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McClain Family

I have always assumed that my family was Irish, however I have recently been told that it could be Scottish. Do you have any info?


The Maclaine or Maclean routes are indeed from Ireland... but that was prior to 1260... the name Maclean only came into “existence” after the Battle of Largs in 1263. .

The first MacLean was “Gillean” who fought at the Battle of Largs for the king of Scotland - Alexander III. Gillean and his brother Kenneth (progenitor of the MacKenzies) were rewarded with lands in the west of Scotland and the rest is history.

Where the Irish confusion arises is that in the initial period - 1260 to 1500 – the Maclaines and Macleans frequently visited Ireland to either assist “their cousins” or alternatively “received assistance from their Irish cousins who came to Scotland”. Subsequently “the Ulster Plantation”, established in 1606 attracted a significant number of Scottish immigrants to Ireland. Some of these immigrants stayed in Ireland but the majority relocated to Canada and the Americas. (Its worth reading about the Ulster Plantation on the web.)

However the Scots temporary residence within the Ulster Plantation has resulted in many Scots thinking they are Irish when in fact they were nothing more that transient migrants “passing through” Ireland.

For Maclaines/Macleans there is further confusion as a consequence of one of my grandfathers trying to more simply differentiate Lochbuie Maclaines from Duart Macleans. This grandfather introduced the “Maclaine“ spelling replacing the Maclean spelling. As a consequence many Macleans don't know whether they are Lochbuies or Duarts. Fortunately for you, the spelling of your surname - McClain – is clearly a derivative of Maclaine, thus indicating your family were associated with the Lochbuies.

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