McKinstry Surname Origins
Here is the historical material people online found for me
on the origins of the McKinstry surname.
The name traces with absolute consistency to two adjacent parishes,
Minnigaff and adjacent parts of Penninghame Parish, upriver on the
* Barlochan where McKinstry
lived is probably an estate of that name in Penninghame parish and not the town
Next step would have been to row 23 miles across the strait
to those red thumb tacks on the Irish coast; one of those is Carrickfergus,
where William McKinstry who married Mary Morse was born in 1722. Another is
If Roger McKinstry, father of Rev. John McKinstry and possible
relative of William McKinstry who married Mary Morse and settled in Sturbridge,
did live in
One of the main landlords in the two parishes where the McKinstry’s originated, married his daughter, Margaret, to John Knox, as his second wife. A generation or two earlier, another large landowner and close friend of the first one, was fond of Wycliffe, and took to reading from his Bible in the vernacular, to his neighbors, in the woods. McKinstry’s were quite possibly among those neighbors.
This region was very involved in the Convenanter movement,
and in that area it has the look of from top down. The Scottish Reformation was driven by its
aristocracy and upper middle classes, and that seems to have been particularly
I must say that I haven’t found a McKinstry in the detailed
compiled lists of people who were persecuted, fined, imprisoned, expelled from
On the other hand, something does seem different about the McKinstry’s that typified the Scottish Reformation in the region where they lived. Presbyterianism was a very top down movement. It was driven by the aristocracy, and favored by the landowners, craftsmen and shopkeepers. The rebellions of the 17th and 18th century were similarly led by the aristocracy and the middle class.
The overwhelming majority of the Scotch Irish were illiterate
and ignorant, dressed and talked strangely, and lived in hovels. Culturally they weren’t very different from
their early medieval ancestors. They
showed up in
The McKinstry’s were “better sort” from the beginning of the
16th century. They appear in
records as holding rights to several pieces of land apiece. Occasionally they served as minor officials
in manors and villages where they lived.
Atleast some of them were educated.
They weren’t alone in being unique; their distant Y DNA
matches, the Neilson’s, were a landowning family in the
Whether Roger McKinstry and William McKinstry were related can only be resolved by Y DNA testing, and, if they match, and other McKinstry families match the same haplotype, enough Y DNA testing of the family group to discern how its lines are related to each other.
The notion that the name McKinstry is Scots Gaelic for “son of a wanderer” or “son of a traveler” comes from a standard reference on Scots Gaelic names and their English equivalents, by a Scots Gaelic scholar. Scots Gaelic names and their English equivalents are so similar to each other that I couldn’t lay odds that he was right. The name McKinstry did resist the mangling that is characteristic of Scotch Irish names. It often lost the final ie or y sound, and occasionally lost the prefix, but never lost the “instr” part. Rarely the I vowel converted to a short e – McKenstry. Mc was often spelled Mac, and the final syllable was often ie or ay. Early on the name was often some version of McInnistrie. The original is supposed to be Mac An Astrigh, and there is a more complex spelling of that.
From Scottish records
Black, The Surnames of
I found Woulfe’s Scots Gaelic surname reference at the UT Austin library, and it really says that and nothing more.
My copy (of Black) is the Birlinn edition of 1993, but all the editions are much
the same. Turn to page 518 for the MacInstrie entry.
As you don't seem to have a copy handy (mine is falling apart with use,
and my additions that I have found over the years), here is the
MacInstrie, MacInstray entry:
_Wigtownshire surnames, explained by Woulfe as Mac an Astrigh, "son of
the traveller". He says it is an
Thomas Mackinnstre had sasine of Tanedolane in Kirkcudbrightshire, 1499
(E.R. xi, p. 462). Martin Makeynsterre of that Ilk was juror on an
assize, 1537 ()RMS, III, p.1921), and Elizabeth McKynnestrie in the
parish of Monygof [means Minnigaff] had sasine, 1585 (ER, xix, p.543).
