Home » McCulloch of Drummorrell and their Descendants, and Origins

McCulloch of Drummorrell and their Descendants, and Origins

Doug McCullough, Updated February 2024

“Verus et Sedulus”

McCulloch of Drummorrell

“Verus et Sedulus”

Our McCulloch Line: Drummorrell, Balseir, Killasser, Kilstay

February 2024

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

11 James McCullouch of Drummorrell (possibly never infeft); burgess merchant in Ayr and Glasgow

12 James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II; marriage contract with Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse in 1585

13 James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I

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

15 Alexander  McCulloch of Killasser, the elder

17 Henry  McCulloch of Killasser, II died about 1514 [R-BY-169112]

18 Henry McCulloch, the elder, of Killasser, (died about 1496) [R-BY32010]; possibly a daughter of McCulloch of Ardwell19 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].

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.

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, 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 born in 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, married  Margaret Gordan of Auchlean in 1665, succeeded to Drummorrell in 1672

12 Robert McCulloch of Drummorell, succeeded to Drummorrell in 1655, husband of Jean McCulloch of Knockincure 

13 James McCulloch of Drummorrell, of Drummorrell; husband to Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse

14 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

Following in the footsteps of his father 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.


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, I and II

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II, was an undertaker (land developer) in Donegal. He was a well-traveled man of both commercial and public affairs, ando appears in many legal documents as an agent or procurator of other wealthy men. He had a financial interest in the ferry at Kirkcudbright, then eventually was elected to the Kirkcudbright town council. He and his son of the same name seemed to act as something akin to an attorney for other gentlemen. They also figure prominently as witnesses to the charters of MacLellan, Murray of Broughton, Vaus, Gordon of Lochinvar, and more). 

According to a historian of the Cairnes family, James McCulloch of Drummorrell, II 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. As we will see, the simplest explanation of this cousinage is that James was the grandson of Alexander. 

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, Janet, William, and James presumably by Katherine McCulloch of Torhouse.

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I

Even though James has been described as James McCulloch of Drummorrell the elder, it appears there was an earlier James McCulloch of Drummorrell who likely lived from about 1550-1609), presumably his father. So we have to be mindful that any references to James McCulloch of Drummorrell prior to 1609 likely refer to his apparent father, the earlier James.

James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I (who lived approximately from 1550-1609) 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. 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 grandson Robert had title to Torhouse in 1639). We have at least two letters from James McCulloch of Drummorrell, I from around 1586 (who lived around 1560-1609) to Sir Patrick Vaus. (By 1588 James had been infeft in Drummorrell). 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 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).

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.

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?

If the Discovery Tool prediction were taken literally, this means that Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell would be a younger son of Henry McCulloch of Killasser, then Myretoun and his wife Margaret McCulloch of Myretoun (daughter of Symon McCulloch of Myretoun). However, his brother was Alexander McCulloch of Killasser. Circumstantial evidence points to Alexander McCulloch of Killasser because there are more connections between Alexander and the eventual Drummorrell line than Henry McCulloch of Killasser, then Myretoun.


McCulloch of Drummorrell

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.                  Robert McCulloch, 6th of Drummorrell, son of James according state infeftment. married to Jean McCulloch of Knockincure. Infeft in 1655.

7.                  Alexander McCulloch, 7th 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.

8.                  Alexander McCulloch, 8th 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.

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.

Killasser, Kilstay (My line continued)

16 Henry McCulloch of Killasser, then Myretoun (born about 1500); married to Margaret McCulloch of Myretoun

17 Henry  McCulloch of Killasser, II died about 1514 [R-BY-169112]

18 Henry McCulloch, the elder, of Killasser, (died about 1496) [R-BY32010]; possibly a daughter of McCulloch of Ardwell19 Thomas McCulloch of Kilstay, the elder (either his wife or mother possibly from the McDowell of Garthland/Logan line

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


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; 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-BY169408)

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 (son of Finlay McCulloch of Killasser) 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; acquired by 1622 Gothray’s son John McCulloch of Ardwell (R-BY32021) had acquired Killasser. 

