The McKean Family

This web site contains several sections.  It was set up to provide an archive of  messages from McKean/McKeen researchers containing family records .   The genealogies of several lines may be reviewed by using links at the bottom of this opening page.  We also have a "Queries" section where you can post questions for other researchers.  If you would like to add your McKean family genealogy or ask a question, we now have a web site coordinator who will receive your file or questions and arrange to have them posted in our archives section.  Please click here to send your query for  McKean, McKeen, McCain, McKeeghan or whatever spelling with location, date and known family, to:  Leslie at:
To review previously posted queries, click here: 

Important note:   This information may be copied by others for personal use, not publication, since much of it comes from sources which limit use to personal genealogy.

An additional comment before we present the very interesting submissions by various McKean/McKeen descendants:
We recently received this message from Mr. Richard McKeen, and have cut and pasted it here:
Dear Sir,
While I was searching your highly interesting site I was drawn to an error in the "Background Of McKean Family of Scotland".   On several occasions in this passage the Scots people are referred to as "Scotch".   "Scotch" is a Scottish alcoholic drink (also commonly known as  whiskey) The Scottish people are known as Scots.  Being a Scot myself, I am extemely proud of my history and heritage. I would appreciate if you could change the errors on the site.
                Yours sincerely,       Mr. Richard McKeen.
Charles Knowles Bolton - author of an important book on the Scottish-Irish -  called our people Scotch-Irish back in 1910, as did many others.  With that in mind, we have let that appellation stand where ever someone has chosen to use it.  Thank you, Mr. McKeen, for expressing your viewpoint.

Background on the McKean Family of Scotland
Submitted by Barbara Boell
       The McIains/McKeans/McKeens are a sept of the clan MacDonald of  Glencoe. In Scotland, "Iain" means "John" and "mac/mc" means "son of",  so the sept is known as the "son of John".
       The progenitor of the McIains was Iain Sprangach who died in  1338.  He was the son of Angus Mor, Lord of Islay and the grandson of  Donald, Lord of Islay from whom clan Donald takes its name.   The branch of the McDonalds of Glencoe was called MacIain after the  progenitor. This branch held the lands of the Lordship of the Isles until 1493 when they became feudal vassals of the Stewarts of Appin.  During the minority of Mary, Queen of Scots, an Earl of Argyll eyed the MacDonald lands and so secured the rights. Thus, William McKean, the first documented McKean of the line, was born in Argyleshire, Scotland.
       The McIains of Glencoe were a brawny race..."large bodied, stout,  subtle, active, and patient of cold and hunger". Ever ready and proud of their fighting ability, no protective castle was ever built.   [SOURCE: "Scottish Clans and Tartans"' Ian Grimble, Hamylm].
     William McKean born circa 1615 Argyleshire was a farmer and covenator, a follower of the teachings of John Knox.  He was first documented during the Military Tribunal inquest into the 1679 murder of Archbishop Sharp in Scotland.  William, being canny, skirted direct anwers to the questions and was not convicted.  Charles I  insisted all his subjects join the Church of England and sent troops to annihilate the Covenantors.  William and his family (and family of David Cargill) escaped to the glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland where land was available for the Scotch and English to settle.
     William McKean and his family took part in the famous seige of  Londonderry, Ireland. The inhabitants believed the catholics loyal to James II were going to massacre those who backed protestant William of Orange.  The city closed its gates on December 7, 1688 and the seige began April 1689.  Inside were 30,000 inhabitants who were starving by July, 28, 1689  when the British in ships on the Foyle broke through the barriers and ended the seige.  James II was defeated in 1691 and replaced by William of Orange.  [SOURCE: "Ireland, a History", Robert Lee, Little Brown & Co.].
     Due to continuing political, religious and economic hardships, the Scotch (who never really mingled with the Irish) looked for better opportunities elsewhere, usually through the efforts of the ministers.  In 1827 a group headed by the Rev. James McGregor, James and John McKean, their families and others prepared to set sail for America in five ships.  John McKean died just before embarkation and his widow Janet and four children made the journey with her brother-in-law Justice James McKean.  The company arrived in Boston MA August 1718 and the boat with McKeans and McGregors sailed on to Casco Bay (now Portland) where they spent the winter of 1718-1719 on shipboard, almost starving.  In May 1719 they removed to Nutfield (now Londonderry NH) near Haverfield where land had been acquired.   [SOURCE: "Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America", Charles Bolton, Baltimore 1967].

1.  William McKean. Born circa 1615 Argyleshire, Scotland and died in Northern Ireland.
His children:
       1. James McKean.  Born 1640 Argyleshire, Scotland died circa 1707  Londonderry, Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland. He was a ship builder.
       2. John McKean.  Born Scotland and died Balleymoney, Co. Antrim,  N. Ireland.  His descendants removed to Belfast, Ireland.