Marion M'Instrie in Borland of Borgue, 1674 (Kirkcudbright), and another
Marion M'Kinister appears in Barlochan, 1747 (ibid). McKinstrie 1684._
[ER = the Exchequer Rolls of
in its Latin title; Kirkcudbright = The Commissariot record of
Kirkcudbright. Executry papers. 1663-1800: this is part of the online
Wills index available free on the Scotlandspeople website]
Your McKinstry name does not appear in "Lands and their owners in
Local historian James Mclay mentioned a house called Stanolane (sp?) on the phone, at Blackcraig, at the southeastern corner of the woods. Large house stands alone. It’s an old local joke. However it isn’t at all clear that it’s the same place as Tanedolane. If it were it would pin the McKinstry’s on that hill for two or three generations. People online think Tanedolane was a farm that can’t now be found. Probably in Minnigaff as Minnigaff is on the Kircudbrightshire side of the river.
** I suspect that the only surviving record is that line in the
Exchequer Rolls, but I may be wrong. You need to contact the National
> firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
and ask them if there is anything more in their records than that line.
You may have to wait, as they are currently on holiday.
The "Kirkcudbright" can be taken to mean either Kirkcudbrightshire (or
at least what is now that county), or it means "in the general vicinity
of the town of
that date consistently uses "vic." (vicinity of) in its geographical
Boundaries back in 1499 were not neccessarily the boundaries now used,
but there was no proper boundary map then.
P.S. In doing a search for Tanedolane in my research library, I also
looked at the surname, and in the Register of the Privy Seal for 1565 I
found a land transfer (effectively a sasine) to Johnne Creichtoun [John
Creichton] of 3 chunks of land which belonged to the umquhile
[deceased] Thomas McKynnestre of Blakcrage. the late Thomas apparently
has two daughters and heirs, the second of whom is named as Bessie.
I’ve not found this Tanedolane; probably it was a farm near
Minnigaff. I did find Blackcraig. See Google Earth shots below. It has
a Newton Stewart address, though it is in Minnigaff parish, east of the river
and southeast of the
Kirckudbrightshire contains Minnigaff and is on one side of
Borque and Barlochan are to the southeast. Barlochan is 27 miles away near the
coast. 30 miles in all directions was
about the distance McKinstry’s were living from their home village in the 18th
century. I’ve heard of them living as
far afield as
However, Barlochan may be an estate of the same name in Penninghame Parish. At that late date it could have been either.
From local Newtown Stewart historian James Mclay:
From Andy Wight document online
(he has written extensively on the strange history of land tenure in
It didn’t matter if one was a
lawyer, aristocrat, or judge in 16th and 17th century
Large areas of land were once
designated in one way or another as common land. (An online map shows none of atleast one
type of common land in Galloway, and I’ve written to him to confirm whether
there was common land on the
The active participation of the landowning aristocracy in Presbyterianism was driven in good part by greed. (It was also driven by the fact that they could use the kirk to control the peasants and maintain the feudal social order.) The landowners took control of large quantities of liberated church lands.
Lawyers were busy in
Checking into the ownership of the three estates, Kirroughtree, formerly Larg, Machermore and Bargaly, I learned that these properties were owned by the Stewart and Gordon families, the McKie family (from Robert the Bruce), a McDowall family,
From local historian:
On the hill land of the south west of
As you know they would have ‘in-by’ land, which was usually cultivated in small fields or strips, growing barley and oats. This would be in the valley bottoms, and usually close to the dwellings. All available fertilizer would be used here rather than following the southern practice of fallowing land every third year. In this area also there would be meadows from which hay was cut for use to see the stock through the winter.
The ‘out-by’ or hill land was used for grazing sheep, which
were very small and hardy and expected to survive the winter without extra
feeding, and black
They would have lived mainly on the oatmeal and barley meal which they produced and would also have brewed ale from their own barley, but it was very much subsistence farming and younger children would usually have to leave to find a living elsewhere. This may explain the wandering and movement of the family.
