Origins of the McAdam Family / Family Name

In 1986 the McAdams Historical Society published a book, "Sons of Adam". This book was not a story of the McAdam - McAdams family, but was a collection of family data and records. The intent of the book was to publish these records in order to preserve all the family information that had been collected at that time. It contains separate known family lines. The aim was to avoid family members researching records that had already been collected. These records were published without rechecking references because the book was intended to be a research reference for the data that had been collected to date. It was not possible to re-check and confirm all the work done by others.

However, the book has stood the test of time. Most records published in "Sons of Adam" are correct. Our book contains mostly the records of American McAdam - McAdams families. It does have errors that are mostly found within family groups. The main problem is incomplete records and omissions. Efforts were made to collect as many wills and estates records as could possibility be located to support the published information. The goal of the Society was to obtain information from the more difficult records that dated before 1850. After the 1850 census, a family line can be located and connected to one of the family lines in most cases. Our newsletter publications have devoted most of our space in trying to fill in the empty spaces.

Since our book was published, several of Society members have made pilgrimages to Scotland and Ireland. They have located additional information that correctly defines from documents the origin of McAdam. Member, Cathy Clayton's trip there a few years back proved to be exceptionally fruitful. In Scotland, she met Anna Turner who was a member of the Carsparin Heritage Center. Anna put us in touch with Hugie Adamson who had been working on the early history of the properties around Carspairn, Scotland where the McAdam family had its origin. Hugie's research does support some of the McAdam traditions, but documents tell a complete and accurate story of the family. Her work supports the existence of the McAdam family that evolved in Galloway, Scotland in the late 1400's. Hugie's research work gives a brief, but very accurate account of the first 100 plus years of the McAdam family. Here is that story.

Spelling of the Surname

The accepted present day sur-name and spelling is "McAdam". Early versions of the name appears as MacCadem,Mackadam, Mackadem, McCaddam, McCaddomes, and Mackadom. "Mc" is the abbreviated form of Mack, thus use of Mc or Mac does not refer to the Scots or Irish version. It is correct that both spelling forms were in general use, but they are one in the same. Other versions of the name found in the old documents include McAdames, McAdamis, Makcaddam, McKadame, McKadem, McCadam, McCadem, McAdum, McCaddum, McCaddam, McCadom, McCaddame, McCaddomes, McAddames. Spellings in those days was up to how the writer wrote or how one learned to write his name. All reference to the name following in this publication has been changed to read McAdam. The form "McAdams" is mostly an American version of the name McAdam, however it also has a limited use is Ireland. It never has been used in Scotland.

A few forms of the name McAdam do appear before the year 1400.

McAdam before Adam McAdam

The wife of Robert, Lord Stewart of Kyle in 1327 was Elizabeth Mure. They had many children bet were not legally married in the church. A special dispensation was obtained from the Pope to allow them to marry in the Chruch. The wedding took place at Our Lady Kirk of Kyle, in Ayshire, about 1347. The priest was Roger McAdame, priest of Our Lady Marie's Chaple (Ladykirk of Kyle.) At the death of his uncle, David, Robert became King Robert ll in 1371. He was  the first Stewart King. Hugie says this may be the McAdam link to the Stewart family.

On the wall of St. Comgill's Church, Church of Ireland, in Newtown Butler, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland Fr. Charles Mc Adam is listed as the Rector in 1424 and 1424.

McAdams Research

It will be hard to prove any of these ancient forms belong to the present McAdam family. A Donald, Neil, and Finly McAdam appear in 1445. Brothers John and Patrick own lands in 1487. The location of these lands are unknown, but the naming pattern suggest it would be possible to belong to the present McAdam family. When the first McAdames are first documented in Galloway they appear to have been better than averagely educated and financially established.

All versions of the McAdam name are part of the history of the Scots people. This history starts with the Celtic migration to Ireland from Asia Minor into Egypt, Crete, Southern France and Spain. The Celts had established a city in the present day Milan and from there had sacked Rome. Since that time, the Roman Empire pushed the Celtic tribes to the ends of the earth. The Scots tribe is said to be descendants of Nuil and Scotia. Nuil, a grandson of Gaodhal Glas was an instructor in Egypt to the Pharaoh. He married the Pharaoh's daughter, Scotia from where the Scots get their name.

By the 4' th Century the Scots people were mapped by the Romans as living on the Antrim Coast of Ireland and on the islands off the west coast of Scotland. In 563 A.D. these peoples had established a foothold in Scotland under King Fergus. In the year 843, Kenneth MacAlpin became king of the whole of Scotland. This nation was governed by the clan system. Scotland was a poor rural country that was never stable. The clan feuds and tribal wars, plus the constant invasions of the English and the Danes kept Scotland in a unsettled state over many centuries.