Children of James McKean, born 1640:
       1. Justice James McKean.  Born 1665 Balleymoney, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland and died November 9, 1756 in Londonderry, NH. He emigrated 1718. He married (1) Janet Cochran and (2) circa 1713 in Aghadowey, Co. Antrim, N.Ireand, Annis Cargill.
       2. John McKeen.  Born circa 1668 Balleymoney, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland and died 1718 in Londonderry, Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland.  He married Janet [Seafoam?]. His wife and children emigrated 1718 and Janet married secondly, John Barnett.
       3. William McKean.  Born circa 1670 Balleymoney, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland and died circa 1725, New London, Chester Co., PA.  He emigrated at a later date than 1718.  He married
Susannah____ and was the grandfather of Thomas McKean, signer of the Declaration of  Independence.
[SOURCES: "McKean Genealogies", Cornelius McKean, Des Moines IA, 1902.   "McIan Chiefs", Comp. by Robert Marks, Nova Scotia 1990]
Submitted by Barbara Boell

...and here is a slightly different version:
"One of the most decisive events to affect the Mckeans, and which ultimately led to their emigration to the American colonies was the murder of Archbishop James Sharp.

James Sharp was the son of the Sheriff Clerk of Banffshire, Scotland.  He was born in Banff Castle on May 4, 1613.  He received an excellent education.  In his earlier years he appears to have favored the separation of church and crown, and to have actively worked toward that end.  Later, he completely reversed his position and strove equally as hard to weld them together.  He was made Archbishop of St. Andrews in 1661.

In 1674, a James Mitchell was arrested and charged with attempting to assassinate Sharp some six years previously.  Sharp privately obtained a full confession from Mitchell by the promise of a pardon.  Sharp later repudiated this, but it was confirmed by the entry of the act in the court records.  Mitchell was finally condemned, and Sharp refused to support an appeal for a reprieve.

On May 3, 1679, while driving to St. Andrews with his daughter, Isabel, he was attacked by nine men and murdered.  One of the nine was William McKean.

In time, William McKean appeared before the magistrate, Claverhouse.

It was usual in those days, for the person accused of murder to be asked if his crime was indeed murder.  If the defendant desired a speedy death, he had only to answer, "No."  An affirmative reply usually had the same result.

When this question was put to William, he very cannily replied that he was not sure, since he was not a lawyer, but that he did understand that it was an unlawful act.

This must have been something new to the magistrate, for he recessed the proceedings to give consideration to the reply.

During this recess, William McKean and his family escaped to Londonderry, County Ulster, Ireland.

The ancient city of Derry had been given to The London Company in 1613 for colonization purposes, and the name was then changed to Londonderry.

Because of the civil and religious injustices then rampant inn Scotland, there was soon a sizeable group of Scotsmen settled on the outskirts of town.  In order to promote settlement, The London Company had promised that no taxes or tithes would be levied, and the settlers would have religious freedom.

Very little is known of this early William.  The name of his wife is unknown, as are the names of his children, except for one son who was also named William.

The elder William is thought to have been a farmer, and probably followed that trade after moving to Ireland.

The younger William was born in Scotland, and must have gone to Ireland with his parents, or very soon afterwards, accompanied by his wife and one, or possibly two, very young sons - James and John.

This William was very active in the defense of Londonderry against the forces of James II in 1668 and 1669.  One time, while foraging outside the city, he was savagely attacked, beaten, stripped of his clothing and left  for dead.  He did, however, regain conscientiousness and made his way back to Londonderry, clad only in boundless dignity and his battered hat that had been
discarded as worthless.

Because of his exploits, he was known as William ye Soldier.

The name of the wife of William ye Soldier is not known, but that he had four children is recorded.

James was born in Scotland in 1665.  The second son, John, may have been born in Scotland also, or may have been born in Londonderry soon after the flight from Scotland.

The third child was a daughter, Gennette, who was followed by another son, William, who was born in Ireland in 1704.

James and John grew to be prosperous citizens of Londonderry.  James may have been a lawyer, for he was later known as James ye Justice.

The profession of John is not known.  He married Janet (Burnet?), and they had three sons, John, Robert, and Samuel, and a daughter named Mary.

Gennette married The Reverend James McGregor, who is said to have been a powerful and persuasive Presbyterian preacher."

David Stewart

If you are interested in the family of Justice James McKean, click here. 

John McKean's family may be seen by clicking here.

If you are interested in the family of Willaim McKean, who apparently was the grandfather of Thomas McKean who signed the Declaration of Independence, click here.

To see miscellaneous material not readily placed in one of the above branches of the McKean family, click here