Chiefly Line

Clan Genealogists Track Descendants of Last “Lord of the Route”

Dr John MacQuillan
Dr John MacQuillan

McQuillan Clan Association genealogists have located several direct living descendants of the last “Lord of the Route”.

The image above is of a direct descendant of the last MacQuillin “Lord of the Route,” Dr. John W. MacQuillan, a prominent physician in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee in the first part of the 1900s (image courtesy of the Chattanooga Times Free Press).

Dr. MacQuillan was identified as part of the association’s ongoing efforts to trace forward the lineage of the MacQuillin chiefs of the Route. The study, which began in 2007, has provided new insights into the history of the clan following the loss of its lands.

Rory Oge MacQuillin was the clan’s chief when it was ousted from “the Route” in northern Antrim late in the 1500s. He was later given a much smaller estate by King James I as partial compensation, but by his death in 1634, even that land had been lost to the family.

By the early 1700s, one line of Rory’s descendants had become Quakers and was successfully engaged in the linen trade. One of their descendants, Edward MacQuillan, born in 1760, recorded his own lineage back to Rory in a diary written in 1823. In the diary, Edward claimed that he was the legitimate heir to the rank and titles of the MacQuillins, though currently in abeyance.

After verifying portions of Edward’s lineage in Quaker records and other Irish sources, the association’s genealogists concluded that the evidence strongly supported his claim to a direct descent from Rory Oge MacQuillin, and decided to attempt to trace the lineages disclosed by his diary forward to the present.

Tony MacQuillan, the clan association genealogist who has been directing the association’s study of Edward’s descendants in Ireland, has since followed several lines forward there. Edward’s son, Joseph MacQuillan, was a gentleman farmer in County Wexford. His imposing home there still stands and is currently a bed and breakfast inn. The study of his line led to a woman now living in the south of Ireland, who inherited the MacQuillan family letters and papers dating from the early 1800s, as well as the original of Edward MacQuillan’s 1823 manuscript diary, which she graciously allowed the Association to photograph.

Tony has continued his painstaking research following other lines of descent in Ireland and elsewhere. One promising line led to an early medical graduate from Trinity College, Dr. John MacQuillan, who emigrated to the United States in the 1880s and eventually became a prominent physician in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Unfortunately, his line had died out by the early 1950s.

Other comments in Edward’s diary revealed that he had a brother, unnamed in the diary, who had gone to America. From Quaker records in Ireland, clan genealogists identified this brother as Ephraim MacQuillan, who was a teacher at a Quaker school in Richhill, County Armagh, in the early 1790s. Richhill Quaker meeting records showed that Ephraim had two sons there, Joseph and George. While this line was under study, the association was fortuitously contacted by an American researcher, Steve Kelly, seeking information about his ancestor Joseph MacQuillan, who lived in Mississippi in the early 1800s. Steve’s research into early local records in Mississippi had further suggested that Joseph’s father was probably named Ephraim and that he had a brother George.

Further research by one of the clan association’s American genealogists has now revealed that Ephraim MacQuillan emigrated to Virginia about 1800 and was a merchant in Richmond, exporting Virginia tobacco and flour and importing iron bars, nails, and other similar items. His business papers still survive and are currently under review by the association. His sons, Joseph and George, later moved to Louisiana and Mississippi. George served as an officer under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Joseph first operated a store in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and later owned a plantation. One of his sons died in the American civil war as a Confederate officer.

One major objective of the study is to find a living male line descendant of the last MacQuillin chief whose Y-DNA might reveal the DNA signature of the “Lords of the Route” and help to answer longstanding questions about the clan’s origins. While most of the lines followed so far have failed to leave living male descendants, another branch that remained in Ireland may have done so and is still under investigation. That line descends through Alfred McQuillan, who worked for the Guinness Brewery in Dublin for more than 40 years until his death in 1966.

Anyone interested in assisting in our study, or having information that may be helpful to it, is encouraged to contact us.