Within this clan system was the ancient Macgregor Clan, the senior one of the Clan Alpin, and the most unfortunate. The Clan claims descent from Gregor, third son of King Alpin. This is mere tradition as in history it seems that they are from "Aodh Urchidh", a native ruler of Glenorchy, that the Chiefs of the Clan Gregor were descended. Glenorchy was their original seat. They possessed the lands of Perthshire and Argyll. These broad acres were held by right of first occupation, but they held no titles. The Clan Gregor adopted lawless and desperate course and endeavored to hold their land by the sword. John of Glenorchy was the chief in 1292 and the name MacGregor was not used until the clan lost possession of Glenorchy. For a time, the junior branch of the clan succeeded the chiefship. This line also became extinct and their last tenancy was also lost to the Campbells. The chiefship passed to a junior line of that branch, the MacGregors of Glenstrae.

Around the year 1409, the Gierisons, a version of the name Gregor and MacGregor, and a traditional Sept of the MacGregors, appear in Galloway. These Griersons or Grier's of Lag, in Dumfriesshire are claimed to be descended from Gilbert, second son of Malcolm, dominus de MacGregor. Gilbert Grierson is the first of the Lag family to have any reliable documentary evidence with a seal dated 8 Jan. 1418 -19, granted by him with consent of Gilbert, his eldest son. There is an undated charter of John McRath, Lord of Lacht that grants to kinsman, Gilbert Grierson, Lord of Arde, Lands of Lag Bardonane that was granted after 20 Oct.1409. It is stated that it is improbable that Gilbert Gierison was the son of Malcolm, Lord of MacGregor who died in 1374.

The McAdam's tradition is that George or Gregor MacGregor descended also from the second son of the chief and that Gilbert Griersons was this cousin. It is McAdam family tradition that George MacGregor fled to Galloway in about 1445 after the Clan was outlawed. There he carried on his lawless ways stealing cattle and leading raids into northern England. He was captured and taken to Edinburgh and executed. His son, Adam MacGregor changed his name to Adam McAdam to hide his identity. There is no documentary evidence to this event. However, if a MacGregor did change his name and leave documented evidence to that fact it would not be believable at all. It is documented that Gilbert Grierson had title to lands in Galloway in 1445.

During this period of history, a Neil, Fynlay, and Donald using a form of the name McAdam name held lands of "Calady" in 1460. The location of Calady is not known. It may refer to "Kings lands" which may have been in Galloway. Neil appears again in 1474 (Cupar-Augus,1,130,198). A Donald McAdam appears in 1481 and died in 1487. Brothers, Patrick and John McAdam are recorded in the same year.

The fact is that the first reliable record of the present McAdam family appears in the Galloway in a court case with Lord Grierson dated 1508. In this first record the person's given name is not recorded. Next we find a marriage contract between the children of Donald McCaddame of Over Longford in Glenken with Laurence Grierson of Kirkbrderig, tutor and attorney of John Griersone of Lag, dated 28 May 1517. The witnesses were: Alexander Gordon of Auchinreoch and John Gordon, his son.

Galloway, boarding the north of England, was under the absolute control of the Douglas Clan. Their word was the law and they often challenged the rule of both the Kings of Scotland and England. The border lands between Scotland and England was virtually uninhabited for it not safe to even travel trough this area. In 1488, the Douglas were defeated and their lands was declared by the Scottish Parliament as forfeit estates. They were granted to the families in the area who had supported the King. The Gordons and the Kennedys vied for control of the estates endowed to the Church. The McMillians of Brocklock were recognized as hereditary Chiefs of Galloway McMillians. The McMillians were septs of the Douglas and had lost most of their land. Brocklock was the lands located next to Waterhead.

Adam is the name of the founder of the Gordon Clan and has always been a favorite one with the Gordons. In the reign of King Robert the Bruce, Sir Adam, Lord of Gordon, obtained a grant of the Lordship of Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire. He was also the Ambassador to Rome. The Gordons of Kenmure in Galloway descends from the second son of Sir Adam. The Kenmure Castle, their seat, is located in New Galloway. Their coat of arms bears a Stag's head.