As regards the Covenanting period, the situation is complex. The Covenanters upheld Presbyterianism while the King tried to impose Episcopalianism. The Gordons of Kenmuir were steadfastly Roman Catholic (Viscount Kenmuir was executed for his part in the 1715 rebellion), so this may have been the conflict which you mention. The Stewarts, like the Maxwells, kept a foot in both camps, so it would rather have depended in exactly which branch of the family was involved.
The family do not sound like people who would have been
rievers, this was mostly confined to the ‘Riding Families’ of the Borders and
Dumfriesshire, and smuggling was not really profitable much before the 18th
century, but, if there is any hint that they may have been Roman Catholics,
they might well have been driven out of
Reference and Local StudiesDumfries and
Tel: 01387 253820
Fax: 01387 260294
Drop point 223
For one thing, it appears that McKinstry's were not necessarily wealthy enough to own three properties; they may have simply held three fields as everyone did. On the other hand they seem to atleast some of the time have been fairly prosperous.
For another, local historians are of the opinion that McKinstrys moved to Ireland more to find a woman and a bit of land than out of religious motives. I find no particular evidence that they moved for religious reasons, other than the persistence of the notion in McKinstry genealogy and the frequency with which one runs into it. It is important to note that at the same time that there was religious conflict, southwestern Scotland kept running out of space for its people, and there was periodic famine when the people exceeded their resources. Population growth contributed as much as other factors to the Scotch-Irish migration.
The line of McKinstrys at Blackcraig is shown as daughtering out. If either of the two daughters mentioned as ultimately standing to inherit the land, had sons out of wedlock, they would have inherited the mother's name. Otherwise the name McKinstry must have been passed on by another branch of this family.
Subject: Re: [WIG LIST] Scottish names in
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 2004 17:38:34 -0600
Yes - my wife dug up this info some years ago while she was working with a
college libraray in
bringing me back down to earth & stopping me from chasing all sorts of gaelic
definitions (I was assuming Kin = head or top, as in Kinlochleven & getting
excited when I found a Glen Strae).
I think she found Blacks plus one other source, which I can't remember, but
which had an exciting reference to a Marion McInnistrie being a Baillie in
has a fine collection of Kinstrey & even Kingstree (pity the Buittle site is
now pay to access).
(I found the Kingstree listings in the Buittle churchyard - all from 18th and 19th centuries. The Buittle churchyard covers no other time period.)
Note: I suspect that this person goofed up that 1512 date and it was really a much later date. Newton Stewart did not exist until the 18th century; it was laid out by a major landowner, who was trying to capture another area’s market. The Buittle churchyard listings are all from the 19th century.
I’ve been told that a
Baillie was anything from a sheriff or local public official, to a manor
official. It is clear that baillies
oversaw the transfer of copyhold land, and of freehold land, such as it
was. Apparently noone owned land
Coats of Arms
During the 19th century, a McKinstry encountered on a steamship claimed that the McKinstry family crest is a burning volcano (or burning mountain), and motto is Luceo non uro – I burn but I am not consumed. A relative who kept the family’s genealogical records subsequently confirmed that. I researched it. Several Grant families, and possibly McLeod families, have used this crest and motto, but it is the crest and motto of the Clan MacKenzie. The McLeod family may in fact use the same motto but an image of a sun instead of a mountain in flames. The MacKenzie family is not McKinstry. It appears that this family mistook their origins.
A mount in flames Proper.
The crest and motto within the crest badge are derived from that of the Macleods of Lewis. In the 17th century Mackenzie of Kintail took possession of Lewis, married a daughter of Macleod of Lewis, and added Macleod of Lewis's arms to that of his own. Even today the chiefs of Clan Mackenzie are styledBaron Macleod of Castle Leod.
A raven Proper.
