McDonald History From Scotland to America

The McDonald heritage includes three men, one woman, and their families. They are:

Several surnames are added to the McDonalds through spouses: most specifically Power, Hornback, Overturf, and Allison. As well, the McDonalds connect up with Daniel Boone’s family and the Trumbo and Harness families.

The McDonald Clan of Scotland: its name and heritage

Through oral family history, it is assumed — but not proven — that the first McDonald male in this family is descended from the McDonald Clan of Scotland. Scottish clans were intended to give a sense of identity to individuals and allowed them to share descent with others of the same clan. According to custom, a formal structure of Clan Chiefs is officially registered with the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which controls the heraldry and Coat of Arms for each clan. They determine the clan’s tartan patterns, which date to the 19th century. Clans identify with geographical areas originally controlled by the Chiefs, usually with an ancestral castle or manor.

The McDonalds form the largest of the Highland clans; the Gaelic first called it "Domnuill" but it was anglicized to "Donald". This makes it quite difficult to trace McDonalds because they used many similar first names. According to legend, the original Donald was a grandson of the King Somerled who drove out the Vikings in the 12th century. Somerled's mother was Norse and his father was descended from the kings of Dalriada, according to clan history.

The McDonald Clan of Scotland: its location

The McDonald family was founded in Islay and extended their territory to the mainland. Donald's great-grandson, "Good" John of Islay, became known as Lord of the Isles and later holders of the title became powerful enough to challenge the king of Scotland. There were at least three major groups, and many MacDonalds emigrated to North America and other parts of the world in the 18th and 19th century. MacDonald was the most frequently registered "mac" name in Scotland — it was the 26th most frequent surname at the General Register Office in 1995.

This family arrives in America

The first known McDonald in this family is Daniel McDonald. Born in Pennsylvania in 1787, Daniel married Elizabeth Power in 1817. They had at least eleven children in Kentucky, living much of the time in either Bath or Fayette counties. He was a farmer all of his life. In the early 1840s, Daniel and Elizabeth may have followed their son, William, to Illinois, as that is where Daniel died.

One of only two sons born to Daniel and Elizabeth was William Power McDonald, born in 1823 in Bath County, Kentucky. In 1848, William married Martha Ann Hornback in Menard County, Illinois. William had just returned from Mexico where he had fought in the Mexican War. Martha would give birth to five children. During the Civil War, William fought in the Union infantry, and served at the siege of Vicksburg.

In 1887, Charles Henry McDonald, the youngest child of William Power McDonald and Martha Hornback, married Sarah Jane Allison. In 1888, Charles and Sarah Jane had their first and only child, a girl, Nellie Allison McDonald. Just five years later, Nellie was left motherless when her mother died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. Nellie was sent to live with her maternal grandparents, the Allisons, and never again lived with her father, Charles. Charles McDonald, who was an auctioneer, remarried in 1896 to Artimess Bracken and they had one son.

Nellie married George Edwin Overturf in Nebraska in 1910. They had three sons and lived in Hastings, Nebraska for most of their lives.

[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of these McDonalds. Updated on September 26, 2011.]

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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