Home » McCulloch of Drummorrell and their Descendants, and Origins

McCulloch of Drummorrell and their Descendants, and Origins

Doug McCullough, August 2023

“Verus et Sedulus”

McCulloch of Drummorrell

“Verus et Sedulus”

Our McCulloch Line: Drummorrell, Balseir, Killasser, Kilstay

August 2023

Doug McCullough R-BY32010/ R-BY169408 Y DNA Haplogroup

0            Doug McCullough, born 1971 in Indiana

1            Raymond McCullough (US Air Force, MP) born 1939 in Indiana – Darlene Birt

2            Eli McCullough, WWI Vet, born 1891 in Indiana – Cloe Glenn

3            James Alfred McCullough, born 1853 in Indiana – Sarah Walls

4            Harrison McCullough, born 1824 in Indiana – Catherine Dobbs

5            Jonathan McCullough, War of 1812 vet,  born 1790 in North Carolina – Elizabeth Staton

6            Private John McCullough, Revolutionary War vet, born 1755 in Lancaster – Margaret Modrell (

7            John McCulloch, Sr, born around 1720 in Ulster, Ireland, lived in East Derry/Hanover and Martic Townships, Lancaster County and Chanceford Township, York County  – wives Jane Smith and Anna Gilliland

8            Alexander McCulloch, born 1695 in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland – likely wife Margaret Caldwell of Ayr

9            Thomas McCulloch, Burgess of Ayr, born around 1670 (lived in Ayr) – wife Rebecca Green of Boston

10          Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, Burgess of Ayr, born around 1645 (still alive as of 1695), wife Anapel Home

11          Alexander  McCullouch of Auchlean, then Drummorrell, born around 1620; Margaret Gordon of Auchlean

12          Robert McCulloch of Balsmith, then Drummorell, born around 1590, husband of Jean McCulloch of Knockincure

13          James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II, undertaker in Ulster

14          James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I; the elder, married Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse in 1585

15 Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, Burgess of Kirkcudbright, born around 1543, husband of Katharine Tait

15          James McCulloch of Balseir, Maltan Knight; Margaret Waus

16          John McCulloch of Balseir, burgess merchant of Edinburgh; possibly Isobel Cairnes of Cultis

17          Finlay  McCulloch of Killasser, the younger,  son of Finlay McCulloch of Killasser

18          Finlay  McCulloch of Killasser  the elder, died about 1500 [R-BY-169112]; Janet McKie (of Myrton)

19          Henry McCulloch, the elder, of Killasser, (died about 1496) [R-BY32010]; possibly a daughter of McCulloch of Ardwell

20         Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay, the elder (either his wife or mother possibly from the McDowell of Garthland/Logan line


Our McCulloch Ancestors

Y-DNA testing has verified that we descend from the McCullochs of Galloway. This family is known to be an ancient culturally “Celtic” family of Galloway, and one of the most prominent families of the region. However, there is much obscurity about our family origins. The earliest documented McCullochs appear in records in the late 13th century. However, genetics indicate that our male line did not descend from the Irish Scotti, Celtic Picts, or Norse Gaels like other families of Galloway. Our journey appears to be quite unique.

The senior line of the McCulloch family is often referred to as the McCullochs of Myreton. However, McCullochs intermarried frequently. Our direct ancestors were at times senior members of the family, and bore the title “McCulloch of Myreton” indicating they were clan chief. However, our line appears to be a smaller branch of the family referred to as McCulloch of Drummorrell. This branch was active in the port towns of Kirkcudbright, Whithorn, then later Ayr.

Discovering our ancestry has been a journey. The first “brick wall” I had to overcome was identifying the father of my fourth great grandfather, John McCullough, born in 1755 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Importance of Allied Families and Rivals

Understanding the relationships with allied families has been critical to my research. A good example of this is the century-long relationship with the Modrell family in America, and possibly in Derry before that. As I delved further into history, the same has held true for understanding the feuds with rival families. Our McCulloch ancestors clearly had a bloody feud with the Kennedys of Cassillis and McDowells of Freugh for centuries. To understand our ancestors, it is important to understand those feuds, but also to understand the alliances with certain families. It seemed that the McCullochs tried, when possible, to pass lands to their descendants, generation by generation. When that was not possible, they attempted to pass the property to McCulloch cousins, often through what appear to be arranged marriages. When all else failed, the McCullochs passed lands by marriage to allied families. Some names like McClellan, McDowell of Garthland, McKie, Houston, Murray of Broughton, and Vaus appear throughout the family’s long history. It would seem that the McCullochs had long memories- as did their enemies.

Genealogical Riddles and Research: McCulloughs of Colonial America

5            Jonathan McCullough, War of 1812 vet,  born 1790 in North Carolina – Elizabeth Staton (autosomal match)

6            Private John McCullough, Revolutionary War vet, born 1755 in Lancaster, Private – Margaret Modrell (autosomal match)

7            John McCulloch, Sr, born around 1720 in Ulster, Ireland, lived in East Derry/Hanover and Martic Townships, Lancaster County and Chanceford Township, York County, Private – wives Jane Smith and Anna Gilliland


Private John McCullough

From a relatively early time in my genealogical research I was able to trace our line as far back as Private John McCullough, my fourth great grandfather. Much of what we know about this John McCullough came from his Revolutionary War pension claim proceedings. He was born in 1755 in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. His father was named John and served in the Revolutionary War in a militia from a northern colony.

Private John McCullough first enlisted in 1776 in Chanceford Township, York County Pennsylvania militia where he was then living. In 1777, he  moved to North Carolina where he served for about three years. [For clarification, do not confuse our John McCullough with John McCullough of Ripley who was a prisoner of war during the Revolution and married to a Constant Jones. Also, our John McCullough was not the child who was held captive by Native Americans. The latter John is claimed as an ancestor by a genetically unrelated family].

Sometime between 1775 and 1778 John McCullough married Margaret Modrell. Her father, Robert Modrell (or Motheral), owned land neighboring a Samuel McColloch/McCullough in Martic Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Robert Modrell reportedly moved to Fawn Township, York County, Private between 1757 to 1762. The granddaughter of Robert Modrell and John McCullough/McCulloch Sr., Peninah Modrel, was baptized in Muddy Creek (Guinston) Presbyterian Church in Chanceford Township, York County, Private in 1775.

There is no definitive documentation of the relationship between John McCullough, Jr. and Samuel McColloch. Because of their close proximity and the McCullough’s apparent decades-long relationships with the Modrell family, I presume that Samuel was Private John McCullough’s uncle. (However, as discussed below, there is also a family tradition captured in Daughters of the American Revolution report that indicates that John Sr. had a brother named Samuel).

Genealogical Riddle

At this point we were left with solving a riddle about the father of Private John McCullough, Jr. We know that Private John’ McCullough’ father was: (1) named John; (2) served in the American Revolution in a northern militia; (3), based on Scottish naming patterns, was likely the father of at least three children including (John Jr., his older sister Rebecca , and two sons named for John Sr.’s father and his father-in-law); (4) was in Lancaster County, Private prior to 1755, (5) likely lived in Chanceford Township, York County, Private by 1776; (6) he was acquainted with a Mr. Robert Barnes, of southern Pennsylvania (who served in a Lancaster County Militia and subscribed to support the formation of the Muddy Creek Presbyterian [Guinston] Church in York County) (his name appears next to William Motheral, son of Robert Modrell); and (7) he had an enduring relationship with the Modrell family. Then, after doing a FamilyTree Y DNA test, I learned that our McCulloughs actually descend from the Galloway, Scotland family of McCullochs.

Because we know John Sr. served in the Revolutionary War in a “northern” militia, I researched every John McCullough of various spellings who served in the Revolutionary War, with a focus on militias from northern colonies. I eliminated any “John McCullough” who was the same age as our Private John McCullough.

Then, I eliminated any “John McCullough” who I knew was not a Y DNA match based on information available through the FamilyTreeDNA McCollough project.

Finding John Sr. – Revolutionary War Records

Testimony from Hugh Barnes (who served in a Lancaster County militia in the Revolutionary War) in Private John’s pension claim indicated that Hugh’s father knew both John Jr. and John Sr., and indicated John Sr. fought in a “northern army.” Robert Barnes lived in multiple places in southern Pennsylvania, including Lancaster County. Barnes enlisted in the 6th Battalion out of Lancaster. It also appears that he attended the same church as John, Sr. and William Motheral.

To identify the father of Private John McCullough, I focused on Revolutionary War records that were available on ancestry.com, fold3.com and other online resources. I cannot say with certitude that there are no other existing records that might be available online or in written archives. However, if we assume that John McCullough, Sr. (being an older soldier) was an officer in a formal regiment then one would expect that records of his service would be in existence and available.

I reviewed the records of the dozens of soldiers named “John McCullough” who served in the Revolutionary War, including all variations of the spelling of McCullough (McCulloch, McColloch, McCullah, McCollough, McCollock, etc). Revolutionary war records are not as systematic as modern records. These records do not have anything like a social security number. But ancestry.com has copies of index cards for these men, and sometimes muster rolls. Other online resources list soldiers by company.

When searching for John Sr., I eliminated every “John McCullough” who was the same age as our Private John McCullough, as well as every soldier who was known to me to be a different Y DNA group than our McCullough line: Haplogroup R1a1/R-BY32010/ R-BY169408.

I also eliminated every soldier who served in a southern colony, such as North Carolina, South Carolina or other Southern colonies.

Although there are many soldiers named “John McCullough”, I first narrowed the field to three officers named “John McCullough” who served in northern colonies during the Revolutionary War.

The primary candidate suggested by other amateur genealogists was John McCullough of Drumore, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who lived nearby Samuel McColloch and Robert Modrell. (He is often described as Captain John McCullough of Drumore, Pennsylvania, but I was not able to verify that he actually was a Captain). He was born around 1745. John McCullough and his wife Mary Sanders, born around 1750, left wills that do not include our John McCullough or his apparent sister Rebecca McCullough (born around 1750). Also, John and Mary appear to be too young to be the parents of John and Rebecca. While they named a John McCullough as a son, he appears to be a different John McCullough (born years later) who moved north to New York. (Scottish naming patterns indicate John McCullough of Drumore’s father might be named Hugh).

I also investigated a Sgt. John McCulloch of Cumberland born in 1740 and Col. John McColloch born in 1726. Sgt. John would be too young to be the father of Rebecca who was born around 1750. Col. John McColloch was known to have another son named John. More importantly, Col. John is a known (distant) Y DNA match. He was a descendant of the later chiefs of Clan McCulloch. But recent Y DNA developments from the fall of 2021 rule out that Col. John is in our direct line. The Y DNA indicates we do not have a common ancestor with the line of the clan chiefs for about 850 years before present (as discussed below).

Back to the Drawing Board: John McCulloch of Chanceford Township, York County, PA

With the known John McCulloughs eliminated, I revisited Private John McCullough’s pension proceedings in detail. I noticed that John Jr. had enlisted in Chanceford Township where he was then living, rather than in Lancaster County (the county of his birth). Records for York County show one John McCullough enlisted, but not two. While this confirms the pension claim, it did not help identify John, Sr.

So, I contacted the Lancaster County Historical Society to see if they had records of a John McCullough enlisting in Lancaster County. They did not.

However, there is an index of Lancaster County militias that lists a company of associators (volunteers) led by a John McCullough. This seems to be the same Captain John McCulloch who led a company of associators according to a military index card previously discovered. Again, we know that Robert Barnes testified that he knew John Sr. from a northern army. We also know that Barnes enlisted in a Lancaster militia. We cannot directly prove this was John Sr., but it is plausible.

I then discovered thatour fifth great grandfatherRobert Modrell moved his family to Chanceford around 1757. John McCulloch lived in East Hanover from about 1751 to as late as 1756. However, he fled the hostile frontier about this time. He then appears briefly on the tax records in Martic Township in 1757. (Martic is the same township that Samuel McColloch lived in). It appears that John McCulloch moved directly across the Susquhanna river to Chanceford, York County about the same time as the Modrels. A man named “John McCulloch” was on the Chanceford Township tax rolls in 1762 according to records provided by the York County Historical Center. Also, a John McCulloch was still living in Chanceford as of 1782, despite John Jr. moving to Mecklenburg NC in 1777. In 1782 and 1783, a “Widow McCullough” appears on York County tax rolls as owning 155 acres. I believe this to be Anna Gilliland, John, Sr.’s widow. (The McCullough-Garvin report indicated that John’s second wife was Elizabeth Hunt which seems to be based on the existence of a marriage record for a John McCullough and Elizabeth Hunt. The records do not indicate the location of this marriage. There were men named Hunt on the tax rolls in York County, but not Chanceford. On balance, I am skeptical that John Sr. married Elizabeth Hunt. However, we know he married Anna Gilliland and have no record of her date of death).


