Thursday, October 21, 2010


There is an old legend which I shall attempt to tell very briefly in my own words.  I was originally sent an audio tape  from a McQuaig researcher in Georgia, United States who,  I believe, is now deceased.  The audio tape held the recording of an elderly Scottish gentleman telling this story.  I am not sure if  I can  find it in print so I shall record it here as best as my memory allows.  The story goes something like this:
Couple in hear
There was once a young Scottish lad of the Clan McLeod who fell in love with a beautiful Scottish lass. Sadly the McLeods and her  family were feuding with each other at the time and of course their marriage would never be allowed.  So they ran away together, changed their name and were married.. Many, many  years later they were forgiven and allowed to come home.  McCuaig through time has become an anglicized version of the name they used while in exile. 

Thus the McCuaig family believes themselves to be McCuaigs but also just as firmly and rightly to be McLeods.   

I realize this is just a legend but such stories often have a grain of truth and as researchers we need to be aware of the possibility of such name transformations and be on the look out for variations of the McLeod name also.  

I have found instances on Islay where both names are used in different instances by the same person.  It is more than common to find that when a McCuaig leaves the island  they use the name McLeod.  So often when they went to mainland  to find work you will find their records there under the name McLeod.

This name change is also common when they emigrated to Canada,  Australia or New Zealand and I am sure other places in the world. Not all McCuaigs changed their name to McLeod, but enough did that a researcher should be aware of the possibility. 

Here is one families example -
  • Catherine McCuaig was christened 24 Apr 1828 in the parish of Kildalton. Daughter to Dugald McCuaig and Catherine McEwen (McEwing).           
      "1828 Apr 24 Cath'r   Dug'd McCuaig & Cath'r McEwing   Giol"                                
  • On the 1841 census the family is found in the Parish of Kildalton using the surname McCuaig
  • On the 1851 census Dugald McCuaig appears to be deceased as his wife is a widow and is using the surname McCuaig.
  • In 1855 the daughter Catherine marries Neil Darroch and uses the surname McCuaig in her marriage registration. 
  • In 1856 Catherine and Neil have a child, Mary, born in Port Ellen, Kildalton. Catherine’s maiden surname is recorded as McCuaig
  • In 1857 a son Angus joins the family and his mother's surname is recorded as McCuaig.
  • However in 1859 another daughter (named Catherine) joins this small family and the mother's maiden surname is reported as McLeod
  • Archibald was born in 1860.  On his birth registration his mother's maiden surname is recorded as McCuaig.
  • In 1862 Gilbert joins the family and his mother's surname is recorded as McCuaig.
The family appears to move to Wellington County, Ontario, Canada between September 1862 when Gilbert is born and April of 1863 when Grandma passes away. 
  • In April of 1863 Grandmother Catherine McEwin (McEwing) married name McCuaig dies and is buried at Bethel Pioneer Cemetery in the Township of Arthur, Wellington County, Ontario Canada. Her tombstone reads
"In memory of Catherine McEwen / wife of Dugald McLeod / Died 12 Apr 1863 / Aged 72 yrs. a native of the Island of Islay"

Maggie and John join the family about 1864 and 1867 respectively. They were born before civil registration began in Ontario.  I have not yet found a birth record for them but I have found them on census records with their family. 
  • Christina is born in July 1869.  Her  mother's surname  on the birth registration is recorded as McLeod. as it is for Dugald's birth  in June of 1871
  • When the eldest daughter Mary marries in 1881 her mother’s maiden surname is recorded as McLeod.
  • Son Angus marries in 1892 and his mother’s maiden name is recorded as McLeod
I can provide sources for any of the above if desired
In my own family, when I began researching  my McLeod ancestors I hit brick walls and frustrations.  My  GGGGrandfather’s tombstone in Ontario stated the he was a native of Islay, Scotland.  My sister had found Ontario land records and a Quit claim dated 1900 with signatures of descendants of my GGGGrandfather’s  sisters along with their locations in Scotland.

So I went to work trying to figure out how they all fit together.   I went through fifty years of birth, marriage and death indexes and paid for certificates from Scotland. Bit by bit I followed them back until I got to the time period when registrations were filmed. Then I ordered film after film following the families and putting them together. Finally the time came when I was sure I would bridge the gap to my McLeod ancestors. 

I had the film where I thought that I would find the names of the parents of the family I had been building and would finally be able to connect to the McLeods.  I remember how I had ranted and complained to my research buddies “If they wanted me to find them so badly why didn’t they just write their name down somewhere”.  I put the film in the reader and I remember thinking – this is it – the next thing I will see is the mother’s name.  But whoops  - the name on the film was Margaret McCuaig not Margaret McLeod.  Where had I gone wrong?

I went back over and rechecked all my work.  I  reevaluated my decisions. I couldn’t find my mistake.  I was at a standstill.  About a month later I was looking at a birth registration film.  The birth registration I wanted and the one above it were both for McCuaig births.  Suddenly I noticed a note in the margin. It read “McLeod and McCuaig are the same name.  The family signs both ways”. 

Could that possibly be?  McLeod and McCuaig didn’t sound anything alike,   Further insight form my sister and a tiny bit more investigation showed that if we substituted the name McCuaig for McLeod we could find our family in Scotland.  In fact – the Island of Islay is quite literally covered with McCuaigs. 
The name I could not find anywhere was everywhere.

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