Based on the documented facts, the tradition that the Geirsons and McAdams were related is correct. The McAdames could claim relationship to the MacGregors via the Geirsons at least. They had married into the Greirson family, or sometimes called Griers, before the year 1500. Their relationship and association does support the tradition that they both were former members of the Macgregor Clan. As for Adam McAdam changing his name, there is no document of such a person. One could argue the point that McAdam was taken in honor of Adam Gordon, their protector. The same argument has been made for the McAdam coat-of-arms. However, the McAdam tradition that their arms was derived from the circumstance that their ancestor, a McAdam, had saved the Kings life when a stag endanger him does have substantial support. This story is also claimed, with some variation, by an elder branch of the MacGregors and by the Seaforths. The evidence of this event in the McAdam arms favors credit to the McAdam of Waterhead.

It is documented that the Scottish Kings made yearly pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Ninia at Whitehorn, usually passing in St. James Town of Darly for hunting trips. Darly is near the Kenmure Castle and was one of the area of residence of the McAdam family. Records of the King's journeys is made of the King James V visiting his mistress, Jonet Kennedy. Their son was James Stewart who was a 1/2 brother to Mary Queen of Scots. James was appointed Earl of Moray and later chosen Regent to infant King James V1 in 1567. He was assassinated in 1570. Alexander Stewart 2'd wife was Katherine Gordon and appears in documents with the Andrew McAdam of Waterhead. His brother, William Stewart who was in high favor with King James V1. He was appointed undertaker for the plantations in Uster.

McAdam tradition is that John McAdam was a servitor (meaning writer) and friend to King James. The Hamiltion family records confirm that a John McAdam was a tutor (meaning taking care of his affairs until he became of age) to John Wilson in 1519. A Crown Land Grant was not something one without connection to the Crown could expect to obtain. The Kings of Scotland used land grants to keep his subject under control by the threat of taking away their property. When James Stewart became the Regent of Scotland, he moved quickly to stamp out support for Mary Queen of Scotts. A document states he stayed at Holm of Dalquhairn, the residence of Andrew McAdams, in 1568. In 1569, he issued 4 Crown Grants, one to Andrew McAdam of Waterhead and the three others were granted to Gordons.

All published history about the McAdam family has been mostly on the Waterhead line of the family with bits about the McAdam of Craigengillan. There has been little or nothing published on any other branches of the family. Most of McAdam's history appears to have been written by William McAdam of Ballochmorie in Co. Ayr around 1836. He was a grandson of John Loudon McAdam. William was a writer for the Bristol, England newspaper. There are documents in the Ayr Archives which tell us he made an intensive effort to collect a family history, preserve the family graveyards and family traditions. However, his research efforts were taken mostly from land records which did not confirm many of the traditions. Roy Devereux, a great granddaughter, yes Roy was a granddaughter, also wrote biographies about the McAdam family and she states she found no evidence to support the family tradition that they were MacGregors. Other records about the family such as Patterson's Ayr and Burke's is based on the same records and perpetuate incorrect assumptions. In fact, any early written records to date on the McAdam of Waterhead does contains incorrect information.

As mentioned, the first documented use of the name McAdam appears in Ayrshire and Galloway area in 1508. The first named person was Donald McCaddame in 1517. He was a resident of Over Longford and entered a land contract for one merkland with Laurence Griersone. This was a marriage contract of their children believed to be Andrew McAdam and Marion Grier (Griersons also wrote Grier in their documents) bound by land. Donald who was born about 1470-75 was a generation older than John McAdam of Waterhead.

Between 1517 and until Andrew McAdam was granted Waterhead in 1569 there is only a few McAdam records. This tell us that the McAdam family was probably tenants of the Griersons and Gordons who lived a fairly average life of the times. About mid-century, they had married into the important families of the area and began to gain property rights.

The next record is dated 1530. Andrew McAdam and his wife Marion Greir are recorded in a court case over the tutorship over the McQuharry children expressing that the family had achieved some degree of success by this date. Tutorship in this time period meant as guardian and property rights were involved.

Three McAdam families appear in 1544. John McAdam tenant at Waterhead and his son, Andrew appear in the court records. In the same document is listed another Andrew McAdam in Mossidale who probably was Donald's son. Lastly, is John McAdam in Clauchane of Dalmellington. This record confirms there are three separate McAdam families living in the area.

In 1549 John McAdam and John Turner were recorded as "violent occupation' (meaning unlawfully occupying lands) of merklands of Granane accused by Andro McMillane, Tacksman. Court cases such as this one was filed in those days to insure that relatives or the tenants had no claim to the lands they lived on. John Turner of Carnevill mentions John McAdam in Mosdaill in his testament dated 1575.

Presently, the first McAdam that can be absolutely identified is John McAdam in 1544 who was a tenant of Michael Gilbert, Goldsmith at Waterhead. John undoubtedly had parents, brothers, and sisters on which we can only speculate as he left no estate record.