Who was John McCulloch, Sr.?

Because there are no internet “profiles” about John McCulloch, Sr., I set out to find out as much about him as I could.

The first resource for information about John Sr. is the Revolutionary War pension claim by John Jr. Again, from that we learn his name is John and that he served in an army in a northern colony. We also know that he was living in Lancaster County earlier than 1755, and can infer that he was living in Chanceford Township, York County in 1776 because John Jr. was living there at this time. Beyond this, we have to look for additional military, land, tax, and church records for John Sr. Also, we can make certain inferences from people he had relationships with: John McCullough, Jr. son, Rebecca (daughter), Robert Modrell (allied family), Samuel McColloch (presumed brother), Alexander McCulloch (son), and Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” McCullough (daughter), and first wife Jane Smith.

John was an active member, likely an elder, of the Muddy Run Presbyterian church. His name is featured in the notes of Rev. John Cuthbertson. (Rev. John Cuthbertson was born in Ayr, Scotland, then was a missionary in Ulster Ireland. According to his diary, he left Derry in 1751. He pastored the Muddy Run Church in York County. He was buried in Lancaster County. He was a Presbyterian Covenanter). John and his apparent son Alexander each hosted church meetings and baptisms at their respective homes as late as 1785.

[Note: there are genetically-unrelated R1b McCulloughs in Fawn Township just south of Chanceford. I have conferred with one of that family’s genealogists. This John McCulloch of Chanceford is not believed to be a member of their family].

Revolutionary War Records

There were many John McCullochs and McCulloughs who served in Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, Lancaster County Historical Society and York County History Center were also unable to definitively identify any military service records for John, Sr. This may suggest that John Sr. had actually served in the “associators.”These were volunteer civilian soldiers at the outset of the Revolutionary War. Because Pennsylvania was a Quaker-led pacifist state, Pennsylvania was slow in forming formal regiments until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In their place, civilians formed volunteer reserve armies called “associators.” As mentioned above, I now believe that our John Sr. may have been the Captain John McCulloch of Lancaster County who led a company of associators. There he would have met Robert Barnes who served in a Lancaster militia and whose son, Hugh, later testified that Robert Barnes knew John Sr.

Samuel McColloch

As mentioned before, in 1750, Samuel McColloch owned property next door to Robert Modrell, the father-in-law of our John McCullough and his sister Rebecca McCullough. (Samuel’s will is written out by someone else and shows his name as McCullough, but Samuel signs as McColloch. This is consistent with one of the land warrant documents which records his name as McColloch). (Samuel was a farmer. I have obtained an inventory of his estate).

Samuel McColloch’s Martic Township, Lancaster County  land survey, next door to Robert Modrel


Samuel died in 1785 leaving a will naming his wife as Jane, and the following sons: Alexander (named for father?), Samuel (named for himself), John (named for his father-in-law and brother), Joseph, Robert (possibly named for friend Robert Modrell) and David. (John, Samuel, and David mustered in Lancaster County in 1777). There was a Joseph McCullough who served in a Pennsylvania rifle company, but I am not sure if this is the same Joseph. Samuel’s will was witnessed by two men named Boyd (likely his in-laws).

Two Alexanders

Both John Sr. and Samuel named a son Alexander. Samuel’s son Alexander appears to have owned land in Lancaster County and was part of the Octoraro Society (congregation of Rev. John Cuthbertson’s Muddy Run Presbyterian Church). By contrast, John Sr.’s son Alexander seems to have owned land in York County and was part of the Lower Chanceford Society of the same church). Because (i) John’s daughter married Samuel’s neighbor’s son, I assumed that John and Samuel were likely brothers, and (ii) since John and Samuel each named sons “Alexander,” I hypothesized that their father’s name was Alexander.

We don’t know where John and Samuel’s father Alexander was living at his death. It is not known if Alexander owned land in Lancaster County. In 1740, 1742, and 1744 men named Alexander McCulloch acquired 100, 200, and 100 acres in Lancaster County, PA. The man acquiring 200 acres in 1742 was a neighbor of John Gilliand. One of the other men may have been John’s father.

The Modrell Connection

In 1750, Samuel McColloch and Robert Modrell were neighbors. According to Modrell tradition, Robert Modrell moved to Chanceford Township, York County, Pennsylvania around 1757. John McCulloch Sr. moved his family to the same area at about the same time. John Sr. appears on Chanceford Township, York County tax records in 1762.

In 1773, John Sr.’s daughter Rebecca married William Modrell, who presumably grew up next door to Samuel McColloch (McCullough). They baptized their daughter at Muddy Run Presbyterian Church in Chanceford Township, where John McCulloch attended. (Travel notes from the parish pastor make several references to John McCulloch during this time). Between 1775 and 1777, John McCullough, Jr. married Margaret Modrell, then moved with the Modrells to Mecklenburg, NC. In 1777, Robert Modrell and his son Adam witnessed a deed to John McCullough in Mecklenburgh for land along the Great Wagon Road.  In 1778 John Jr. and Rebecca witnessed Robert’s will. (Robert signed the will as Motheral, John’s name was spelled McCulloh.) John acquired additional land in Mecklenburg in 1779.

It’s easy to imagine that Rebecca and John married the boy and girl next door. But it may not have been coincidental. In other words, these may have essentially been arranged marriages. It’s possible that John and Rebecca had known the Modrells since childhood and their families encouraged the alliances. It’s also possible that the McCullochs and Modrels first met in Londonderry, Ireland.

The McCulloughs and Modrells lived together in Pennsylvania, then North Carolina before they migrated to Tennessee, then Kentucky, then Indiana. In at least one later instance, a McCullough and Modrell marry while they are living in Kentucky. The McCullough-Modrell alliance endured about a century.

McCullough-Modrell Family Names

It is worth noting that John McCullough, Jr. and Margaret Modrell McCullough had eight children. These children were clearly named for family members in a modified version of Scottish naming patterns.  (1. Elizabeth for Margaret’s mother; 2. Robert for Margaret’s father; 3. Jonathan for John. Jr. and John, Sr.; 4. Rebecca for John’s sister (and possibly their great grandmother Rebecca Green McCulloch – discussed later); 5. Ann, for John’s mother (as we will see below); 6. William Modrell McCullough named for William Modrell and possibly a brother of John, Margaret’s brother and Rebecca’s husband 7. Sarah, unknown name origin; 8.  Margaret, named for Margaret and possibly John Jr.’s grandmother).

John Jr. and his wife seemed to modify Scottish naming patterns to prioritize the Modrell side of the family who were living nearby rather than the McCullochs who remained in Pennsylvania.

McCullough-Garvin Report

To this point I had been building a profile of John Sr. and his family based on identifying records that I believe pertain to John McCulloch Sr. of Chanceford Township, York County, Pennsylvania. I had not seen any profile or story about the man.

Then, another amateur genealogist shared with me a genealogical report (available on Ancestry.com) that dates back to 1965. The report was originally produced by Agnes Harbin Elrod, a genealogist from South Carolina (1908-1979). Excerpts of the report were included by Helen Rouse, a descendant of Thomas Garvin, in her 1969 application for membership in Daughters of the American Revolution as a descendant of Thomas Garvin. The report focuses on a McCullough family from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that married a man named Thomas Garvin. The report appears to blend details from a book called “The Ancestry of Thomas Edgar Garvin,” independent research into the Garvin family, Garvin family Bibles and records, some oral history from the McCulloughs and Garvins, a brief genealogy of the McCullough family of East Derry, and mistaken materials pertaining to unrelated McCullough families.

The John McCullough described in the report appears to be the composite figure of elements from the lives of about half a dozen John McCulloughs. Despite the errors in compiling records and stories about John McCullough, the oral tradition about the “family tree” and the  original “McCullough Genealogy” from Agnes Elrod line up with my own research in a compelling manner.

Aunt Peggy

According to the McCullough-Garvin report, an Alexander McCulloch was born in Scotland and married a woman named Margaret. They had multiple children including sons John, Samuel and William. The Samuel identified in the report is clearly Samuel McColloch (my fifth great uncle). The report includes the oral tradition that John was the father of Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” McCullough, born 1747 in East Derry, Lancaster. (It is no surprise that there are no civil records for Peggy or her sibling. East Derry did not have a local government until 1759, after the McCullochs had moved to York County).


She married Thomas Garvin in 1767 in Lancaster County. Further, the oral tradition indicates that John Sr. had sons named John, Jr. (presumably also born in Lancaster County) and William. The tradition also indicates that John Sr. served in the Revolutionary War,  along with all of his sons. We know that our John McCulloch, Jr. served in the American Revolution. Presumably John’s son Alexander McCulloch served in Pennsylvania (there are records of at least one Alexander McCulloch or McCullough who served in Pennsylvania).

The fundamentals of this oral tradition line up with my own hypothesis that our line goes through John McCullough Jr. born in Lancaster County in 1755. His father was John McCulloch, Sr. who served in the Revolutionary War. John Jr.’s uncle was Samuel McColloch of Martic Township. His grandfather was named Alexander. The core elements of this story is unmistakably the same as our own line. As we will see below, the fact that Alexander was said to be born in Scotland but lived in Londonderry comports with what we discover about other families in Lancaster County.

Peggy was said to be named “Margaret Elizabeth” for her grandmother “Margaret McCulloch,” wife of Alexander, and grandmother Elizabeth Smith (mother of Jane Smith).

According to a separate Daughters of the American Revolution report pertaining to Thomas Garvin (relying on a family Bible and a book entitled “The Ancestry of Thomas Edgar Garven” the Garvens fled Scotland during the Killing Times for a Covenanter colony in Londonderry.

At this same time, Alexander McCulloch (grandfather of Alexander McCulloch born in Ayr in 1695) was declared a fugitive for failing to appear in Ayr in 1684 to take the Test of allegiance. (We know he went to Boston in 1684. It’s not clear if he “fled” to Boston to avoid the Test, or if he was away on business at the time of the Test).

Londonderry and East Derry: McCullochs, Glenns, Garvins, and Gillilands

The McCullough-Garvin report relays an oral tradition that the McCulloughs and Garvins knew each other in Ireland. It now appears that the McCulloughs, Garvins, Glens, and Gillilands all lived in or near Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

The McCullough-Garvin report suggests that the McCullochs passed through Londonderry and John,  Samuel and a brother named William were born there. According to “A Walk through time: With the Glenn family, Cardwell family, Petty family, Hurt family” by Reagan L. Glenn, our Glenn line also passed through Londonderry. Remarkably, the ancestors of my fathers’ maternal ancestors, the Glenns, even lived next door to McCulloch cousins in East Derry, Pennsylvania!

John Glenn of Hanover Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Weaver, to David Hays and William Glenn, son of John Glenn, both of Derry Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Land in Hanover Township adj. Robert Gilleland, Hugh Gilleland, James Sloan, and the Blue Mountain, 200 acres, first the property of William McCullough. The land sold as unlocated land to said John Glenn. Deed dated 1 August 1765

The John Glenn above is my 6th great grandfather through my grandmother Cloe Glenn. William McCullough was the nephew of Alexander McCulloch of East Hanover, Pennsylvania. Alexander was the half-brother of Hugh Gilliland (his father may have been John James Gillland who was born in Londonderry). Upon Hugh Gilliland’s death in 1751, John McCulloch Sr. married Hugh’s widow, Anna Gilliland, and became stepfather to three of her children, including Agnes Gilliland. (See below).

Years later, Agnes Gilliland lived in Chanceford Township, York County.

The Smiths

The McCullough-Garvin report indicates that Margaret “Peggy” McCullough was the daughter of John McCulloch, Sr. and Jane Smith. They married in 1743 in Philadelphia when Jane was 22 years old. Records of the marriage exist. This lines up with the McCullough-Garvin report that claims that John Sr. was born in 1720 in Londonderry. That birthdate would have made John 23 at the age of the wedding and 27 at the birth of Margaret Elizabeth. The report says Jane died young and John Sr. remarried.

Who was Alexander McCulloch?

