When I was 15 years old my father gave my brother and I copies of Ila Maughan’s book entitled “James McDonald Sarah Ferguson, Their Progenitors and Their Posterity”. From my first reading I became fascinated with my Scots/Irish ancestors. Northern Ireland in the 18th century was populated mainly with Scottish immigrants. Our ancestors were Presbyterian (Church of Scotland) before converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS or Mormon). I served an LDS mission in Scotland, learned a few words and phrases in Gaelic, and took up the bagpipes. I loved living among the Scottish people and took my wife back to Scotland ten years ago. Other than modern conveniences, very little had changed culturally. In some ways things are probably much as they were 200 years ago when our ancestors were there. This should not be mistaken for disdain of Scottish customs. It is quite the opposite. Two hundred years to an American is practically our nation’s entire history. Scottish history and culture span 1500 years! The last 200 years just don’t have the impact on the deep rooted Scottish culture that is has had on America.
In her book Ila Maughan said, “some writers” give the original spelling of our surname as “MacDomnaill meaningSunday of beauty”. An Internet Gaelic dictionary states “Sunday of beauty” is written Dòmhnaich gu àillte. Close, but not a correct a translation of the Gaelic name Domhnaill. I became involved in Clan Donald, USA, the world wide organization for the surname, and learned that the actual meaning of our surname in Gaelic, mhic dhomhnaill is “son of world ruler”. I discovered that Ila Maughan’s source for her surname information, The Media Research Bureau was not accepted by The American Society of Genealogists as credible and was shut down by the US Postal Service because they determined it was a scam. When searching out information regarding the surname McDonald be leery of the many inaccurate family histories for sale through the Internet or promoted through mass mailings to everyone regarding their surname. Beware of companies offering to sell you a copy of your “Family Coat of Arms”. The coat of armsIla Maughan included in her book actually belong to an individual, Sir Ian Macdonald of Sleat, Bt. There is no evidence we are directly related to him and even if we were we shouldn’t use his coat of arms. Ila Maughan used what was available to her to raise our awareness of the history of our surname. Her book certainly inspired me to learn more about our ancestors. This website will share updated documentation & links to the latest information available through the Internet to further what Ila Maughan began with “James McDonald Sarah Ferguson, Their Progenitors and Their Posterity”.
Ila Maughan searched archived records available at the Family History Library, contracted with a professional genealogist in Ireland to search records not yet available in the Family History Library, and communicated with others who shared her passion for family history research. But since its 1964 printing, Brian Leese, the British professional genealogist who Ila Maughan “loved and trusted as a son”, has been discredited by several genealogical societies. That doesn’t mean everything he did was fraudulent, but we do need to examine the original records and reevaluate his contributions to our family history. The original documents are provided so you may weigh the evidence and make your own informed decision regarding our family history.
Fortunately most of what Ila Maughan included in her book was taken directly from statements of James McDonald and his children Jane, John, and William as recorded in the Nauvoo Temple Register, The Endowment House, and Manti Temple records. They all stated Moses McDonald was from County Down Ireland, and when he received his patriarchal blessing James said he was born to Moses & Mary in Down Co. Ireland.
Ila Maughan clearly identified in her book our “proven progenitors” and set that apart from Brian Leese’s opinions which she included in the book usually preceded by “further research is required”. One of Brian Leese’s letters is included for you to determine the value of his research. Unfortunately, Brian Leese’s undocumented speculations have been added to our pedigree charts on New Family Search. A yDNA test I had done shows we do not share a common y chromosome pattern with the Earls of Antrim as Brian Leese speculated. We were barking up the wrong family tree.
I have learned of research Eunice Young did in the 1970’s of microfilmed Carnmoney parish records from Belfast. She found a 1778 christening of a Moses whose father was John McDonnald (double “n”) and a daughter of a John M’Donnald named Mary Cunningham M’Donnald christened in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast in 1768. The combination of those 3 family names in the proximity and time of our ancestors shows greater promise than the undocumented speculation that we are directly descended from the Earls of Antrim.
I observed the success my wife, who is a convert, had finding her ancestors’ information using Internet search engines. Inspired by her success, I Googled “Moses McDonald” and eventually found a journal of a Greenock clerk named James Muir that shocked me. EXECUTION “Friday, June 5th (1812) Moses McDonald was executed at Greenock, for Housebreaking theft.” Could this be our Moses? I searched the Internet further and found 3 independent accounts with the final account by Sir Walter Scott giving details that verify this was our Moses McDonald including verification he was from Ireland, but resided in Greenock for several years. After adding the death date to New Family Search I received an email from Jack McDonald with further documentation from the interviews and trial of Moses McDonald that Jack and his brother, Steve obtained by going to Scotland. These provide conclusive proof that this is our Moses as his spouse Mary Glass testified in his defense.
In response to my requests for any information about Mary McCracken my 2nd cousin Rex and his wife Mary Ann McDonald shared records that my own uncle had shared with Ila Maughan in 1962. They had copies of the original pages Ila Maughan received from my uncle John McDonald as James McDonald Sarah Ferguson, Their Progenitors and Their Posterity was about to go to press. These records of temple work performed in the Manti Temple shortly after it was completed reveal who Mary McCracken was and the revelation was almost as much of a shock as learning the fate of Moses McDonald!
So the purpose of this web site is to encourage additional research to find documentation of the ancestors of James McDonald and Sarah Ferguson beginning with the “proven progenitors” Ila Maughan provided us in her book. The first new discovery we offer is the death date of Moses McDonald being the 5th of June 1812 in Greenock, Renfrew shire, Scotland and confirmation he was “a native of Ireland”. And now the solution of the Mary McCracken Mystery!