The Hamiltion family records state, John MackAdam married Jonet (Wilson) Hamilton, the widow of John Wilson abt.1519-25. John McAdam was the tutor (guardian) of their son, John Wilson. This John Wilson may be the same one that married Marion McAdam. This may have also been a 2'd marriage for John McAdam due to the fact there is at least 11 children in his family. Seven of John's children are listed in Andrew McAdam's estate papers that named his brothers and sisters. John birth date is believed to be about 1490/95 and he died about 1560.

In 1569, Andrew McAdam, born abt. 1520 and died 15 Oct. 1587, was issued a King's Crown Charter for 4 1/2 merks of the Waterhead property on the resignation of Michael Gilbert. From this date on, several other McAdam's properties start to appear in the records. Craigengellan is first mentioned in 1576 and may have been part of the Waterhead grant. David McAdam of Craigengellan is mentioned the will of John McAdam, a resident of Little Auchre. A document dated 1620 in favor of Sir Robert Gordon states that Waterhead and the old Craigengllan properties were originally part of the Barony of Earlston prior to Michael Gilbert owning Waterhead.

In 1568, a month after Mary, Queen of Scots, fled to England, James Stewart, the Regent of Moray set out from Edinburgh with a party of his loyal noblemen, to punish the supporters of Queen Mary in South West Scotland. Some refused to support him as Regent, and the infant James VI as King. James was an illegitimate son, hoping to rule Scotland until the King came of age. He had to rally the support of the powerful landed families in order to have any chance of effective rule over them, so he moved quickly against them.

He spent the first night in Biggar and the next morning set his men to destroy the castle and place of Skirling on the consideration that others might hear and fear. They later arrived at holme of Dawherny (Dalquhairn). This day they spent with Laird of Wedderburn (Home of Wedderburn, father of the wife of Gordon of Lochinvar. So, on 14 June 1568, the Regent of Moray and his followers spent the night at Holm of Dalquhairn, Carsphairn. The tenant at Holm of Dalquhairn at this time was Andro McAdam who was married to a daughter of John McAdam in Little Auchrae.

On 15 June they marched to a place called St Johns Clachane and remained two miles from Lochinvars place (Kenmure Castle ) in hope of his incoming for they would not have destroyed his place if they could have gotten any appointment of him.

Here is the first written link between McAdames and the Regent of Moray who, the following year signed the Crown Charter granting Andro McAdam title to Waterhead. This was on the resignation of Michael Gilbert who may have been forced to resign as punishment for supporting Queen Mary's cause. The McAdames were occupying territory between Gordon and other Ayrshire supporters of Queen Mary, so the McAdames would be useful allies to James Stewart.

The situation may have been a "Love Story". John Cunningham decides to marry the daughter of Andrew McAdam, tenant of Waterhead. The McAdames do not match the status necessary to marry into the Cunningham family. John could easily persuades his cousin, Andrew Stewart, Master of Ochiltree, and owner of the Brony of Earlston, which included Waterhead, to deed the Waterhead estate to Andrew McAdam.

Andrew Stewart was Master of Ochiltree and cousin of James Stewart, the Regent of Moray and High Chancellor of Scotland. Michael Gilbert was forced to sign a resignation of title for Waterhead because Andrew Steward owned him money or political reason, but Andrew Steward was the owner. Powerful families such as the Cunninghams did not risk their status by marring to tenant families. The solution was to use their influence to elevate the family he wanted to marring in to. So, Andrew McAdam received his Crown Charter and John Cunningham of Broomhill married Eleanor, his daughter. A son of John and Eleanor was William Cunningham of Broomhill who purchased the Caprington title that had lapsed on the death of his great uncle. The Cunninghams were allied families of the Campbells, Crawfords, Hamiltons, and Stewards.

Also in 1569, the testament of John Gordon in Benbrek mentions John McAdam in Litill Auchrae and Jonet McAdam which he bequeathed a cow. Cattle were quite valuable in this time and this gift suggest that they were related.

The testament of John McAdam of Carminnow dated 1570 names his wife, Elizabeth Stout and their children: Cuthbert, John and Margaret. John McAdam in Over Knokgrie is mentioned in his will.

In the same year, Isabel McAdam, the wife of David Crawfurd is noted in 20/ lands of Blackcrage. It is witnessed by James Cunynghame of Polquharne and William his son. William was the husband to Janet McAdam, daughter of Andrew McAdam of Waterhead.

