The Mayo McKinleys


All of this digging around for McKinley fore-bearers has left me with a meaningful gap in the line: in the latter half of the 17th century, ie post-1650 we have documented evidence of McKinley families in Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone. We also have a McKinley in Sligo, but he didn't seem to have stayed put for long. Then if I work backwards I have my Sligo McKinleys clearly originating from eastern Mayo, with the earliest (or rather the oldest) there having been born less than a hundred years after the McKinleys listed in the various Hearth Money Rolls of the 17th century. Just to add to the problem, we are looking for records in one of the wettest, dampest and least developed of Ireland's counties: Mayo.

To put this gap into perspective, the first McKinleys into America started arriving around 1720 and seemingly from Antrim, but maybe also Tyrone/Fermanagh: so they started to cross the Ocean one generation after the Battle of the Boyne. One of my earliest Mayo McKinley's is one Mary McKinly (note the spelling without the "e") who died in 1804 and is buried at Rosserk in County Mayo at the age of 87, meaning her birth year was 1717. She and her husband (first name unknown) either directly begat or were closely related to three different sets of McKinleys of the next generation that farmed in the Rosserk area: Robert McKinley at Rathnamagh; Thomas at Rosserk and John at Newtownwhite. The Sligo McKinley's come from the Rathnamagh family. As the map below shows, the Mayo McKinleys all lived within a mile or two of each other, again underlining the family ties. Rosserk, Newtownwhite and Ballysakeery are three adjoining townlands.


But in the service of "information for all" I think I might as well document what I have found so far - as it may help someone find and ancestor amongst the names. To set the scene I am going to start from recent times and work back, to show where the origin of the Sligo line lies, and I will then suggest some possible origins of the earliest Mayo McKinley's. Then I will work back up through the various lines and variants, highlighting where I can, those who left Ireland and emigrated: England, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand are the destinations found to date.

The starting point is my mother's family: the McKinleys of Leaffony in County Sligo. The 1901 Census shows three McKinley households in the little hamlet of Leaffony (which lies between Easky and Enniscrone, on the eastern shore of Killala Bay. The heads of the three households were brothers: John, aged 74 and William, aged 71 and George, aged 64 (George was my great-grandfather). We know they were brothers from family history. But the census documents highlights a key fact: that John and William were born in Rosserk, County Mayo in 1827 and 1830 respectively, whilst George is listed as having been born in County Sligo in 1836. At the same time a death certificate from Kilglass Church (the CoI parish church for Leaffony) records the death of one Eliza McKinley, widow of Thomas McKinley, who dies in April 1865 with her son William by her side. Hence the couple that had moved with their children from Mayo across to Sligo were these two: Thomas and Eliza McKinley. There is another KcKinley line in Sligo (Ardvolly, a few miles south, close to Ballina), which I will get to shortly; they also came from Mayo, but lightly earlier. So QED we have the Leaffony McKinley's tied directly back into the Rosserk McKinley's, via the birth certificate of William, who was born in Rosserk, County Mayo on 14th January 1829 to Thomas and Elizabeth.

From family lore Thomas and Eliza (or Elizabeth) had four sons and at least two daughters: the fourth son, James, married into land down in Ardvolly, whilst the two sisters Rebecca and Lizzie (Elizabeth) married into local farming families (Lizzie to John Boyd) and Rebecca married a Boland (Bob Boland's mother).

What records there are show one Thomas McKinley baptised in Rosserk in 1824, eldest son of Robert McKinley and Mary Nicholson. What we know of these two is that they had three sons, Thomas, George and John and had married in 1814 at Newtownwhite, a couple of miles west of Rosserk. Quite who this Robert McKinley is, is not clear, but he is either the same Robert McKinley that we have farming in Rathnamagh (townland adjoining Rosserk) or is closely related: in essence he is a likely son of Mary McKinly, who had died in 1804. But where did they come from?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the whole family it is important to look at the political context of this area briefly. Cromwell had sent all Catholics to Hell or Connaught, and had decided that no Catholic could live with in three miles of the sea. Killala Bay is one of the key strategic inlets of the province (as proven 150 years later when the French landed there), and furthermore the land is relatively fertile. So the last of Cromwell's troops were settled in the immediate area basically to ensure that the unfortunate Catholics were kept in Connaught and could not get out. Coote's Regiment of Horse ("Coote's Horse") were Cromwell's shock troops and it was they and their officers that were settled on the shores of Killala Bay. The area was always at the forefront of some of the bloodier episodes: the Sligo Massacre of 1641 was one of the earlier horrors of the 1641 rebellion, followed by the Shrule massacre in Mayo. Then in 1798 the French landed there and once they had been stopped and their surrender accepted, the retribution meted out on the locals was pretty horrific - even for those time. So in the thick of it all we have a McKinley named as one of Coote's Horse, and a century later at least one McKinley family living on the land of other officer's of Coote's Horse. Needless to say being good with the sword doesnt mean your any good with the plough-share, and our McKinley's were definitely at the lower end of the Protestant pecking order, being tenant farmers at best.

