Sheep Thieves and Murderers?

Sheep Thieves and Murderers?


My Dad, despite being proud of his Scottish heritage, had always said our MacKenzies were descended from sheep thieves (murderers, too, though I hope he had said that in jest) who were expelled from Scotland and came to Canada on the Hector Ship.

I became interested in genealogy late in 1998. At the time of my father’s passing in February 1999, I had just started gathering facts. The little I had gleaned up till then I would relay to my mother to pass to him. After he died, she told me he had been so sick that he really had no interest.

Had Dad been well, he would have been eager to hear of his roots since he obviously had no clue. Dad was an only child, and his father had only two brothers, one of whom died before my father was born, the other was childless, so there weren’t many relatives on his paternal side. As I later would discover, our MacKenzies are few. As with my grandfather’s siblings, many of our line died young or were childless. Dad would have relished hearing that we weren’t sheep thieves, that we have a small town in Nova Scotia named after us, and that the main profession of our ancestors was engineering, a tradition carried into present day. We also did not cross over on the Hector.

As well, I discovered my father’s parents were second cousins; whether he knew that or not will remain a mystery. I don’t believe that fact was hidden, but since this was news to my mother after his passing, he either did not know or my mother had forgotten.

Though I spent almost ten years researching my MacKenzies, I didn’t discover anything too exciting other than an early divorce, a family feud, and babies dying.

Dad had always said his uncle was the first in our family to switch to the “Mac” spelling because he, my great-uncle, felt “Mac” was more upper class than “Mc.” My research showed our name as far back as 1771 was spelled “Mc.” However, records back then are unreliable; many record keepers couldn’t read or write, so whoever wrote the information could have written names as he had wanted. Today, we all spell our names “Mac.”

In case you are confused, since I am married: my surname by birth is MacKenzie; I just happened to marry a MacKenzie. And no, I kept my MacKenzie name and did not adopt his. Hubby’s ancestors came from Ullapool in Cromarty County, on the east coast of Scotland, and relocated to the Salt Springs area of Pictou County. Mine were from the west coast, in Clyne, Sutherland County, and made their home in the Barney’s River area of Pictou County. Kenzieville, which is adjacent to or part of Barney’s River, is named after my MacKenzies, mostly I think, because the first MacKenzie in our line to come to Canada and his six sons were all surveyors and surveyed most of the roads back then in that area. Dad would have gotten a kick that my third husband carried our name, not to mention the fact “Kenzieville” is named for us!

In 2000, shortly after my marriage, Hubby and I travelled to Scotland for three weeks, a trip that came about due to a gathering of the Clan MacKenzie in Strathpeffer. A trip of my dreams! I felt an unbelievable thrill travelling through Clyne, seeing ancient stone walls that my ancestors could have sat upon or, I suppose, even built, and walking through fields where my relatives could have trod. I swear those people called out to me. I think Hubby felt the same when he travelled through his ancestral home, but of course, he’d never admit it. We had plans to spend a few days in London before flying home. When we drove across the Scotland/England border, I weeped for families lost. And I did not want to leave Scotland.

As a result of that trip, we both had our DNA tested, a project initiated by the Clan MacKenzie to see if any attendees were connected to renowned Clan Chiefs from eons ago. Unfortunately, thus far, we’ve had no luck proving we were descended from anyone important though I felt positive vibes while traipsing through the MacKenzie Castle and the Sutherland Castle. (My GGG MacKenzie grandfather, who was the first to come to Canada, was married to a Sutherland.)

Though Hubby and I aren’t, thus far, related to anyone famous, neither are hubby and I blood-related, although we were quite certain of that when we married. We weren’t about to have children at our age, so I guess it didn’t really matter.

Ironically, I was the one pushing the DNA testing and the one frantically interested in genealogy. As my luck goes, it is Hubby who receives the daily emails telling him he has yet another DNA match. Me: I have yet to receive one notification. My ancestors, as I had discovered through genealogy, are slim pickings. I think, through my research, I’ve found every last one of them.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t start my genealogy request sooner than I had. My father, more than anyone else, would have gone crazy over my research. There’s so much I’d love to share with him.



1 Comment

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One response to “Sheep Thieves and Murderers?

  1. Mom

    Gotta love a story like that one!


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