Walter Jameson McCulloch had access to some records from various private charter chests that are not available to us through on-line sources. Therefore, when reviewing his genealogical work about his own family lines we should defer to Walter Jameson McCulloch unquestionably. However, Walter Jameson McCulloch admitted that he found scant records for the Killasser line. Writing in 1964, he was not privy to modern Y DNA data. Furthermore, according to the forward, the manuscript was essentially dictated by voice without the benefit of edited proofs. In the forward, Walter Jameson McCulloch apologizes for any errors that resulted from the process of producing the manuscript. I believe one such error was in his description of the Drummorrell line.

According to Walter Jameson McCulloch, the Drummorrell lands were previously owned by Dundrennan Abbey, but leased to Gothray McCulloch of Ardwell some time before 1583. Robert, in turn, occupied the lands as a subtenant. According to Walter Jameson McCulloch, a 1583 Decreet Arbitral “described as near kinsman and friend, descended out of the house of Ardwell’, and it appears that he had some claim to succeed Gothray (McCulloch of Ardwell who died in 1588)  who, having no male heirs of his own.”

So, let’s unpack the italicized statement above.

I haven’t found a copy of any such Decreet Arbitral. Walter Jameson McCulloch indicates that Gothray did not have any known heirs. It’s possible that in 1583 that Gothray had no apparent heir. Gothray had an illegitimate son, Thomas, who had been legitimated by about 1580, then appears to have succeeded Gothray.

I find it curious that a court would declare that someone descended from a “house” of a particular family unless it was essential to the findings of that case. What was the nature of the dispute? Who were the parties? On what basis would a court make such a declaration? In American jurisprudence, courts tend not to publish “findings” that are not essential to the case and which were backed by evidence. Was genealogical evidence provided? Did anyone contest that evidence or have a reason to? 

It seems likely that Walter Jameson McCulloch is introducing his own words “descended from the House of Ardwell” out of an honest misinterpretation of the underlying lawsuit. The limited facts described by Walter Jameson McCulloch sound like a rental dispute between Robert and Gothray, certainly not a probate dispute while Gothray was alive! A prior example of such a rental dispute is recorded in a 1556 decree pertaining to a suit by Golfreid McCulloch of Ardwell against Symon McCulloch of Myrton, or this 1540 decree pertaining to a suit by John Vaus against Symon. I suspect that the decree indicated that Robert’s interest in the lease was by heritage, meaning he inherited rights to the lease from his father and possibly prior generations – as seen in the two rental disputes mentioned above. Walter Jameson McCulloch likely misinterpreted this inherited right to a lease (i.e., tack) to suggest that Robert was claiming Drummorrell from Gothray by inheritance. 

Gothray likely leased the Drummorrell property to Alexander McCulloch of Killasser in a contract of 1548 (the date of a known contract between them). Gothray may have wanted to take the leased property back from Robert. 

As we will see below, Y DNA eliminates the possibility that Gothray was the father of Robert and James. I believe Robert and Gothray would still have been close kin based on Robert’s father, Alexander, being the uncle through marriage to Golfreid.

Henry McCulloch, first laird of Killasser

Returning to the Killasser lineage, Henry McCulloch was the first laird of Killasser (died about 1496). 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.

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. Further, we know the Kilstay property remained in the hands of the McCullochs of Killasser and their descendants until 1596.

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.

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 Alexander McCulloch of Killasser or Henry McCulloch of Killasser, II, give or take a few generations. The prediction of 1500, along with circumstantial evidence would seem to point to Alexander McCulloch of Killassser, the elder as the father of Robert McCulloch of Drummorrell.

Y-DNA and Ancient Origins

A very surprising result of the Y DNA study is that our McCulloch/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.

“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.

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.