, whose names were proscribed in the late 1500s. This would explain the rarity of the surname.

What is the meaning of the name? According to "The Surnames of Ireland" by Edward MacLysaght, it is an anglicized variant of the Gaelic Mac CONDUIBH (Mac = son of, con = hound, and dubh = black). Hence McAdoo means "son of the black hound". However, such a derivation of the name may be wishful thinking on the part of Irish historians trying to find a Gaelic origin for surnames in Ireland. Perhaps the name is derived from the highlands of Scotland. There are several "Dubh" features, such as hills and glens in the area to the west and north of Loch Lomond, where the MacFarlane and MacGregor clans lived. It is conceivable that a member of one of those proscribed clans could have adopted a name based on one of those features when the clans were deprived of their land and names.

The above is a brief background to the McAdoo saga. The early McAdoos in America generally had large families.Their descendants migrated from their homes in the east through Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and across the great plains and mountains to the west coast. Others moved south into Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Texas. Later McAdoo immigrants settled in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. Today you can find McAdoos living in almost every State of the Union.

It is the purpose of this website to help you find your McAdoo ancestors and hopefully trace them back to Ulster, Ireland, or to Scotland, from whence they came.

(intro. written by)

James A. Heal


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