8            Alexander McCulloch, born 1695 in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland – wife Margaret Caldwell of Ayr

9            Thomas McCulloch, Burgess of Ayr, born around 1670 (lived in Ayr) – wife Rebecca Green of Boston

10          Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger, burgess merchant in Ayr; born around 1645 (still alive as of 1713), wife Anapel Home


According to the McCullough-Garvin report, John Senior’s father, Alexander McCulloch, was born in Scotland but moved to Londonderry where he married his wife Margaret. They are believed to have been married around 1720 right before the birth of their son John. Limited records for Northern Ireland exist for this period. I have not been able to find records of Alexander and Margaret’s marriage or the baptism of John or Samuel.

However, the McCullough-Garvin story indicates Alexander was bornin Scotland. I searched  available baptism records on ScotlandsPeople and other resources for men named Alexander McCulloch born in Scotland between 1690 and 1700. There were surprisingly few candidates. [It’s worth noting that the parish records of Wigtownshire and Minigaff (covering most of Galloway) for 1684 indicated that the population of male McCullochs above the age of 12 was only about 47. There would have been other McCulloch males outside of Galloway in places like Ayrshire, Glasgow, Stirling, and Edinburgh. But these parish records are an indication that the number of McCulloch males in Scotland at the end of the 17th century was quite limited. This is supported by the limited baptism records available from ScotlandsPeople. In this small pool, the number of males named Alexander McCulloch was very small].

I discovered two men named Alexander McCulloch born in Edinburgh, one in Glasgow, one in Muthill, and one in Galloway (son of Godfrey McCulloch). I can eliminate the latter two men (Godfrey descends from the Ardwell line; the man in Muthill appears to have died in Muthill rather than emigrating). Some marriage and death records for the men in Edinburgh and Glasgow seem to eliminate them as well (i.e., based on the available records, those men seemed to remain in Edinburgh and Glasgow). Further, I find it somewhat implausible that a young man would leave Edinburgh or Glasgow around 1715 to look for a better life in Londonderry (which had suffered the Siege of Derry in 1689) without some specific reason to go there. Migration patterns during this period also suggest that the “early adopter” immigrants to the northern American colonies were generally “middle class.” In later periods, less affluent immigrants moved to southern colonies. This suggests (but by no means proves) that Alexander likely came from a middle class family who would be more likely than a rural farmer to have left behind baptism records.  Bearing all of this in mind, we are left with two more likely candidates: brothers named Alexander McCulloch born inAyrto Thomas McCulloch and Rebecca Green in 1695 and 1697. As we will see, this family had documented links to Londonderry.

Thomas (a burgess merchant in Ayr) and Rebecca baptized Alexander in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1695. (There is a separate baptism record for a child named Alexander with a birth of 1697. It’s unlikely that Alexander lived such a wanton life in his first two years as to necessitate a second baptism. The more likely explanation is that the second baptism was for his younger brother, surprisingly also listed as “Alexander”).  This baptism was witnessed by Alexander’s grandfather, also named Alexander McCulloch who was a burgess merchant. Alexander and Thomas were involved in the shipping trade from Ayr. Alexander was active in the Caribbean, Boston, and Londonderry! [Authors Tom Barclay and Eric Graham indicate that Ayr and Londonderry had a close trading relationship at the end of the 17th century. It should also be noted that James McCulloch of Drummorrell’s Mullaghveigh estate was only 8 miles from Derry. So, the family connection to Derry may have arisen by the early 17th century].

Alexander and Thomas made recorded trips to Boston, Massachusetts in 1684 and 1691.  In 1684, Thomas and his father Alexander were members of the Scots Charitable Society of Boston, but as “strangers” – meaning they were still living in Ayr rather than residents of Boston. By 1695, they were back in Ayr for the baptism of Thomas’s son Alexander. Thomas McCulloch arrived in Boston in 1727. The man living in Boston in 1727 appears to have lived alone. This may mean that Rebecca had died by 1727. There is another reported arrival of Thomas McCulloch to Boston in 1736. The latter man joined the Scots Charitable Society of Boston that year. Either this is Thomas returning again to Boston, or the latter man may have been his son, also named Thomas.

It should be noted that there are no Scottish marriage records for Thomas McCulloch and Rebecca Green. Author Tom Barclay in “The Early Transatlantic Trade of Ayr 1640-1730,” speculates that the couple met in America. If so, Rebecca Green was likely our first American ancestor in the McCulloch family (making her something like the American matriarch of the family). This would explain why her name carried on to her great granddaughter and great-great granddaughters.

Thomas and Rebecca’s only children baptized in Ayr were two sons, each named Alexander. It is likely Thomas and Rebecca had other children in Londonderry or America. The McCullough-Garvin report indicates that they had a son named Samuel. Thomas McCulloch moved to Boston in 1727 or 1736. (Again, the 1736 arrival may actually be Thomas Jr. This Thomas McCulloch may be the man that shortly thereafter lived in neighboring Pelham, Massachusetts, which was established in 1738).

We could infer that the earlier Alexander McCulloch was born about in 1645. By about 1670 he was living in Ayr. It’s understandable that the family would emigrate. Ayrshire was economically depressed before the Act of Union in 1707, but Ayr and apparently the McCullochs had been able to trade with France.

By the late 17th century and early 18th century, Ayr was widely regarded as a town in decline with Daniel Defoe remarking in A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain “The capital of this country is Air, a sea-port, and as they tell us, was formerly a large city, had a good harbour, and a great trade: I must acknowledge to you, that tho’ I believe it never was a city, yet it has certainly been a good town, and much bigger than it is now: At present like an old beauty, it shews the ruins of a good face; but is also apparently not only decay’d and declin’d, but decaying and declining every day, and from being the fifth town in Scotland, as the townsmen say, is now like a place so saken; the reason of its decay, is, the decay of its trade, so true is it, that commerce is the life of nations, of cities towns, harbours, and of the whole prosperity of a country: What the reason of the decay of trade here was, or when it first began to decay, is hard to determine; nor are the people free to tell, and, perhaps, do not know themselves. There is a good river here, and a handsome stone bridge of four arches.”]   The union with Great Britain and the resulting trade restrictions under the Navigation Act initially was a further economic setback to Ayr. It makes sense that the father/son of merchants from the port town of Ayr would look for opportunities abroad in other port towns such as Londonderry, Boston, and beyond. Author Tom Barclay tells a story that Alexander and business partners tried to falsely identify a Scottish merchant ship called the Swan as a Welsh ship to evade British trade restrictions. The ship was briefly impounded by the Irish revenue authorities. The tax was paid and the ship was released. However, Barclay says that McCulloch and his partners were probably illegally trading with the American colonies.

We do not have any documentation establishing the surname of Alexander’s wife, Margaret. But we have a strong clue. Both Alexanders baptisms were witnessed by John Caldwell, a prominent burgess merchant of Ayr and Glasgow. John had a daughter named Margaret who was baptized a year earlier in the same church. This could be a coincidence, but I don’t think it is. I believe the McCullochs kept to a very close social circle. In fact, the merchants of Ayr had their own loft at St. John the Baptist, or the Auld Kirk of Ayr.  (John was originally a glover, but become a shipping merchant whose ship the James carried colonists to the Carolina Colony. John’s son-in-law, Robert Rodger, was a Provost of Glasgow. His nephew was named Thomas Garven. This name goes back to at least Thomas Garven, bailee of Ayr, who died in 1672).

As further confirmation of the McCulloch origins in Ayr, I believe that Samuel McColloch was married to Jane Boyd of Ayr. Samuel’s will was witnessed by father and son John and Thomas Boyd. I believe these are the same John and Thomas Boyd of Ayr, making John the father of Jane and Thomas. The baptism records for Jane and Thomas are available through ScotlandsPeople. Again, this comports with the hypothesis that the McCullochs were marrying into the same small circle of merchants, in a small town, who attended the same church – and even sat together during church services!

To summarize, not only were the McCullochs baptized in this church for decades, John Smith, Margaret Caldwell and Thomas Boyd were all baptized in this church. Further, Thomas Garvin’s ancestors came from Ayrshire, and were possibly related to the men named “Thomas Garven” who were burgesses in Ayr. The pastor of John McCulloch’s church was also born in Ayr.

I find no other vital records of Thomas, Rebecca, or Alexander apart from Thomas’ travels to Boston. Likewise, I find no further records in Ayr for the Caldwells. I believe this indicates the McCullochs and Caldwells migrated after the births of Alexander and Margaret.  The port town of Derry in County Londonderry, Ireland was one of the largest towns of the Ulster Plantation. Thomas and Alexander had been burgess merchants in Ayr and active in Londonderry previously. Apparently, Ayr saw more emigration to Ulster than any other town in Scotland. So, if the McCullochs migrated to Londonderry, it was likely because they already had commercial interests, friends and family there. (Again, James McCulloch’s estate was only 8 miles from Derry, so he likely had commercial interests there).

My hypothesis is that our McCullochs, as middle-class merchants rather than farmers, lived comfortably in Ayr by provisioning the Ulster Plantation, English colonies in South America, and the settlement of Scots in the New World. But the economic depression caused by the Seven Ill Years and the trade restrictions following the Act of Union of 1707 may have prompted them to emigrate to Derry. Clearly by 1684 the McCullochs were invested in transatlantic trade and the settling of Scots in New England. In any event, their stay in Derry was likely brief. Thomas (or his son) arrived in Boston in 1727 and 1736. Alexander and his family settled in America by 1743, but possibly as early as 1731. John, Jane, and Samuel were in Lancaster County by about 1747.

The Scots-Irish settlers in Lancaster County about this time were typically what we might call “middle class.” This dovetails nicely with Alexander’s family having been burgess merchants in Ayr. (Also note for purposes of elimination, there are no records that would indicate that John and Samuel were born in Scotland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, or Massachusetts. It’s worth noting that records in Ireland at this time are virtually non-existent. Seven centuries of Irish records were destroyed in an explosion at the Irish records office in 1922. This means many Americans with ancestors in Ireland run into a brick wall, unless they can trace their ancestors back to Scotland).

Londonderry to Philadelphia then East Derry

In addition to the many connections in Ayr, it seems that south central Pennsylvania in the mid 18th century was populated by families from Londonderry. This is attested to by the town name of Derry in Lancaster County. Not only were the McCullochs from Londonderry, it is documented that the Glens (neighbors of the McCullochs of East Hanover), originally from Renfrewshire Scotland, lived in Londonderry. In fact, John Glen was a merchant in Londonderry, where he might easily have interacted with Alexander McCulloch. We also know that Modrell family tradition suggests that the McCullochs and Motherals knew each other in Ireland. There was also  a family of Motherals who arrived from Londonderry after our Motheral ancestors arrived. The McCullough-Garvin report also suggests that the McCullochs and Garvins knew each other in Ireland.

Given that the population of Derry was merely 2,848 in 1706, so many families in south-central Pennsylvania having ties in Londonderry is no coincidence.

Both the McCullough-Garvin report pertaining to Margaret McCullough and some flawed but imaginative notes from the grandson of Rebecca McCullough indicate the family migrated from Ireland to Philadelphia. This lines up with the marriage record of John McCullough and Jane Smith in Philadelphia in 1743.

Burgess Merchants in Ayr: Shipping, the family business

11          Alexander McCullouch of Auchlean, then Drummorrell, Member of Parliament, husband of Margaret Gordan of Auchlean

12          Robert McCulloch of Drummorell, the younger; husband of Jean McCulloch of Knockincure

13 James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II, undertaker in the Ulster plantation

14          James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I, married Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse in 1585

15          Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, Burgess of Kirkcudbright, born around 1525, husband of Katharine Tait


James McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger

To conduct business as a merchant in medieval Scottish burghs, a person had to be a “burgess.” The burgesses were an elite guild. The right to become a burgess was bestowed gratis, earned through an apprenticeship, obtained through inheritance, or by marriage. Since Robert McCulloch and his son Andrew were caught smuggling, several of the McCullochs in our line have been known to be shipping merchants. Eventually, this led them to the port town of Ayr. The first McCulloch of Drummorrell to appear in Ayr was James McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger. I believe he was styled “the younger” in the records because his father had been a burgess in Ayr as well. In 1650, James was granted burgess status “gratis” in both Ayr and Glasgow.

Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger

Following his cousin James, Alexander McCulloch acquired burgess status in Ayr in 1675. Alexander received his burgess rights by marriage to Anapel Home (Hoom), daughter of James Home. Thereafter, in 1687, Alexander’s son, Thomas, earned his burgess rights through an apprenticeship with Alexander Cranston.

