The Story of the Original McWhirter Families in Scotland

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Various McWh*rter Family Websites

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History of the McWhirter Name

Historians generally agree that the McWh*rter name, in all of its variants, originated in South-West Scotland in the region south of the Firth of Clyde formerly known as the Kingdom of Carrick. This was comprised of the current regions of Ayrshire, Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire.

The earliest recorded references to the name appear in the mid 1300s. There are references in land grants commencing in 1346. Legend reports that the McWhirter tower of Blairquhan Castle was erected in 1347. It was disassembled, however, in 1824 and the stone used in the construction of the current castle.

Prior to the advent of DNA testing, there was no way of knowing whether there was a single or multiple McWh*rter ancestors. Since the name is an occupational one derived from the occupation of the bearer, there could be many, very few or only one. The origin of the name is that of Chruiter or harper, it being the custom of lairds to appoint a personal harper. The position came to be hereditary and the role devolved in each case to the son of the harper or the MacChruiter in Gaelic. This name became M'Whirter in Old Scots, the language of the lowlands and has since manifested itself in many variants of which McWhirter, MacWhirter and McWhorter are the most common.

One of the objectives of the DNA project is to attempt to quantify the number of ancestral lines. Wouldn’t it be exciting, albeit highly unlikely, if it could be narrowed to a single progenitor! (update, there are now several progenitors, not just one.)

It is well documented that bearers of the name have dispersed to the far reaches of the globe over the past 400 years. Significant numbers are known to have gone to the northern parts of Ireland in the early 1600s. A journey of less than twenty miles. Some stayed, others returned to Scotland while others ventured to the Americas during the ensuing hundred or more years. Of course, there were many who never left the homeland and their descendants may still be found throughout the United Kingdom.

How many of those who ventured to the Americas in the 1700s were related remains unknown. While there is the suggestion that there may have been only a single family, it will be an objective of this project to explore that question.

The great era of migration occurred in the 1800s when families from Scotland ventured to the U.S., British North America (later to be Canada), Australia, and elsewhere. Since many of these came from the neighbouring villages of Ballantrae, Colmonell, Barr, Girvan, Maybole and Cairnryan and various parts of Wigtownshire, there is a high probability of close relationships among them although many of these remain unproven due to the loss of the necessary documentation. Another objective of the project!