In 1571, John McAdam in Ye Stromis is mentioned in the testament of John Espye and witness by John Steinstoun. Then following in 1574 Quinten McAdam is mentioned in the testament of Bessie Sinclair.

1577 is the testament of John McAdam in Lillil Auchray who died in 1576 where he mentions seven bairns but only five are named.1582 Janet Greir of Knokingeroche and Smeton, wife of Quintien McAdam of Knockingeroche died and left her testament. She mentions, Quintin, their son, Elspeth and Margaret, their daughters. Listed also are David McAdam in Little Achais, David McAdam in Bardanock, Donald McAdam in Kirkgrie and Knokgray, Sibilla McAdam, her sister in law, (Quintin's sister), William McAdam her servitor, William McAdam his brother, and Marion McAdam the wife of John Wilson in Smetoun.

1587 Testament of Andrew McAdam of Waterhead who died 15 Oct. 1587 filed 14 May 1590. Names wife, Cristiane Kennedy and son-in-law, Gilbert McAdam who married their daughter, Margaret, as executors. Their other daughter, Janet married William Cunynghame of Polquharne. The brothers and sisters named are: (See lineage)
in Achrae

(Note there are many other wills and estate records - see Estates of Scotland)

The recorded records of the 1500's tell a story that several events in McAdam history lead to the Crown Charter of Waterhead. They married into powerful families, plus they intermarried within the family and by the 1600's had gained title to other large estates of property in the area. During this century every McAdam on earth was living along the border of Galloway and Ayrshire. It was not until the end of the century that there is any evidence that any member of these families had left the area. The first to start the McAdam migration from their origin was Thomas and Duncan McAdam. Duncan became a Burgess in Ayr. It appears that his brother, Thomas McAdam may have gone to Co. Cork, Ireland just before 1600.

By the mid-1500's these document tell us that there was three to five separate family groups. The Craigengillan McAdames has always been referred to as the younger branch of the family. There has been much confusion over the documents about Craigengillan and all property description about it is incorrect. The original or Old Craigenillan property was located adjoining to the south of the Waterhead property and to the north of the St. John Town of Darly. All references before 1784 to Craigengillan is this old location. The present location of the estate called Craigenillan was the old family property name. John McAdam renamed the Berbeth property Craigengillan when he inherited this property that was divided between 3 brothers from the Grimmit estate.

By the year 1600, the McAdam families fortunes had grown and they had obtained title to or lived on most of the lands from Stration east to Dalmellington and south around Lock Doon almost to St. Johns Town of Darly. They lived at the "waterheads" of all the rivers in this area which was on a major trade route to Ireland, France and Holland. This is very important as in those days all goods and most travel was by water. They raised cattle which was very valuable in these times. They probably spoke Gaelic and were educated in Latin. It is noted throughout the McAdam references that mention is made a profession in the family was that of a servitor (writer). The McAdam land owners had tenants, often relatives of less fortunate circumstances, which payment was made in cattle, grain, hay, and other products. To find markets for these products they sponsored their children and other relatives to be appointed Burgess (Merchants). Prices for goods and services were set by the Burgesses and only persons so appointed was allowed to deal in commerce.

By 1578, Duncan, a son of John McAdam was a Burgess in Myland. He had married Elizabeth Mason. When he died in abt. 1604 he was living near the city of Ayr and is probably the first to establish the family there. He left a short testimony which has not been property transcribed due to its legibility. This document seems to say that his son was Duncan, who like his father was a Burgess in Ayr. A daughter was Margaret who married James Tudor. George and John McAdam, botth a Burgess in Glasgow are said to be is sons, but this document does not confirm this. However, the John McAdam who married Jonet Muir was the first recorded McAdam to establish the family in the Glasgow area. His family records were recorded in the High Church in Glasgow.

By 1600, family members began to move away to Ayr, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and shortly after to Ireland to seek their own fortunes. The family had grown too large for the Waterhead property to support all it's members. The family had also grown to large to be just a family story anymore. The migrating families soon built new lifes and new McAdam stories. Other than John Loudon McAdam, our members are not known for fame. However, when you look closely at major world events that requires the efforts of the masses you will find a McAdam on that list. If we looked deeper there would be another McAdams story.

Ref: Ewart Public Library, Dumfries, Scotland, R.C. Reid Collection. McCulloch Notes Vol. 111 - V1, Cannan Notes, Vol. 3, Manuscripts Various, Vol. V1, Gordon Family of Farlston, Vol. 63, Grierson Family, Vol. 68, Testaments in Edinburgh Commissary Ct. before 1600, Vol. 1V. Vol. 11 - 111.