Alexander was the son of Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder. Jameson McCulloch indicates that the younger son of Alexander of Drummorrell was a writer in Edinburgh who died in 1689. However, a closer look at the records seems to disprove this. First, it appears that Alexander the younger, sold Drummorrell just prior to 1698 when he witnessed a charter.

According to records in the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds, 1676-1700, Volume 1, in 1698, Alexander McCulloch “lait of Drummorrell” witnessed a charter in Newton Stewart.

Further, Jameson McCulloch cites a 1713 letter written to “Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell” about his son David, a shipping merchant. We know that Alexander McCulloch of Ayr baptized a son named David in 1680, and the McCullochs of Ayr were well documented shipping merchants.

Whithorn Pend, the former gatehouse to the Whithorn Priory. Bears the seal of the Royal Burgh of Whithorn.


1672 Drummorrell Coat of Arms

Note that the Drummorrell coat of arms registered with and approved by the Court of Lord Lyon in 1672 refers to Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder, as “descends from the families of Myretoun.” Presumably the Court of Lord Lyon was satisfied with the genealogical record or family testimony that the McCullochs of Drummorrell truly descended from the Myretoun line. However, we do not know the contents of the files submitted by Alexander.

The McCulloch’s of Drummorrell motto is “verus et sedulus”: true and diligent. By contrast, the House of Ardwell motto is “vi et animo”: with courage and strength.

The House of Drummorrell coat of arms is shown at top of the page.

Alexander McCulloch of Drummorall descended of the families of Myretoun

Bears ermine frettee gules a bordur ingrailed of the second, Above the Shield ane helmet befitting his degree mantle gules doubled argent. The motto in ane Escroll Verus et Sedulus.

Ermine means the black symbol in the coat of arms that looks like a hanging ermine tail.

Frette is the diagonal lattice pattern. Gules means red.

Note the scalloped (engrailed) inset on the coat of arms. This feature distinguishes the McCullochs of Drummorrell coat of arms from the McCullochs of Ardwell coat of arms (registered about 20 years prior) which does not have this scalloped inset. The image above includes the family name on a scroll at the bottom. But the description registered with the Court of Lord Lyon indicates a scroll above the helmet that includes the motto: Verus et Sedulus.

McCulloch lands of Drummorrell near Whithorn

Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland showing Drummorrell in the southeast Machars, south of Whithorn.


Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder

Alexander was the son of Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger and his wife Jean McCulloch of Knockincure. He married Margaret Gordon of Auchlean. He was known as Alexander McCulloch of Auchlean for the 10 merk lands near Penninghame until he was infeft in Drummorrell around 1671. Alexander was a commissioner for Wigtown and represented the burgh in Parliament, as was his brother John (who was the Provost of Stirling, and the Dean of Guild there, and described as a shipping trafficker).

Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger

Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell (the young) was the son of James McCulloch (the elder), and likely named for his grandfather by the same name. He married a cousin Jean McCulloch of Knockincure from nearby Balferne. Before succeeding to Drummorrell Robert is sometimes styled Robert McCulloch of Barsmith for a property he owned near Whithorn.

Like other members of his family, he was a man of both public and commercial interests. He was on the War Committee for Kirkcudbright in 1640 and 1648. In 1643, he represented Wigtown in the Scottish Parliament. In 1661, he served as a sheriff depute in Wigtown. He was also described as a “small baron” and a “monied man.”

Robert was still alive in 1666, and he and his wife Jean left children Alexander McCulloch of Drummorrel (a member of parliament), John (a provost of Stirling), Robert (a surgeon in Edinburgh), Andrew, a goldsmith in Edinburgh, and daughters Agnes and Jean. His son Alexander seems to have succeeded him by 1671.

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, “the elder,” was an undertaker (land developer) in Donegal. He also appears in many legal documents as an agent or procurator of other wealthy men. James is known to have had children with Katherine. James likely took some interest in Torhouse as tocher (either as outright ownership or a wadset, because his son Robert had title to Torhouse in 1639)

According to a historian of the Cairnes family, James McCulloch of Drummorrell was a cousin of the Cairnes family but the author doesn’t specify how they were related. Alexander Cairnes, son of John Cairnes and Margaret McCulloch was also James’ agent at Mullaveigh. Margaret was the daughter of Alexander McCulloch of Killasser (likely John McCulloch of Balseir’s first cousin)

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I (who lived approximately from 1565-1631) was a well-traveled man of both commercial and public affairs. He had a financial interest in the ferry at Kirkcudbright, then eventually was elected to the Kirkcudbright town council. He appears to have entered into marriage contracts twice to Jane Houston of Cutreoch (near Drummorrell) in 1583, then his cousin Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse in 1585. Presumably either the first marriage did not take place, or Jane died young.

We know James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I, was the same generation as Robert because of a 1586 reference to his son-in-law). S likely refer to James

We have at least two letters from James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I (who lived around 1565-1631) to Sir Patrick Vaus. These appear to be the earliest letters we have from any of our McCulloch ancestors. In heavy Scots dialect, James seems to be telling Sir Patrick of a prior unjustified arrest attempt that he had escaped. James coolly seems to be saying that he wouldn’t seek vengeance for the mistreatment.

In his second letter from Kenmuir (probably the Gordon of Lochinvar’s Kenmuir Castle in the Glenkens) he asks Sir Patrick’s forbearance for failing to timely respond to a summon sent to Edyr (possibly Aidrie in Lanarkshire) because James missed the letter while visiting Ayr, then returning home through the Rhinns.


In one letter, the Bishop of Galloway mentions James and a prior falling out. By about 1591, James appears to have been a commissioner in Wigtown (succeeded by his son William by 1597).

In 1609, James became an “undertaker” in the Ulster plantation. His cousin George Murray of Broughton was his surety. (In 1611 there is Murray of Broughton charter that indicates some substantial Broughton land had been sold to James. However, James seems to have sold this land to John Murray of Lochmaben by 1614).

However, James sold his Ulster lands called Mullaghveigh by 1612. John McCulloch had briefly been referred to as “of Drummorrell” around 1610. This may have been an older brother. Upon being infeft in Drummorrell, James seems to return to Drummorrell.

The fact that his son, James,  was referred to in Ayr Burgh records as James McCulloch of Drummorrell, the younger, indicates to me that James the elder had also been known to the Ayr Burgess Guild as a merchant there. The Vaus correspondence indicates James had visited Ayr. This is understandable since Ayr was likely the port he would have left on travels to Mullaghveigh.

(This 1630 tax letter provides insight into who James’ neighbors and peers in Whithorn were.

James died around 1631 and had children Robert, James, Janet, and William, presumably by his second wife Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse.

Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell (the elder)

Robert McCulloch, the first known owner of Drummorrell, had a variety of local business interests including trade with England. Drummorrell was a 5 merk farm property near the Isle of Whithorn, previously owned by Dundrennan Abbey. Robert may not have acquired the Drummorrell property from Gothray McCulloch until 1583, who presumably acquired it from Dundrennan. (For context, in 1572 the Dundrennan commendator granted life-rent in a similarly-sized Whithorn parish farm to Michael Houston of Culreoch, with fee to his son William Houston of Culreoch. Earlier, a Dundrennan commentator had granted a heritable tack to the Cairnes family in 1555. The terms of these leases would likely be similar to the Drummorrell lease).

Like his descendants Thomas and Alexander, Robert didn’t seem to be above a bit of smuggling. In addition to operating his lands at Drummorrell, Robert was a burgess of Kirkcudbright who owned tenements in Kirkcudbright, an interest in the local ferry service, as well as other interests in Minnigaff.

Robert’s sister Elizabeth (“Bessie”) married John McClellane of Balmae in Kirkcudbright. Robert and his sons later served as the procurator for John McClellane and his son Thomas in Kirkcudbright.

Robert would seem to be influential and prominent enough to feature in a handful of Scottish records (including some in Latin). His prominence can be seen based on the families his sons married into, as well as the status of his grandsons which included statesman, burgess merchants, a surgeon, and a goldsmith. Robert was dead by about 1588 and had at least three sons: Andrew, John, and James. Robert was reportedly near kin to Gothray McCulloch of Ardwell, as discussed below.

Tait of Ayr: A First Glimpse of John McCulloch?

Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, a shipping merchant, was married to Katharine Tait. I suspect Katherine may have been the grandaughter of “James Tait,  the elder,” who owned Loudoun Hall in Ayr (one of the earliest townhouses in Scotland). James Tait was the son of Thomas Tayt, a burgess merchant in Ayr and Glasgow. (James McCulloch was known to have visited Ayr around 1588 according to correspondence to Sir Patrick Vaus of Barnbarroch).

James Tait was a successful shipping merchant and burgess merchant in Ayr. He had a son named James who was a contemporary of James McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder. The younger James Tait was an undertaker (land developer) at Dunwiley, Donegal in 1616. Similarly, James McCulloch of Drummorrell was one of the earliest undertakers, being granted 1,000 acres in eastern Donegal, less than eight miles from Derry (the Manor of Mullaveigh), just north of the River Foyle.

In 1518, James Tait signed three charters at his home, Loudoun Hall, with a man named John McCulloch. We may infer that John McCulloch was a business associate and friend of James Tait. In 1544, John McCulloch witnessed a charter in Kirkcudbright along with members of the Cairns and MacClellane families (each family being extended family by marriage). I believe this man to be John McCulloch of Balseir.

Y DNA and Robert’s Father

Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder, was the first of his line called “of Drummorrell.” So, who was his father?

The current Y DNA predictions indicate that my haplogroup, R-BY169408, is downstream of haplogroup R-BY169112. Also, the latest information released in December 2022 appears to indicate that Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the elder (died 1496) or one of his sons (Finlay, Henry, or Thomas) is a the first person to have the SNPs indicative of R-BY169112. Taken literally, this would mean that I could not be “downstream” of an R-BY169112 ancestor any earlier than Henry McCulloch, the elder.

Genealogically, I know that I can not have a common ancestor with my R-BY169112 match who descends from the Killasser line) more recently than the father of Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell, who was born around 1525. This presents a very limited window for the R-BY169408 branch to have occurred over a span of about two to three generations from Henry Killasser (the elder) to Robert.

Stated another way, the universe of known McCulloch male descendants of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the elder (R-BY169112), who were young adults at the estimated time of the birth of Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell is limited to about two known men: James McCulloch of Balseir (grandson of Finlay McCulloch of Killasser, I) or Alexander McCulloch of Killasser, the elder (grandson son of Henry of KIllasser, II).

The Killasser line did not follow a primogeniture pattern for inheritance. Rather, title to Killasser appears to have passed in an agnatic pattern (akin to the Rota system) from eldest brother to youngest, then returning to the living sons of the eldest brother. I don’t believe Robert was a son of Alexander because under such a system Robert would seem to have had a superior claim to Killasser than Alexander’s grandson Alexander, who was described as the apparent heir of Killasser during Robert’s life.

Further, James McCulloch of Balseir, and his father John, seem to have more ties to the same families and locations as Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell. We know that Robert’s son James was a cousin of the Cairnes family, and John McCulloch was not only a neighbor of John Cairnes of Cultis but also engaged in business with him, and appears to have been the tutor to Cairnes’ children. Further, John’s sister Isobel married a man named John McCulloch. Walter Jameson McCulloch surmised that this was John McCulloch of Barholm, but he was married to Janet Porter. I believe that John McCulloch of Balseir married Isobel Cairnes explaining how James McCulloch of Drummorrell was a cousin of the Cairnes. Further, James McCulloch of Balseir is known to have been a parishioner in Candida Casa in Whithorn. Drummorrell was located near the port of the Isle of Whithorn.Also, the name James becomes a quintessential Drummorrell forename.

In 1518, John witnessed a charter with James Tait, possibly Robert’s grandfather-in-law, and in 1522 he witnessed a charter with the McLellanes in Kirkcudbright (where Robert was later a burgess merchant). Also, one of the quintessential names of the Drummorrel line was “James.”While none of this is definitive, the preponderance of the circumstantial evidence points to James McCulloch of Balseir being the father of Robert. Also a 1583 court proceeding described below, may shed further light on the relationship.