Derived from the arms of Mackie of Larg. The Mackies of Larg were the principal branch of the clan.
McKie may have been landlords of the McKinstry family in Blackcraig. Larg was one of the estates of Blackcraig.
Theories of McKinstry origins in Carrickfergus
Most American McKinstry’s who can trace their origins claim
to have come from
Rev. John McKinstry of New England claimed to have been born in “Brode”, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1677, to Roger McKinstry, who allegedly lived near Edinburgh and fled to Ireland in 1669, during the time of the Covenanters, on account of religious persecution.
The Covenanter rebellion was extremely bloody, and was at
its most ferocious in
Willis, the 19th century author of a genealogy of
the three main New England McKinstry families, cited vague family tradition
that these three families were closely related to each other from
Susan, of firstname.lastname@example.org,
contacted many of the McKinstry’s who still live in
One has to understand that even Protestant families in Ireland do genealogy as rather an over too many mugs of beer enterprise, and its common to think that everyone with one surname is related.
Y DNA could in time shed light on whether Rev. John
McKinstry was particularly closely related to a family that still lives in
Templecorran, and whether other McKinstry families in the
To investigate that it would be necessary to attract project members from the Templecorran area, and descendants of Rev. John McKinstry. At this time, I have neither.
To prove this family originated in or near Minnigaff, it is
necessary to do Y DNA testing on McKinstry’s who still live in
It may be possible to logically deduce that the Y DNA
lineage originated in
Otherwise, if only McKinstry’s whose emigrant ancestors came
In mid 19th century Griffiths Evaluation, which
was a tax census of all
The legend that Roger McKinstry came from
Here is a map of this region.
Here is a map that shows the parishes where McKinstry’s
lived northeast of Carrickfergus in 1862, specifically in Ballycarry, Larne,
the island (looks more like a peninsula) immediately to the west, and other
parishes immediately west and north of Ballycarry as far north as Larne. Places where they lived included Kilwaughter
and Raloo, and Larne, with the greatest number in Ballycarry, former
Broadisland or Templecorran. The letter
A shows the location of the first Presbyterian Church in
Here is a map of the Ballyclare area. Most McKinstry’s who lived here lived within a few miles of each other, and the bulk lived in Ballycor. However, this entire area is only six to eight miles from Carrickfergus.
After thoroughly examining McKinstry’s in Griffith’s Evaluation and plotting the actual townlands on a map, and also, finding some older tax data, it became clear that actually an independent McKinstry line settled in Glenhead, at the northern end of a shallow glen, and they subsequently, mostly it seems in the 19th century, spread through the glen as far as the town of Ballyclare.
The Hearth Money Rolls of 1666 and 1669 show that just one
McKinstry family lived in County Antrim at that time, and they consisted of
three households, headed by John McKinstry Sr, John McKinstry Jr, and Thomas
McKinstry. Spelled sometimes McKenstry
and sometimes McKinstrye. They lived in
Ballynashee townland, in Rashee parish.
By 1710 a James McKinstry, almost certainly related, lived in the next
townland to the north, which was Glenhead, Glenwhirry Parish. He lived near a clan of border reivers named
Graham who were expelled from
The Glenhead McKinstry family lived at the head of the glen,
at the base of the hill, by a “
19th century Griffiths Evaluation, wills, and
other documents, and the family tree of descendants of the family that owned
the farm in Glenhead then, make it clear that a small number of McKinstry
families owned pieces of land and houses in villages all over that glen. Here is their distribution in
McKinstry’s were also scattered through Carrickfergus,
Templecorran/ Ballycarry, Island Maghee, and Larne, and eastern
Of those in the McKinstry Y DNA project, half claim their
ancestors come from “
Another aggregation of McKinstry families lived at the
southern end of
Here is a map showing the proximity of the Carrickfergus/
Templecorran area to Stranraer, the main town on the western coast of Galloway,
and one from which boats regularly go to Larne and to