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McFarlands & Septs in Ireland: Part 1-Redshanks, The Plantation, Muster Rolls

McFarlands & Septs in Ireland

By Mary Helen Haines, ©2012


Many McFarland/MacFarland/McFarlane émigrés began their journey to America, Australia, and New Zealand from ports in Ireland as well as Scotland. For those of us whose ancestors came from Ireland, the search to find our exact family is extremely difficult, especially if their emigration occurred in the 1700s. This paper is a small attempt to bring together all the surviving records of our McFarland ancestors in Ireland in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.  It will be divided into sections based on time periods and historical events, and rather than a mere listing of names, historical context is included for those of us unfamiliar with Irish history.

I wish to thank all the people who helped me research this period. Terrance Gach MacFarlane began my journey a couple of years ago by providing a list of web-sites where I could read about the Stewart plantations in Ireland. My cousin, Neal McFarland, also pursued these early records and shared his findings with me as we attempted to find our Robert and Jennet McFarland who came to Pennsylvania around 1718. Earl MacFarland, whose ancestor Daniel McFarland arrived in Massachusetts about the same time, shared his list of resources about McFarlands in County Tyrone, and Len Swindley in Australia kindly shared pages from Gebbie’s almost impossible to find book, until I found a rare copy to purchase. Peter McFarlin, whose ancestors John and Margery Anderson McFarland came to America in the 1790s from County Tyrone, proofread this document and shared resources as well. Any mistakes and omissions are mine alone, so please do not hesitate to let me know if there are changes to be made. Ancestry research is never done!

Part I

Redshanks in Ireland

Because the first official “census” of northern Ireland took place in 1630, during the years of the Plantation, it was always assumed that our MacFarlanes arrived under the auspices of the Stewart undertakers. While this may be true for some, an alternative explanation, put forth by Barry R. McCain, in his book A Short History of the Laggan Redshanks, 1569-1630, is that our forefathers in Ulster arrived first as paid mercenaries fighting for Irish lords: “Redshanks.”

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McFarlands & Septs in Ireland: Part 2- The English Civil War and the Irish Revolt

McFarlands & Septs in Ireland

By Mary Helen Haines, ©2013

Part 2

The English Civil War and the Irish Revolt

By the year 1640 it is estimated there were approximately 40,000 Scots living in Ulster (Gebbie, p. 15). We know the Mcffarlans were living in the Laggan on both sides of the River Foyle, in counties Donegal,    Londonderry, and Tyrone. Relations between the monarchy, as represented in Ireland by Sir Thomas Wentworth, and the Ulster Scots were on shaky ground. Wentworth was squeezing all landlords in Ireland to fill the coffers, and he was insisting on conformity in the Church of Ireland to the Episcopal model of the Church of England, which was offensive to Catholics and Presbyterians. Those same church policies led to rebellion in Scotland and the Scottish National Covenant in 1638 which pledged loyalty to the king, but refused to adhere to Episcopal church organization. Charles sent his army into Scotland, was defeated, and was forced to call Parliament, which led to the English Civil War.

In 1641 while Parliament and Charles I were struggling for power in England and Scotland, native Irish rose in revolt against the Scottish and English in Ireland. Known as the “Great Rebellion” or the “Uprising” (depending on your viewpoint), ultimately a massive exchange of property ownership took place and death was everywhere.

The Irish under Sir Phelim O’Neill rebelled in Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, and in October, 1641, after burning various strongholds such as Newtownstewart and Strabane, laid siege to the city of Londonderry, where many had fled for protection. Parliament refused to fund an army to rescue the English and Scottish settlers, believing that Charles might use them against Parliament, so the settlers were on their own. Nine companies of foot soldiers were raised by local leaders to defend the walls, which held. That is not surprising; the famous walls, finished in 1618, were 18 feet thick, 24 feet high, and completely surrounded the city with a mile circumference. (Mitchell, Defenders, p. iv)

There are two Mcffarlans listed as being a part of the Londonderry City’s Garrison: Thomas Mcffarlan in Henry Osborne’s company of foot soldiers, and Daniel Mcffarlan in John Kilner’s Foot Company. (Mitchell, Defenders p. 12) Osborne lived in the City of Londonderry, and Kilmer in the nearby town of Faughanvale (Eglington today), so the two Mcffarlans listed were probably from those respected areas as well.

There is also listed a James Rabb, James Wilson, and Robert Wilson in Henry Finch’s company, and David Robb and Robert Wilson in Sir Thomas Staple’s company. There is a Matthew Wilson in Kilner’s Co., and a Thomas Knox in Osborne’s Co. Lastly, there is one more Robert Wilson, and a John Miller in Newburgh’s company. Not only did these men defend the besieged and starving city; after the defeat of the Irish army near Dungiven in May, 1642 when the siege ended, these companies became part of the Laggan Force. (Forrest, pp. 34-39)

The Scottish/English plantation army, called the Laggan Force, consisted of settlers from Eastern Donegal and four companies from the Londonderry garrison. (Mitchell, Defenders pp. v, vi) While we don’t have the names of the men from Donegal, it is likely that more mcffarlans were among the defenders. Sir Robert Stewart and his likely older brother and Sir William Stewart led the Ulster Protestant forces that that were responsible for protecting the settlers and ferrying them to safety to protected towns such as Derry. Lord Ernest Hamilton, in his 1920 book, The Irish Rebellion of 1641, states "The services rendered by the Lagan Force to the scattered British are of a remarkable nature. For nine years it acted as a protective force to the colonists of North-West Ulster, without meeting with a single reverse."   (p. 124)

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McFarlands & Septs in Ireland: Part 3-The Restoration

McFarlands & Septs in Ireland

By Mary Helen Haines, ©2013

Part 3

The Restoration

When Oliver Cromwell died in 1659, Parliament was ready for a change and invited the Stewarts back to England. Charles II, son of the beheaded Charles I, left his exile in France and returned to London. With Charles II’s return, the fortunes of the Stewarts in general saw better days; however, Charles did not keep his promises to the Scottish Presbyterians living in Ireland and religious liberty was not attained. The Church of Ireland was the official church, in other words an Episcopal state church, which offended the sensibilities of the Irish Catholics and many of the Scottish Presbyterians living in Ireland.

The new Restoration government also needed funds, so in 1663-1665 a new tax directly on the inhabitants of Ireland was instituted. The tax was based on the number of hearths in each home, and the list recorded the Barony, the forename, surname, and the townland and/or parish they lived in. Below are all the McFarlands and sept names that have been discovered so far. Considering that there were about 16 families of mcffarlans recorded in 1630 in the Muster Rolls, we can conclude that many mcffarlans were among the Scots that returned home during the Civil War and the Irish Rebellion. In the absence of parish church records, this tax list is the best clue we have for where our ancestors in lived in Ireland in these early years.

1665 Hearth Money Rolls in Donegal (Mervine, pp. 269-272)

Barony of Eneshowen (Inishowen)
Brian O’Farlan of Carnamady in Templemore Parish*
Barony of Kilmacrenan
John M’Farland of Crieslough in Clandahurka Parish
John m’Farlan of Drumhallagh in Killigarvan Parish

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