Balseir, Killasser, Kilstay

15          James McCulloch of Balseir, Maltan Knight; Margaret Waus

16          John McCulloch of Balseir, burgess merchant of Edinburgh; possibly Isobel Cairnes of Cultis

17          Finlay McCulloch the younger, son of Finlay McCulloch of Killasser, the elder; wife unknown

18          Finlay  McCulloch of Killasser the elder, died about 1500 [R-BY-169112]; Janet McKie

19          Henry McCulloch, the elder, of Killasser, (died about 1496) [R-BY32010]]; possibly a daughter of McCulloch of Ardwell

20         Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay, the elder (either his wife or mother may have been from the McDowell of Garthland/Logan line


John and James McCulloch of Balseir

There is no direct documentation of Robert McCulloch’’s father, but I believe the circumstantial evidence and Y DNA data indicate his father was James McCulloch of Balseir, and his grandfather was John McCulloch of Balseir. Both John and Robert were merchants who had ties to Whithorn, Kirkcudbright, the McLellans, and Taits, and were related to the Cairnes. John was a merchant who witnessed documents in Ayr and Kirkcudbright, and appears to have lived near the Cairnes of Cultis and McCullochs of Drummorrell. Robert’s son, James, was known to be a cousin of the Cairnes. As mentioned above, we know that Jame McCulloch of Balseir married Margaret Waus, each parishoners at Candida Casa, in Whithorn.

In 1532, John witnessed a charter of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, III and his wife Margaret McCulloch of Myreton. Note that Henry and Margaret had married 4 years prior. Their son Symon was clearly not of age to witness a charter. However, Henry’s nephew, John, was old enough. Also note that the charter reserved some contingent interests to John’s grandmother Janet McKie (Jonete Makke) (explained immediately below). 

In 1568, John Cairnes of Cultis died. His widow was Margaret McCulloch, daughter of Alexander McCulloch of Killasser. The Cairnes family history indicates that John and Alexander were each named tutor of Margaret’s children. I believe John and Alexander were first cousins.

John died in 1569, passing Balseir to his son James. The Balseir lands had previously been owned by the St. John of Jerusalem Maltan knights; this appears to be the same land owned by Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay in 1488. It’s worth noting that an ancestor of the Cairnes of Cultis was Alexander Cairnes, provost of Lincluden. He was succeeded as provost by Sir John Makkawllach. Alexander conveyed considerable property – including a 1421 lease of Cultis- to his nephew John Cairnes, first of Cultis, with the provost retaining a life interest in the lands. It’s plausible that the lands of Balseir were acquired by the McCullochs through similar means. Perhaps Sir John ordered the conveyance of Balseir to Thomas of Kilstay or Thomas’ father.

John McCulloch appears as “of Balseir” for the first time in  in 1532 in a decree regarding his cousin Henry McCulloch of Killasser upon his succession to Myretoun. Before 1532, we do not know where John made his home as a young man when not visiting port towns like Kirkcudbright and Ayr. It’s entirely plausible John acquired Drummorrell which seems to be less than a mile from the port at Isle of Whithorn.

John’s son James was Sir James McCulloch of Alnwick, a Maltan knight who lived in Whithorn. He was also referred to as James McCulloch of Balseir. He married a very close cousin Margaret Vaus (essentially the girl next door) after receiving a special dispensation from the archbishop of St. Andrew. Papal consent was necessary because this marriage was in the 4th degree of consanguinity. It appears that Margaret and James shared Janet McKie as a great-grandmother. In addition, Mary Queen of Scots legitimated their two sons born out of wedlock: John and Alexander.

We can conclude with a high degree of certainty that Margaret’s parents are John Vaus of Barnbarroch and Janet McCulloch, granddaughter of Janet McKie either through one of her husbands: Finlay McCulloch of Killasser or Symon McCulloch of Killasser. We know that John McCulloch of Balseir could not be the patrilineal grandson of Symon, because Symon did not leave any male heirs. Instead, Symon’s daughter Margaret married Henry McCulloch of Killasser, who then became laird of Myrton. However, Margaret’s great-grandmother’s first husband was Finlay McCulloch of Killasser (the elder), whose wife was Janet McKie. It would seem that Margaret and James shared Janet McKie as a great-grandmother, thus requiring papal authority to marry. Stated another way, because the proposed marriage had an impediment in the fourth degree of consanguinity we can determine that James was the great-grandson of Finlay McCulloch and Janet McKie, thus James’s father John was Finlay’s grandson. [Note that a few years earlier in 1538, Margaret Vaus sought papal leave to marry a McKie cousin despite an impediment of consanguinity to the 4th degree. We do not know if this marriage occurred. In any event, this record would indicate that Janet McKie’s father was John McKie of Myreton and would confirm that the impediment to the marriage of Sir James and Margaret was because each descended from Janet McKie as their great grandmother].

Margaret Waus’s brother appears to be Sir Patrick Waus, chief almoner to Mary Queen of Scots. Sir Patrick would have been well positioned to seek both papal dispensation and a grant of legitimation on behalf of his sister.

John appears to have married Isobel Cairnes of Cultis. His cousin, Margaret, married Isobel’s brother, John Cairnes of Cultis.

Map of the southeast Machars including Whithorn and Cultis (home of the Cairnes) and Whithorn. Note that Myreton Castle is on the west edge of the map. Interactive 1654 Blaue’s Atlas of Galloway Map.


Sifting through the available documents, I believe we can reconstruct the heads of the Drummorrell line.

1.                  Robert McCulloch, 1st of Drummorrell; married to Katherine Tait. Shipping merchant in Kirkcudbright. Succeeded by James by 1588 per Vaus correspondence. Succeeds to Drummorrell lease in 1583 by heritage.

2.                  James McCulloch, 2nd of Drummorrell, son of Robert. Still of Drummorrell in 1603. Succeeded briefly by brother John in 1609.

3.                  John McCulloch, 3rd of Drummorrell, likely son of Robert. Referred to as “of Drummorrell” in 1609. Succeeded by James by 1610.

4.                  James McCulloch, 4th of Drummorrell; married to Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse; son of James McCulloch of Drummorrell, the elder; undertaker in Ulster Plantation.

5.                  Robert McCulloch, 5th of Drummorrell; Brother of James McCulloch, the elder according to M’Kerlie. Called “apparent of Drummorrell” in 1625 and 1628. Called “of Drummorrell” in 1631, 1641 and 1643. Acquired Balsmith near Whithorn by 1625.

6.                  James McCulloch, 6th of Drummorrell; burgess merchant in Ayr and Glasgow in 1650; died by 1655. Presumably son of James, brother of Robert.

7.                  Robert McCulloch, 7th of Drummorrell, son of James according state infeftment. married to Jean McCulloch of Knockincure. Infeft in 1655.

8.                  Alexander McCulloch, 8th of Drummorrell; married to Agnes Gordon of Auchlean; Member of Parliament. Son of Robert and Jean McCulloch according to M’Kerlie. Appears to have succeeded James McCulloch of Drummorrell. Alexander had been known as McCulloch of Auchlean prior to his father’s (and possibly brother’s) death(s). Conveyed Knockincure to Vaus in 1654. In 1687 he had possession of Balsmith.

9.                  Alexander McCulloch, 9th and last of Drummorrell; married to Anabel Hoom. Alexander sold Drummorrell in 1698 and appears in a charter there after as “lait of Drummorrell,” and is included in correspondence as late as 1713. Circumstantial evidence suggests he sold Drummorrell and Balsmith following the baptism of his grandson Alexander in 1697, then moved with his son Thomas to Londonderry.


Finlay McCulloch of Killasser, the elder and younger

As explained above, know that John McCulloch’s grandfather was Finlay McCulloch of Killasser, son of Henry McCulloch, the elder. Finlay’s only apparent son was also named Finlay.  Unfortunately, very little is known about Finlay McCulloch of Killasser, the younger, who may have died young.

Interestingly, Finlay McCulloch of Killasser (the elder) may have been named for Finlay McCulloch of Torhouse who would be the right age to be the brother of Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay. If Finlay and Thomas were brothers, this would explain instances where the Torhouse and Killlasser cousins appear to be close kin.

Upon the death of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, first laird of Killasser, Patrick MacDowell of Logan brought protracted litigation against Finlay to exercise a reversionary right to redeem lands at Grenane and Kirkbride owned by Finlay and Henry before him. (These lands out of the McDowell Logan estates may have been inherited from Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay). Finlay married Janet McKie (apparently the daughter of John McKie of Myreton). When Finlay died in 1500, his younger brother Thomas took title to Killasser. Janet remarried Sir Symon McCulloch of Myreton (brother of the Cutlar). Following the deaths of Finlay and Thomas McCulloch of Killasser, Henry’s son Henry (the younger) became laird of Killasser around 1504. Finlay McCulloch of Killaser (the younger) succeeded him around 1514 and may have owned Killasser until about 1528 when Henry McCulloch, III was infeft in Killasser. The Henry married the daughter of Symon McCulloch of Myreton and was elevated to McCulloch of Myreton.

The Lairds of Killasser

Walter J. McCulloch found scant evidence of the lairds of Killasser, but I believe we now can construct the succession of the Killasser line based on charter references. Note that the Killasser line does not follow primogeniture, but a form of agnatic succession from the eldest to youngest son, then onto the next generation giving priority to the then living eldest son of the eldest son of the prior generation.

1.         Henry McCulloch, first laird of Killasser, died about 1496; likely a son of Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay (R-BY169112)

2.         Finlay McCulloch, second laird of Killasser, documented son of Henry; infeft about 1496; died about 1500 (we might infer that he is the progenitor of the R-BY169408 haplogroup line)

3.         Thomas McCulloch, third laird of Killasser; presumed brother of Finlay; infeft about 1500, must have died about 1504 because succeeded by Henry II (R-BY169112)

4.         Henry McCulloch, fourth laird of Killasser, presumed brother of Finlay and Thomas; infeft about 1504 upon death of Thomas; must have died by 1514 when succeed by Finlay II (R-BY169112)

5.         Finlay McCulloch, fifth laird of Killasser, son of Finlay McCulloch of Killasser (R-BY169408); infeft by 1514; succeeded by Henry McCulloch of Killasser then Myrton around 1528

6.         Henry McCulloch, 6th laird of Killasser, son of Henry McCulloch, 4th laird of Killasser; Henry is elevated to laird of Myretoun in 1528 upon marriage to the daughter of Sir Symon McCulloch of Myrton (their son is Symon McCulloch of Myretoun, named for his maternal grandfather). (R-BY169112)

7.         Alexander McCulloch, 7th laird of Killasser, presumably son of the 4th laird of Killasser as the eldest son of the prior generation (note that Henry’s son Symon succeeded to Myretoun rather than Killasser); infeft after 1533; succeeded by son after 1560 when father and son each witness a charter together; father of Margaret McCulloch (wife of John Cairnes of Cultis) (R-BY169112)

8.         Alexander McCulloch, 8th laird of Killasser, documented son of the 7th laird of Killasser; Alexander may not have succeeded to Killasser until after the death of John McCulloch of Balseir in 1569 otherwise John would have had a claim on Killasser (R-BY169112)

9.         Peter McCulloch, 9th laird of Killasser, documented son of the 8th laird of Killasser; infeft by 1589; died in 1605 (R-BY169112)

10.       David McCulloch, presumed 10th and probably last laird of Killasser from his R-BY169112 line; by 1622 Gothray’s son John McCulloch of Ardwell (R-BY32021) had acquired Killasser.

Dr. John McCulloch of Myreton, descendant of Killasser

One of the most complicated episodes of McCulloch history is the legal claim by Margaret McCulloch, relict of Dr. James McCulloch, for a reversionary interest to Myreton. But I will attempt to simplify the basic facts here. In 1622, Dr. John McCulloch (formerly a physician to King James I) died. Margaret, the widow of John’s brother James, lobbied King James in order to exercise a right of reversion to redeem Myreton originally conveyed to Sir Patrick Vaus of Barnbarroch in 1597).

King James declared Margaret to be Dr. John’s last remaining heir. The ruling indicates John’s father, John McCulloch – a burgess merchant in Edinburgh, and his grandfather did not leave any other known heirs (or otherwise did not leave will’s to direct the disposition of their estates).

Essentially, due to financial difficulties, Sir William McCulloch of Myrton and his son Alexander granted a wadset on Myrton in 1596 to Sir Patrick Vaus (later conveyed to his son John Vaus of Barnbarroch). The wadset essentially meant that Vaus had title to Myrton, but William McCulloch had a right to redeem the purchase. William was financially unable to redeem Myrton, so he conveyed that right of redemption to his cousin Dr. John McCulloch who immediately redeemed the estate. At that time Myrton included a fort (motte), a tower, a manor, fisheries, two mills, and other lands totalling 40 marks. Upon Dr. John’s death, King James I granted his sister-in-law a quitclaim to Myrton in 1622. As R.C Reid wrote in the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History Society Journal, “He does not seem to have acquired the estate by direct descent.” In other words, he acquiredthrough a financial transaction (i.e., a purchase of the the right of redemption of the wadset). Margaret then sold Myrton to John McCulloch of Ardwell in 1635. I believe Walter Jameson McCulloch and others misinterpret the 1623 Latin legal decree when they assert that Dr. John’s father was a bastard. The legal decree granted in favor of Margaret finds that there were no other known heirs of Dr. John or his father because (i) they left no issue, (ii) their children or illegitimate and not eligible to inherit, or (iii) or Dr. John and his father made no provision for such children. This appears to me as legalese in a probate decree checking all the boxes as to why there were no other heirs with superior rights.

