First Settlers c.1609

The first recorded appearance of the McKinley name in Ireland is from the Muster Rolls of Country Donegal in 1630/31: these lists can be found on the Donegal Genealogy webite

What are these Muster Rolls?  In the early 1600's the English had been waging war against the Irish and this culminated in what went down in history as the Flight of the Earls, with Lords O'Neill and O'Donnell fleeing Ireland, never to return.  This left their lands open to being confiscated by the English, which led in turn to their being planted of settled by immigrant English.  The lands confiscated covered most of Ulster, which then included County Donegal.  James VIth of Scotland had only recently been proclaimed King of England as well and when it came to the settling of the confiscated land it was very much an English deal, with only a small part being left for settlement by Scottish people in return for finance or muscle lent to the effort against the now absent Earls.  As the map below shows: the Scots got essentially the worst bit of land in agricultural terms: Donegal.
For the colourblind amongst us: the peninsular due north of Londonderry went to Trinity College Dubin and selected individuals: 10,000 acres of that in fact went to John Murray Earl of Annandale and master of at least one of our McKinleys. the brown area between Lodonderry and Lifford went to Scottish undertakers, more of which later, and the abutting green bit went in a failry significant manner to the Bishop of Raphoe.  These are the areas of interest for McKinley watchers.  Note also on the map, that the areas of Antrim and Down were excluded from this plantation process, being owned by landlords friendly to the English or English themselves.  Scottish immigration didnt begin there until the end of the 17th century, ie after the Williamite Wars, the Battle of the Boyne etc.

Back to the Muster Rolls: what were they?
In 1609 various bigwigs were awarded land by King James: typically the biggest lots went to those with the biggest interests in the Royal Court, getting lots of 3,000 acres and as much in a few cases as 10,000 acres.  But with the land came responsibility: namely that on every 3,000 acres of land they had to settle at least 20 protestant families, and within those 20 familes there had to be at least forty-eight adult males that could be mustered at arms, ie called to arms.  Furthermore it was the obligation of the undertaker to arm the men. Remember this was aggressive colonisation that would withina couple of decade turn into a level of ethnic cleaning not seen in the western world since the Romans had salted Carthage.  hence the word "undertaker": they undertook by obligation to the crown, to settle or plant the confiscated land with Protestants.
Of the five baronies of Donegal only two were planted to any great extent with Scots at the outset, namely Raphoe (the fertile lands of the Laggan to the southwest of Derry) and Boylagh & Bannagh, where today one has the georgeous if somewhat inhospitable peninsular of Inishowen.  And so to our first settlers:
John McKinly (elder) man at arms to Lord Bishop of Raphoe - undertaker of 2,700 acres
Dunkan McKinley man at arms to Sir John Cunningham - undertaker of 4,000 acres
John McKyndley man at arms to Lord Duke of Lennox - undertaker of 4,000 acres
Robert McKyndley man at arms to Lord Duke of Lennox -
Ffyndley McKindley man at arms to Lord Duke of Lennox -
Robert McKenily man at arms to Mr Alexander Stewart - undertaker of 1,000 acres
John McKenely man at arms to Mr Alexander Stewart - undertaker of 1,000 acres
John McKinley man at arms to the Earl of Annandall - undertaker of 10,000 acres.

All in all eight of them, with some clearly being of immediate family: John, Robert and Ffyndley possibly brothers, and John McKinly - noted in records as "elder" must be father to one or more of them.  Doubtless a number of these men will have been married and had sons underage.

From whence did they all come to Donegal, and when.  We know from archives of the period, republished the the Pennsylvania Magazine in 1912, that the Bishop of Raphoe, the Duke of Lennox, and the Cunninghams were there on site, as it were, in 1610.  Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Lennox came with men from the area that bares his name (just to the north of Glasgow); John Cunningham from Crafueld in Ayr; George Murray from Wigtonshire.  The first Bishop of Raphoe, George Montgomery was also a Scotsman.  Alexander Stewart arrived on the scene some time before 1618.  the point is that whilst the Muster Roll was taken in 1630/31, then men had probably been in Donegal for well over a decade by then.

The name of Ffyndley McKindley is important, not just for being a delightful name in its self, but because it is the name of a very famous forebearer, indeed the founder of Clan McKinlay in Scotland.  In 1547 a battle was fought betwen the English and the Scots, called the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh aka the Battle of Pinkie.  Indeed this was the last pitched battle fought between the royal armies of England and Scotland.  Scotland lost.  It was also the last battle launched by Henry VIII and was part of an episode known by a wonderful misnomer of the War of Rough Wooing - in which Henry attempted to woo (by force) the infant Mary Queen of Scots on behalf of his equally infant Edward VI.  The royal standard bearer for Scotland on that sad day was one Ffyndley Mor Farquarson, i.e. Great-Finlay Farquarson.  The Farquarsons and later the McKinlays in turn came from the Lennox region - ie that of the Lord Duke of Lennox.

At the age of 60, Finlay Mòr accompanied the Earl of Huntly to the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 as the Royal Standard Bearer fighting in the name of the infant Scottish Mary, Queen of Scots.. As the army descended toward the sea he was killed by a cannon ball fired from one of the enemy ships. He is said to have been buried close by the field of battle in the church yard of Inveresk. The place is known to this day as the "Lang Highlandman's Grave", our Finlay having been a tall man for his time.  Great Finlay was killed, clinging to the standard, and it is his progeny that took up the clan name of McKinlay, a derivative of McFinlay.  Or so the story goes.  Now, some sixty years or just two generations later, we have a man at arms bearing the same proud name in the name of the Lord Duke of Lennox: no coincidence possible there. For me this is a clear link for the Donegal McKinleys to the Scottish McKinlay clan and hence back to MacDuff, he of Macbeth-fame.

There is another McKinley that lays claim to a direct line of ancestry to Finlay-mor: A certain William McKinley, late President of the United Staes - but we shall get to him in good time.