From what I have managed to compile, the earliest McKinley I can find is this Mary, mentioned above. We know from a death certificate (or rather "entry") that she died and was buried in Rosserk, in the parish of Ballysakeery in 1804, at the ripe age of 87. The next McKinley I can find is John: born in 1746, died 1822. There is also an unnamed McKinley who died aged 70 in 1817: for a variety of reason I suspect that this was in fact his wife. Around the same era we have a Jane McKinley, born 1752 died 1817, again from Ballysakeery. The key issues here are that by the beginning of the 1800's there were at least two McKinley families in the immediate area of Newtownwhite and Rosserk (adjoining townlands). In those days the old Scottish naming pattern was very much in use, where a man called his eldest son by the name of his own father. So know things start to get interesting.

What I have recently found is that two McKinley's claimed for damages from the rebellion of 1798. The claims were lodged by Robert and John McGinely of Newtownwhite for the amount of twelve pounds and six shillings for Robert, and a smaller amount for John. Newtownwhite was on the route the 1000 French troops took to get from Kilalla to Ballina, so the farms would have been sacked.  The amounts suggest that Robert had had more to lose; but the important fact is that the two names likely match John (Mayo Generation 2.0) and either his father or brother, who held a separate and more valuable holding.  Hence Robert could be the original Mayo patriarch, or eldest son of the same.

In the following generation two things occur: in the first place the family seems to prosper or maybe it is just that records start to be kept; and secondly the onward emigration starts - certainly to Canada, and seemingly Virginia as well.

Rosserk / Newtownwhite McKinleys
(parish of Ballysakeery, Co Mayo)

Mayo Generation 1.o
Matriarch - Mary McKinley (1717-1804), died Rosserk
Patriarch - possibly "Robert" McKinley

Mayo Generation 2.0
2.1 John McKinley of Newtownwhite (dates unknown)
marries unknown name McKinley (1747-1817) - probably "Eleanor" McKinley

2.2 Thomas McKinley of Rosserk
marries Jane McKinley (1752-1817)

2.3 ? Robert McKinley

2.4 ? George McKinley


Children of 2.1 John McKinley and wife Eleanor (?)

3.1 John McKinley of Newtownwhite (dates unknown)
married 1st to Ann
3.1.1 son John McKinley born 1803 in Newtownwhite (father John, mother Ann). If this fellow is named after his father's father, Scottish style, the QED Patriarch Mayo Gen 1.0 was called John.
married 2nd to Jane
3.1.2 daughter Margaret born 1805 in Newtownwhite (father John, mother Jane).
3.1.3 daughter Elinor born 1808 in Newtownwhite (father John, mother Jane).

3.2 Eleanor McKinley (eldest daughter named after mother)
marries widower George Westgate (b. 1770) of Killala 5 Feb 1805 and emigrates to Canada
stepson Jarvis, then George (1807) born Ireland, Sarah (1810) and Margaret (1816)

3.3 Robert McKinley
marries in 1814 Mary Nicholson of Rathnamagh (12m wsw of Newtownwhite)
3.3.1 daughter Eleanor is born 1815 - named after Robert's mother as per custom
3.3.2 daughter Mary is born 1821 - named after her mother
3.3.3 son John is born 1822 - named after father & grandfather
3.3.4 son Thomas is born 1824

3.4 Samuel McKinley born 1785 died 1805 aged 20.

3.5 Susanna McKinley - born 1792 died 1810 aged 18.

Unplaced of this generation

3.6 Thomas McKinley - dates unknown, marries 1st Jane in Newtownwhite
3.6.1 Elizabeth, born 1831
marries 2nd Esther (d. 24th Aug 1850 aged 52)
3.6.2 Anne, born 1833
3.6.3 Robert, born 1835 - which suggests Thomas's father was a Robert McKinley of Newtownwhite of the second generation (hence 2.3 Robert McKinley)

Children of 2.2 Thomas McKinley and wife (?) Jane (1752-1817)

3.7 Thomas marries in 1823 Elizabeth (Lyster?), both of Rosserk
this is the line that moves across to Sligo in the mid-1830s
3.7.1 Thomas McKinley is born 1824 Rosserk
3.7.2 John McKinley is born 1827 Rosserk
3.7.3 William McKinley is born 1829 Rosserk
3.7.4 James McKinley is born 1831 Rosserk
3.7.5 George McKinley is born 1837 in Leaffony, Sligo
3.7.6 Rebecca McKinley married a Boland of Sligo
3.7.6 Elizabeth (Lizzie) married a Boyd of Sligo

3.8

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