WJM also indicated Dr. John was the son of Henry McCulloch of Killasser then Myrton, but I find no documentation of this. While this is possible, Henry would have been over 40 years old at the birth of this undocumented son. I find it more likely that Doctors John and James McCulloch were the sons of John McCulloch, the son of Sir James McCulloch of Balsier. Sir James’ sons John and Alexander were legitimated by Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. So, even if the 1623 decree is properly interpreted to mean that Dr. John’s father was illegitimate, John son of James would still be the most logical candidate for being the father of the doctors.

Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the elder

Returning to the Killasser lineage, Finlay McCulloch of Killasser was the son of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the elder (died about 1496). To ensure that Myrton remained in McCulloch hands, Henry III married his cousin, Margaret McCulloch of Myretoun, then became the laird of Myretoun. At this time, we do not have any records that clearly identify the father of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the elder. (However, I believe Henry the elder’s wife was likely a daughter of Andrew McCulloch of Ardwell and that Killasser was tocher).

James Iredell was an early US supreme court justice. His mother was a McCulloch from the Killasser line (through Antrim Ireland, down to North Carolina). According to the oral tradition relayed by James Iredell, Henry McCulloch of Killasser descended from Sir Norman McCulloch, through a son named Thomas. Iredell didn’t have the benefit of modern Y DNA testing which indicates Henry and Sir Norman’s most recent common ancestor lived about 200 years earlier than Norman’s life. I believe the story contains elements of truth. As I will explain below, I believe Henry’s father was indeed named Thomas.

Kilstay and Balserry (Balseir)

Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay

In 1474, a man named Henry McCulloch appeared in court on behalf of Thomas McCulloch of “Kilstane” and his apparent son Thomas, for the murder of Duncan Dalrymple. [I believe that Kilstane was the same as the known McCulloch lands called “Kilstay.”] We might infer that Henry was close kin to Thomas, likely a son or nephew. The Dalrymple family is known to come from Ayrshire where they married with the dreaded Kennedys. (Sir John Kennedy of Dunure (d. 1385) was known as Baron of Dalrymple. He was the first to own the lands of Cassillis). In 1488, Henry’s son Finlay McCulloch of Killasser was ordered to hold Sir James McCulloch of Cardoneess “skaithless” from apparent retaliatory actions by Alan Dalrymple of Lacht (possibly Duncan’s brother).

In 1545, a legal instrument that mentions Alexander McCulloch of Killasser indicated that a man named John McCulloch had owned Kilstay, and that it had been owned by his “predecessors.” He may have been a son or grandson of Thomas Makculloch of Kilstay who is mentioned in the Protocol Book of James Young (Canongate, Edinburgh) in 1488.

This Thomas Makculloch was likely one of the men named Thomas McCulloch who were mentioned in the 1474 remission for the slaughter of Duncan Dalrymple. Further, Thomas Makculloch’s appearance in the Canongate Protocol Books may indicate he was a merchant doing business in Edinburgh. The 1488 Canongate records indicate Thomas owned a property called “Ballsery.” He granted a right of first refusal on a future sale of the property to William McClellan, son of Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie.  A second record regarding Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay and Balsery was witnessed by Alexander Stewart of Grenane (land neighboring Balseir) and John Gordon of Lochinvar – each from Galloway.  Although the document trail has gaps, we might surmise that Balserry was the same farm later owned by John and James McCulloch of Balsier.

The first documentation of Thomas may actually be a 1448 reference to a Thomas McCulloch who had delivered hay to Edinburgh Castle.

After James McCulloch of Balseir, the land passed back to the McKie family. Whether this was a type of reversion or a voluntary sale to cousins we do not know. The land was owned by Alexander McKie of Balseir by about 1578. McKie was later murdered by the McCullochs’ archrival: McDowell of Freuch in 1619.

Because the Kilstay property is surrounded by McDowell of Garthland property called Logan, I believe either Thomas or his father had married a daughter of Uchtred McDowell of Garthland. Interestingly, a man named Uchtred McCulloch witnessed an agreement in 1466 in Stirling pertaining to merchants from Edinburgh. The name “Uchtred” is fairly unique to the McDowells. It seems plausible that Uchtred was named for a maternal grandfather: Uchtred McDowell of Garthland/Logan.

McCullochs and Allied Families in Galloway: A Map

To visualize the McCulloch families, how they were related and interacted, and how they married into local neighbor families, a map is very helpful. I created this interactive Google Map. 

Starting in the east, a line of Roman forts from Hexhame to Carlisle traces Hadrian’s Wall. Just to the west of the wall, north of the Solvay Firth, there are a few Roman forts from Arbigland (McCulloch’s Caste), to Gatehouse of Fleet, and even further west to Glen Luce. If the McCullochs arrived with the Romans to guard Hadrian’s Wall, this shows how close they were to Roman forts at places like Gatehouse of Fleet.

By studying the map, it’s possible to see that the McCullochs of Balseir and Drummorrell were active in the eastern and southeastern Machars for about 150 years. To contextualize the McCullochs, I have also marked the lands of certain allied families as well as various historical and archaeological sites including Hadrian’s wall and Trusty’s Hill.

When Thomas of Kilstay first appears in records in 1488 he is styled “of Kilstay” which is in the Rhinns (the western peninsula in Galloway), but the records pertain to Balserry (Balseir) in Sorbie (in the Machars, the peninsula in central Galloway).

To understand the family, their relationships and their movements, bear in mind that they were shipping merchants. Records of the family in places ranging from Kirkcudbright, Whithorn, Ayr, London, Edinburgh, Londonderry, and Boston only make sense when they are seen as sea-faring traders.

Patriots in the American Revolution

The McCullough-Garvin report confirms John Jr.’s pension claim that multiple generations of McCulloughs served in the American Revolution. By contrast, we know that certain cousins from the Killasser/County Antrim line who became major land owners in North Carolina were Royalists. Why were our ancestors so clearly on the side of the Republic? Our line of McCullochs were shipping merchants who had suffered under British trade regulations for decades. Anecdotes suggest that Thomas and Alexander McCulloch were not above circumventing trade restrictions in the 17th century. But we see the same behavior from Robert and Andrew who circumvented trade restrictions in the 16th century. We can imagine the outrage of our colonial merchant ancestors at English trade restrictions and stamp duties.

Religiously, our McCullochs appear to be at times Covenanters, or associated with Covenanters. “The Covenanters were those people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638. They signed this Covenant to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.” Not only did John McCulloch of Chanceford attend a Covenanter church in Pennsylvania, they married with Covenanter families such as the Garvins and Gillilands. Our McCulloch ancestors settled in the colony of Pennsylvania which was founded to provide a safe haven for religious dissenters like the Quakers.

Our ancestors had seen plenty of religious persecution and hostility. As early as 1651, Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell was named to a local war committee whose aim was to resist King Charles II’s imposition of episcopacy upon Scotland.  In 1652, just after James McCulloch became a merchant in Ayr, Oliver Cromwell fortified the Auld Kirk of Ayr and turned the church into a citadel. (It was Cromwell’s only fortification in Scotland). Shortly thereafter, distant McCulloch cousin Maj. John McCulloch of Barholm was arrested in Ayr in 1666 for his involvement in the Pentland Rising, and later executed. Kin from the Garvin and Gilliland families were forced to flee Scotland to avoid persecution during the Killing Time.  As a further show at how near religious persecution was to the McCullochs of Drummorrell, the next family to own their land at Drummorrell were the Coltranes of Drummorral. William Coltrane of Drummorral, the provost of Wigtown, oversaw the horrific execution of the Wigtown Martyrs. So, while our ancestors lived near Candida Casa -the cradle of Christianity in Scotland – they saw first hand the depravity of religious persecution in Scotland. Then, when the McCullochs and their kin sought refuge in Londonderry in Ireland, they found themselves in a place famous for its religious conflict that has lasted into our lifetimes.

It is no wonder then that our colonial ancestors fought for economic freedom and religious liberty.

The McCulloch Family Lines

Walter Jameson McCulloch’s History of the McCulloch Families of Galloway details the genealogies of the following families: Myretoun, Ardwell, Killasser, Torhouse, Drummorrell, Cardiness, Barholm, and  Ardwall (Nether Ardwell). From this History and other medieval and early modern records, we can tell how many of these lines were related. Unfortunately, neither the history or other documents identify how Drummorrell was related to the main lines of Myreton, Ardwell, and Killasser.

The R-BY169112 (Killasser) branch from R-BY32021 (Ardwell)

Based on these charts from Family Tree DNA, we can see that the Killasser line (R-BY169112) and the Ardwell line (R-BY32021) diverge  just prior to the time of the first recorded McCullochs in the mid to late 13th century.

The R-BY169408 (Drummorrell) branch from R-BY169112 (Killasser)

In July 2022, FamilyTree DNA launched the Discovery Tool to fine tune Y DNA predictions. It states that myR-BY169408‘s paternal line was formed when it branched off from R-BY169112 and the rest of mankind about 1502. My Y DNA match from the R-BY169112 haplogroup is a descendant of the McCullochs of Killasser. The Discovery Tool seems to predict that we should have a common ancestor with my R-BY169112 cousin at approximately the generation of Finlay McCulloch of Killlasser or Henry McCulloch of Killasser, II, give or take a few generations. The prediction of 1502 would seem to point precisely to father and son Finlay McCulloch of Killassser, the elder and younger.

The Lords of Galloway

The best work on the Lords of Galloway is the research of historian Richard Oram. However, Oram didn’t have access to modern Y DNA data. Two Gallovidian families claim descent from Fergus Lord of Galloway. The McLellans are documented descendants of Fergus’ descendant Thomas of Galloway (the illegitimate son of Alan of Galloway). Thomas’ son was named Cane, son of the bastard (which is anglicized as MacLellan). By contrast, the McDowells cannot document a link to Fergus. The MacLellans and McDowells are not closely genetically related. In fact, the McDowells appear to descend from the Irish Ui Niall. Interestingly, the McLellans and some McOwens claiming descent from Briton (Cumbrian) King Owen Galvus appear genetically related. It is supposed that the epithet Galvus may indicate rule over Galloway. Following Owen Galvus, an Angle king recognized the kingship of a man named Malcolm described as the son of the king of the Cumbrians. The location of that kingship was not identified.  But, about three generations later, Fergus emerges as the King of Galloway (Galwitsenium or Galweia).  The Y DNA data may fill in for the lack of historic documents. It appears that Fergus’ McLellan descendants may share Y DNA with other descendants of Owen Galvus (the last recorded king of Strathclyde).

Oram makes the case that Fergus’ first wife was likely the daughter of a prominent chief west of the Cree. I think it is plausible that this was a proto-McCulloch chief.

If the Lords of Galloway truly descend from the Strathclyde Britons, they may not have emerged in eastern Galloway (east of the Cree) until the mid-11th century. Although Fergus may have had royal ancestors from the kings of Strathclyde Britons and Scots and married a daughter of the King of England, he and his descendants appeared to rely on the McCullochs as the bulwark of their authority across the region.

Clan McCulloch

The McCullochs were landed gentry or even native nobility, but not royalty, in lowland Galloway. (An excellent book about the region is Andrew McCulloch’s “Galloway: A Land Apart.”) The McCullochs were recognized as its own clan. (Andrew McCulloch was the son of Walter Jameson McCulloch). However, clan MacDougall claims some highlander McCullochs as septs, or a subordinate/allied family. I suspect that those McCullochs were McLulichs, not related to the McCullochs. Further, the MacCullochs of Ross-Shire in the highlands were septs of Clan Ross, then later Clan Munro. These MacCullochs claimed cousinage with the McCullochs of Galloway. Moreover, the first record of the MacCullochs in Ross-shire was a 1431 charter witnessed by Alexander McCulloch. He applied a seal bearing a shield, fretty, and ermine like the McCullochs of Galloway coats of arms. Also, the MacCullochs were closely aligned with the Vauses of Lochslin. John Vass of Lochslin was the son of John Vaus and his wife Elizabeth Kennedy of Dunure from Ayrshire). So, we can say confidently that the MacCullochs of Ross-shire descend from the McCullochs of Galloway.

At this date we do not have any Y DNA data for descendents of McCullochs of Ross-shire. Future test results may indicate which family line the Highland McCullochs branch from.

To understand our family, one must understand a little about Galloway where we lived for approximately a millenia and a half. As explained elsewhere, our ancestors may have arrived in the British Isles with the Romans around 175 to defend Hadrian’s Wall. At this time, the area -around Hadrian’s Wall was populated by various Briton tribes.

When the Romans left the British Isles, our ancestors remained and seem to have settled in the area that became known as Galloway. This area appears to have been predominantly populated by the Novantae tribe.

Following the departure of the Romans, this region would have been controlled by Briton kings or chiefs such as King Drust, King Urien of Rheged, and his sometimes-ally/sometimes-rival Gwallog. Trusty’s Hill Fort near Gatehouse of Fleet may have been named for King Drust (who is known to have ruled in this area) and/or may have been a fort of King Urien (whose kingdom may have extended from Ayrshire into Cumbria).

Rheged and the Briton’s engaged in years of warfare with the Angles of Northumbria. By about the 7th century, the Angles held sway over the region. It is even speculated that the burning of the vitrified Trusty’s Hill fort may have been at the hands of the Angles. The end of the warfare may have been marked by King Urien’s granddaughter’s marriage to Oswiu, King of Northumbria. By the 8th century, the Angles established their diocese and a monastery at Candida Casa in Whithorn. Apart from ecclesiastical control, the degree of Angle settlement in the region isn’t known.

By the 9th century, Norse Gael settlers from Dublin and the Hebrides were settling in the area that became known for them: Galloway. (Note, the region bears a strikingly similar name as Galway, Ireland – for good reason. Both regions were settled by and named for Norse Gaels). There’s no indication that the Norse-Gaels invaded and conquered Southwest Scotland. Rather, Norse Gael settlement may have been encouraged as a countervailing force against the instructions of the Northumbrian Angles. As such, the region was a bit of a frontier with the Norse Gaels holding sway at times, at other times by the Strathclyde Britons. By the 12th century, with the deaths of Gallovidian chiefs Duvenal and Ulgric at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, the Lords of Galloway held dominion over the semi-independent lordship or kingdom in Galloway. Culturally, Galloway was interconnected with the Norse Gael kingdoms of the Hebrides, Dublin, and the Kingdom of Mann.

It is commonly assumed that the name Galloway comes from Gall Gaidhell, an Irish Gaelic term meaning “stranger Gaels” which referred to Norse Gaels. This term entered into usage in Irish annals beginning around the 11th century. However, the Briton bard Taliessen the term Galwyddel to describe people in the area in the 6th century, hundreds of years before the arrival of the Norse Gaels in southwestern Scotland. When Fergus described himself as the king of the Galwitsenium in terram Galvyte, he may have been harkening the ancient Celtic kingdom of Galwyddel, but also invoking broad but undefined territorial claims throughout southwest and western Scotland. Or, simply, he was calling himself the king of the people living in an area that had become known as “Galvyte.”

The McCullochs owned at least five castles in Galloway: Cardoness and Barholm at Gatehouse of Fleet, Myretoun in the Machars, and Killasser and Ardwell in the Rhinns of Galloway.

The medieval and early-modern McCullochs also had various fine homes like Torhouse (near Myretoun), Kirklaugh (near Cardoness), etc. There is also a site called McCulloch Castle further east at Kirkbean, Dumfries. It was the site of a Roman fortlet. We do not know how the McCullochs originally acquired their lands. However, the story of Robert the Bruce seizing and giving away the McCulloch land offers a clue. The McCullochs were probably expert soldiers. They likely obtained their land initially by conquest or as an award for service of some other powerful chief or king. It has been said that in medieval times the McCullochs could raise 500 men if need arose. In the early 16th century, the McCullochs were fearsome raiders of the nearby Isle of Man. Historian Richard Oram indicates that the McCullochs built Cardoness Castle in the 15th century. He suggests this was a seat of McCulloch “lordship” in the area. It’s possible that the McCullochs had been the most powerful family in the region prior to the emergence of the Lords of Galloway (and their descendants the MacLellans), and having outlasted the Lords of Galloway, Bruces, and Douglases, they resumed their prominence in the region in the 15th century.

The McCulloch family is an armigerous clan, meaning it no longer has a clan chief. The next to last chief was Godfrey McCulloch, son of Baron of Nova Scotia Alexander McCulloch . After Godfrey was executed for killing a Gordon neighbor, his son Gilbert was briefly chief before dying in battle at Flanders in 1704. The clan has not had a chief since this time. Instead, due to mounting debts, a discredited name, many of the remaining McCullochs migrated to Northern Ireland or North America.

Although the McCullochs are often referred to as an ancient family, the earliest known McCullochs date back to records starting in 1285 referring to Thomas McCulloch (MacUlauth; Maculagh; mc’ culauhc; S’ Thoma Mccvulli; and Mackulagh) who was Sheriff of Wigton, and his brothers Michael and William Mac Ulagh.  Among the earliest written records of the name McCulloch are the so-called Ragman Rolls. (Spelling was wildly inconsistent). These are rolls for Scottish nobles pledging fealty to the English King Edward I.


McCulloch Support for the Balliol Cause

In the History of the Land of Galloway and their Owners, P.H. McKerlie describes the McCullochs as “traitors” for not supporting King Robert the Bruce in his claims for the throne of the King of Scots and his eventual war for independence from England. To better understand why the McCullochs supported Kings John Balliol and Edward Balliol and their ally, King Edward I of England, some historical context is necessary. Furthermore, I don’t think one can understand the McCulloch families and their alliances without understanding them in their regional context.

In the 11th century, various Gaelic and Norse Gaelic rulers like Suibne mac Cináeda and Echmarcach mac Ragnaill appear to rule areas that may have included Galloway or the Rhinns. It wasn’t until the emergence of Fergus, Lord of Galloway, that a clear picture of the region emerges. Fergus appears to have ruled Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, and Carrick in Southern Ayrshire. He forged an alliance with Óláfr Guðrøðarson, King of Mann, through the marriage of his daughter Affraic ingen Fergus.

Fergus was succeeded by his two rivalrous sons Gille Brigte and Uchtred, half-brothers  who divided their rule over the region from 1161-1174. Gille Brigte was the older son who ruled Galloway west of the Cree. Uchtred  was the son of Elizabeth Fitz Roy, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I of England, who ruled east of the Cree. Professor Richard Oram speculates that Gille Brigte’s western power base may have been due to his mother being the daughter of a local, western chieftain.

In 1174, Gille Brigte and his sons besieged Uchtred, then blinded and castrated him. Uchtred died shortly thereafter. Uchtred was succeeded by his son Lochlann (or Roland), who was an ally of William the Lion (King of Scots). When Uchtred died in 1185, Lochlann retook power over all of Galloway, slaughtering any chiefs in the west who resisted him. Andrew J. McCulloch suggests that Lochlann rewarded the McCulloch family with lands for support in his reconquest of western Galloway. (The internecine fighting in Galloway, wars in the Isle of Mann, the Hebrides, Ireland and Northumbria, may explain why all modern McCulloch kin seem to descend from one ancestor living in the early 13th century).

Lochlann was succeeded by his son Alan, a powerful Lord of Galloway. He was supported by his brother Thomas of Galloway, Earl of Atholl. When Alan died in 1234 without legitimate male heirs, Galloway was split among his three daughters, including Lady Dervorguilla (wife of John Ballilol).

It was in 1285, that we first see a record of a McCulloch. Thomas MacUlauth was entrusted with delivering 320 heads of cattle from the estate of John Balliol, the elder, to the estate of Alan Fitz Comte (Alan, the son of Thomas, Earl of Atholl). In context, it would seem that Thomas MacUlauth was not just a trusted friend, but likely close kin to the Balliols and Alan Fitz Comte.

Though mere conjecture, I am tempted to believe that Thomas of Galloway (brother of Alan of Galloway) was the maternal grandfather of Thomas MacUlauth. (A daughter could easily have gone without notice of historians at this time). Note that Thomas of Galloway (earl of Atholl) named a son Patrick. Likewise Thomas MacUlauth was succeeded by a son or grandson: Sir Patrick McCulloch.

The following year,  King Alexander III died. The McCullochs, like other leading Galloway families, supported the bid of John Balliol, son of Lady Dervorguila of Galloway, rather than De Brus. It should be noted that the other known leading families of Galloway were all kindred: Ballliols, MacLellans, and presumably McCullochs were related by blood or marriage (or both).

It is worth pointing out that Robert the Bruce descended from Duncan, Earl of Carrick, the son of Gille Brigte. When Gille Brigte died, Duncan was denied lordship over Galloway, but was given the earldom over Carrick instead. Not only was the discontented Duncan an ancestor of Robert the Bruce, but he was the progenitor of the McCullochs long term rival: the Kennedys.

It is no surprise that the McCullochs and other Galloway families supported the claims of John Balliol (son of Lady Dervoguila, grandson of Alan, Lord of Galloway) given that he was from a native family, but likely also because he was kin. After King John Balliol’s short reign, the McCullochs and other Gallovidians continued to support the claims of his son, Edward Balliol, rather than support the claims of Balliol’s distant cousin and rival, Robert the Bruce.

There is much documentation about the McCulloch support for Balliol and the English, including Sir Patrick, and his sons (John and Patrick), William, Gilbert (and his son), among others.Sir Patrick also served Edward III in his campaigns in Brittany. Sir Patrick and other McCullochs forfeited lands as a result of their unrelenting support of Balliol.

Sir Patrick was paid for his service to the King of England from 1338-1362 and for compensation for his losing lands in service to the English crown. Sir Patrick Macolaghe, and sons Patrick M’owlache/Makcowlach/MacKullouch, (vicar), John and Christopher, fought alongside the English at the Battle of Durham in 1346. In 1350, Edward Balliol granted lands in Galloway to Patrick for his service. However, Bruce’s forces soon overran Galloway and Patrick lost these recently granted lands.

Around 1364, Sir Patrick returned to Scotland and entered the king’s peace at which time King David II restored a portion of the prior McCulloch lands to Sir Patrick McCoulagh, Gilbert McCoulaghe; Gilbert Macolagh (valet to King Edward III), and Thomas McCulloch.  An undated indenture purports to be a proposal for discussions between King Edward III of England and King David of Scotland with respect to the restoration of lands and castles seized by the late King Robert the Bruce. This indenture, which mentions Patrick McCulloch and other dispossessed landholders, may indicate that the restoration of the McCulloch lands was part of a broader settlement between the kings of England and Scotland.

During his exile, Patrick’s lands were given by King David II (son of Robert the Bruce) in life rent to a man called John Carrick. Given the timeframe, this appears to me to be John Kennedy of Dunure. The same records clearly refer to his father as Gilbert de Carrick. If so, this may explain  the animosity that ensued between the Kennedys and McCullochs.

According to M’Kerlie and Agnew, the McCullochs owned Myretoun castle again by the 1390s. This is plausible because Patrick McCulloch’s lands had been restored to him around 1364. Citing antiquarian George Crawfurd, M’Kerlie indicates that a charter mentioned Sir Thomas McCulloch around 1390.

According to the Iredell tradition, another McCulloch cousin in the early 14th century named Godfrey McCulloch received the forfeited lands from King Robert. To date, I have seen no evidence of this despite charters and other records from both the Scots and English sides of the conflict. While I believe some of the more recent aspects of the Iredell oral tradition are useful, this part of the story is undocumented and should be viewed skeptically unless documentary evidence is produced.

(Don’t believe the stories about a supporter of Robert the Bruce named Cullo O’Neill being the progenitor of the McCullochs. This “character” seems to be based on stories about multiple men named Cu Uladh Ua Neill from Clan O’Neill. The name McCulloch was recorded before the supposed introduction of the name as “mac Cullo”. The Irish Anglicised name “McCullough” originates from mac cu Uladh. It’s possible that McCullochs living in northern Ireland adopted family lore from genetically unrelated McCulloughs who descended from the Irish Clan Ui Neill. However, the McCullochs do not share the same Y DNA haplogroup as the O’Neills.)

Rivalry with the Kennedys of Cassillis

The historical records and context convincingly show the McCullochs were fiercely loyal to the Balliol cause, and long term rivals of the descendants of Duncan, Earl of Carrick: Robert the Bruce and his Kennedy allies, and their descendants.

In fact, the McCulloch 14th-15th century loyalty to the Douglases can be explained also by the McCullochs’ feud with the Kennedys. To the McCullochs, the Douglas Lords of Galloway (though previously allies of Robert the Bruce) represented a countervailing power against the Ayrshire Kennedys of Dunure or Cassillis.

The bad blood seems to go back to the internecine wars between half-brothers Uchtred and Gille Brigte, lords of Galloway.  The McCullochs were Balliol loyalists who sided with King John Balliol and his mother Lady Dervoguila. She was the daughter of the last Lord of Galloway, Alan of Galloway. By contrast, Robert the Bruce and the Kennedys of Dunure appear to descend from Duncan of Carrick (himself a descendant of the Lords of Galloway). It would seem that the descendants of Duncan never reconciled themselves with losing their claim to lordship over Galloway. During the War for Scottish Independence, King Robert the Bruce stripped the McCullochs of their lands and granted John Kennedy of Dunure (John of Carrick) liferent in Sir Patrick McCulloch’s lands (presumably Myrton) while Sir Patrick was in exile with King Edward Balliol. This rivary flared up again in 1507 over Sir David Kennedy of Leswalt’s (later first Earl of Casillis) attempt to hold court in Leswalt (producing an ongoing feud with the locally-powerful Agnew family).

When Sir David attempted to hold court in Leswalt, Henry McCulloch joined a host of Gallovidian families resisting the Kennedy power grab. It’s also noteworthy that the brother-in-law of the Earl of Casillis (Fergus MacDowell of Freugh) murdered a man named John McCulloch in 1538.

The blood feud

If one peruses the ancient criminal trials involving various charges of cruel slaughter committed by the McCullochs, one could easily see them as an evil, murderous clan. But, if one looks closely at the trials involving the McCullochs and their allies, it soon becomes apparent that the McCullochs were actually part of a blood feud that arguably persisted for centuries.

In 1474, Henry McCulloch (possibly the later laird of Killasser) paid for the remission of Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay and his sons for the slaughter of Duncan Dalrymple. We do not have any other details about this killing, but it may be telling that the Dalrymples, an Ayrshire family, were allies of the Kennedys of Dunure.

In 1498, James and Andrew McCulloch (likely sons of Archibald McCulloch of Ardwell) slaughtered Dionysius Hamilton. Hamilton may have been a first cousin of the Cutlar. Archibald had married a member of the Mure family, likely allies of Cassillis. In response, the Cutlar sacked Ardwell Castle and William Adair of Kinhilt’s nearby Dunskey Castle. Then, in 1497, Archibald McCulloch was murdered by George Tait and William Murray, presumably in league with Patrick McCulloch.  (George Tait was likely a cousin of James Tait of Ayr; he may be the George Tait murdered by Fergus McDowell of Freugh in 1528). Patrick McCulloch was then murdered in 1507.

In 1527, Gilbert Kennedy of Cassillis was murdered by Hew Campbell of Loudoun, sherrif of Ayr. Campbell was an acquaintance of James Tait, and purchased his townhome which became known as “Loudoun Hall.” We might infer that the Taits and McCullochs had a common rival in the Kennedys of Cassillis.

In 1530, Henry McCulloch of Killasser, the younger, killed an Ayrshire man named Andrew McCalloun. The circumstances surrounding the killing are not known.

In 1538, Fergus McDowell of Freugh murdered a man named John McCulloch. There are no records to indicate which family John came from. However, I believe that John was likely a close relative of Gothray McCulloch of Ardwell, possibly his father.

In 1555, Sir James McCulloch was replegiated for aiding Golfrid  in the slaughter of Patrick Mure. The ruling was witnessed by Gothray. As mentioned above, Mure may have been the henchman who abducted Gothray’s sister on behalf of the Earl of Cassilis.

In 1619, Alexander McKie of Balseir was murdered by John McDowell of Freugh. Alexander would appear to be a close cousin of the McCullochs by marriage and the successor to the Balseir estate.

Y-DNA and Ancient Origins

A very surprising result of the Y DNA study is that our McCullough line is extraordinarily rare. Our Y DNA haplogroup is unlike any other in Scotland. That suggests that we have a very different origin story.

Don’t be tempted to think we descend from Somerled, at least not on the direct McCulloch line. Somerled was Norse in ethnicity, and Norse Gaelic by culture. He is the progenitor of various Highland and Island clans such as the McDonalds and MacDougalls. Like the McCullochs, many Norse are R1a1. However, our Y DNA haplogroup is very far removed from the R1a Scandinavians.

The McCullochs were a prominent family in Galloway. The name of this region is said to mean Gaels living among the Norse (foreigners). As I just mentioned, the McCullochs weren’t Norse, but they weren’t Gaels either. At least not ethnically on the paternal line.

What is the McCulloch ancient origin then?

Because our Y DNA is so rare and unrelated to other peoples like the Picts, Celts, Britons, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, it is suggested that our McCullough ancestors were actually the Central Eurasian people known as Sarmatians who were pressed into military service in Great Britain by the Romans. 

The Sarmatians fought the Romans bravely in ancient times but were defeated. As part of a peace treaty, the Sarmatians had to provide 8000 troops to the Romans around 175AD. 5500 of those troops were ordered to go to Great Britain to fight under Marcus Aurelius. Some of those Sarmatian troops defended Hadrian’s Wall at places like Chester’s Roman Fort near Hexhame in Northern England (100 miles east of Gatehouse of Fleet) where Sarmatian protective horse gear has been found.


We know that the McCullochs have been in Scotland since prior to the 13th century. Further we know that the McCulloch’s have been referred to as an ancient clan who has been in Scotland since before memory. Some historians writing before the benefit of Y DNA evidence referred to them as a Pictish clan (but this likely just means they were a Briton tribe who predated the Gaels and Norse Gaels). It is often said that our name may be Celtlic for “son of the boar.” It has been suggested that when Scottish people took surnames in the Norman style that we took this name, mac Culloch, to honor an ancestor who was a brave warrior (e.g., one who ferociously fought like a boar). I believe this story is fanciful, and is only based on the modern standardization of the name’s spelling.


Author William James Fitzpatrick has indicated that the first McCulloch record dates to 1242, but I have not seen a copy of it. This would be consistent with the idea that the common ancestor of the Ardwell and Killasser lines lived in 1210.  In the absence of the 1242 record, the earliest known record of the name that became McCulloch was in 1285. A Balliol deed mentions a man named Thomas MacUlauth who was entrusted to convey 320 head of cattle to complete a transaction of the late John Balliol (the elder) with a cousin, Alan Fitz Comte. 

The next records occur in 1296. Thomas MacUlagh and his two brothers, Michael and William, swear fealty to King Edward I in the Ragman Rolls. Thomas attaches his seal to the Ragman Roll bearing the image of a native red squirrel (not a boar!). We know that Michael and William are Thomas’ brothers because two other documents were signed in that same year that indicate the fraternal relationship.

In 1305, Thomas Makhulagh is named Sheriff of Wigtown and viscount. This Thomas is surely the Thomas of the Ragman Rolls and possibly also the Thomas in the 1285 Balliol deed or his son,

English records that follow tend to spell the family’s Anglicized name with mac followed by a vowel (O or U), followed by an L, followed by a vowel or two, and ending with a digraph. The most common English digraphs in the fourteenth century records is “gh” but sometimes the name ends in “ch.” Since we know the name is a patronym “mac” plus a name or nickname, the mystery is identifying the name of the progenitor of the surname.

In his “History of the Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway,” Sir Andrew Agnew states that the name honors a local 6th century ruler named Gwallog, Guallauc, or even Uoloch. The latter is memorialized in Welsh ballads about his exploits near the area the McCulloch ancestors may have lived. Gwallog was a Briton from the “Old North” (Hen Ogledd) who likely spoke a Brythonic language related to modern day Welsh (i.e, a Celtic language). He was a “judge” or possibly king from the kingdom of Elmet. Gwallog is believed to have defeated the sons of King Urien who ruled the kingdom of Rheged in what is now Galloway. As mentioned above, Agnew even relays the legend that Gwallog was buried on McCulloch land of Torhouse. The idea that 6th century Gwallog was buried under the neolithic standing stones is a laughable anachronism. The reality is that we don’t have any definitive link between Gwallog and the lands near the McCullochs. It’s also hard to imagine that the McCulloch’s adopted a surname in the 12th-13th century honoring a hero of the 6th century.

There is a family tradition, shared by other unrelated families, that the McCullochs descend from Ulgric who died in 1138 at the Battle of the Standard. To my knowledge, there is only one historic source for the story of Ulgric. Angle writer Aelred of Reivaulx wrote of Dovenal and Ulgric who fought at the battle. These are clearly “Anglicisations” of their names. We know that Dovenal was likely “Domhnall,” or a Britonic equivalent. It’s possible that Aelred (his own name simplified from “Ethelfred”) misinterpreted a Briton name like “Uoloch” for a more Germanic name like “Ulgric.”

“MacGilhauche” is another Gallovidan surname of unknown origin. The most notable man by this name was Sir John MacGilhauche (Makawllauch), provost to Lincluden and personal secretary of Lady Margaret Douglas. Historians Andrew McCulloch and Michael Brown, among others, believed he was a McCulloch. In 1496, Dom. Gilbert MacGilhauch witnessed a deed of James McCulloch of Cardoness. This chaplain appears to be James’ son, Gilbert McCulloch of Cardoness’ grandson. “MacGilhauch” seems to be common at religious sites such as Lincluden and Candida Casa. It’s plausible that clerics assumed the name honored a saint, thus they included “gil” (saint) in the name. This name is often spelled MacIlhauch, McIlhauch, and later Makkillauch. In other words, the name eventually would have pronounced identically to McCulloch. In a footnote in the Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway, Sir Andrew Agnew posits that the patronym might have been first recorded with respect to a medieval saint, often called Walloch or St. Voloch.  St. Uoloch was believed to have trained at Candida Case, then became a missionary to the northern Picts near Aberdeen. This patronym was quizzocally recorded as “Makkuoloch” in a later summary of Scottish saints. We can see a trace of his name in the topographical name Kilvalauche (church of Uoloch).

It seems dubious that the McCulloch’s trace their name back directly to St. Uoloch. However, if Uoloch trained at Candida Casa that is evidence that this Britonic name was in use in the early medieval Machars. It’s plausible that the name continued in use into the 12-13th centuries when the surname was adopted. To this day there is a Knockwalloch (Kirkpatrick Durham) near Castle Douglas. “Studies in the Topography of Galloway” says the name means “proud hill” and also transcribes the name alternatively as Knockculloch or Cnoc uallach. However, the Rev. W. A. Stark claims that the hill is actually named for St. Walloch.

With the emergence of more Y DNA data, it appears that the Lords of Galloway were Britons who descended from Owen Galvus. It appears that parts of Galloway were ruled by Malcolm, son of the King of the Cumbrians into the mid-11th century, then just a few generations later by Fergus of Galloway (an apparent descendant of Owen Galvus). Bearing this in mind, it is plausible that the McCulloch’s were named for a man with a Gaelicized Britonic name like “Uoloch” who would have lived in the mid to late 12th century.

It is quite tempting to harmonize two competing oral traditions that the McCullochs descend from Gwallog and Ulgric by suggesting that Ulgric was an “Anglicisation” of the Celtic name Uoloch (i.e., Gwallog, or Guallauc). Further, if we entertain the idea that the name MacGilhauch is actually the same name and family as the McCullochs, it’s not hard to imagine how a name like MacGuallauc could be recorded as MacGilhauch.

[As a thought provoking exercise, the opening lines of the traditional Irish ballad about Bonnie Prince Charlie “Mo Ghille Mear” might present another tantalizing possibility. “Sé mo laoch, mo Ghile Mear.” A loose translation is “He’s my champion, my gallant lad.”  The pronunciation for Mac Ghile-Laoch would be something like Mak-yullaoch and would mean something akin to son of the gallant hero. If nothing else, this shows that it’s very difficult to decipher the origins of Gaelic patronyms absent a record of the origin.]

At the end of the day, we don’t know the surname origin. However, by harmonizing some of the oral traditions, considering the linguistics of the earliest records of the name, and factoring in the historical context, we may get closer to a plausible name origin hypothesis.