There is a lot to do for motivated people in modern genealogical and family-historical research, using recent databases of records that were formerly only available for in-person examination on paper. Some 20th-century self-published genealogy works, as well as modern “heraldry bric-a-brac” vendors, have made a number of unproven claims that need closer examination to prove them out one way or another and add to the total historical picture.
Claims by Sarah Adeline McCandless
In 1918, Sarah Adeline McCandless (1840–1921) of Pennsylvania self-published a book that, aside from being an overview of Scottish and Irish history, provided a lot of genealogical information about her family, and made a number of remarkable family-history assertions, which veer from likely but unproven, to dubious and fantastical, to outright wrong. (We’ll refer to her hereafter as “S.A .McC.” for short.) When it comes to her immediate ancestors in Ulster, S.A. McC. has proven remarkably accurate, but her material wanders into wilder claims with no evidence the further back it goes, into Scotland.
McCandless, Sarah Adeline; “Some Annals of the West Branch of the Highland Family of McCandlish-Buchanan”; A Ready Reference Sketch of Erin and Alban; Pittsburgh: self-published; 1918. Reprinted, Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Co.; 2006; pp. 119–154.
Many of S.A. McC.’s claims have been repeated almost verbatim, as if established fact, in another more recent (though scarce) genealogy work:
Ferree, Joseph A.; The McCandless and Related Families: Pioneers of Butler County, Pennsylvania; Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania: self-published; 1977.
Below is a list of noteworthy claims made by S.A. McC., and notes on how credible or verifiable they are, and where there is probably fruitful room for modern research:
1. That all of her information is from family sources and ultimately backed by documentary evidence like parish records. The first half of this is surely true, but S.A. McC. cites and quotes none of the actual records and appears not to have been in possession of direct copies of information from them, only information in family bibles or that others relayed to her through correspondence. This material appears to be accurate when it comes to things like Ulster parish records, but more and more questionable when it comes to family-origin recollections from then-living elders. The more one reads of this book, the clearer it becomes that much of it is supposition and hearsay when it comes to deeper family history. There is not much to go on beyond that author’s immediate-family genealogical details (which do appear to be very well-researched; as noted below, some of that has been independently confirmed).
2. That McCandlish is just a variant of MacKinlay/McKinley and MacInnally. In reality, MacKinlay is from Mac Fhionnladh, and MacInnally derives from Mac Con Ulaidh and from Mac an Fhailghigh. None of these names are related to McCandlish/Cuindlis at all. S.A. McC. wants to derive them all from Mac Ghillecallum which she says is equivalent to Malcolm. It is not, but is from Máel Coluim, Maol Choluim (the “Callum” in Ghillecallum is the same name as C[h]oluim, though). But again, neither of these are related to our name. Her basis for the first of these ideas is a statement that McCandlish is pronounced like McKinley in Scotland. In actuality, it is not, and there is no evidence it was formerly – otherwise we would find most of the family members anglicized to a spelling like *McCandlie in Scotland, but this name seems not to be attested (McCandl[e]y is, but is Irish and there is no reason to suppose it is related to McCandlish/McCandless). When something goes silent in this name, it is the d; thus spellings like McCanless/McCanles and the majority of the Irish forms (Conlisk, Cunlish, Quinlist, etc.). In short, all of these claims by S.A. McC. are linguistically untenable, and the name does not even originate in Scotland but is well attested in about 50 variations in Ireland, and dating back to at least the 8th century there.
3. That McCandlish is a sept of Clan Campbell (and of the MacArthur Campbells in particular). However, neither that clan’s own publications nor any lists of Scottish clan septs agree with this. (Incidentally, if it did turn out to be a real clan connection, it’s perhaps appropriate that the McCandlish tartan is loosely based on Old Campbell / Black Watch.)
4. That S.A. McC.’s own family traces back to a west Highlands man named Candlish (as his given name), “a man having sufficient property and a family and followers to give him a leading position and to perpetuate his name as the progenitor of its numerous branches with slightly varying names.” The central gist of this – that someone named Candlish had descendants who went patronymically by Mac Candlish and who eventually gave rise to a family using the surname McCandlish (later McCandless) – is almost certainly correct. That he was in the west Highlands is quite plausible, though there’s no evidence for this to date. However, there is no reason to suppose that there was just one such Candlish and that all the modern variants of the surname descend from him. Just the surnames existing also isn’t enough to suppose this Candlish was a major land-holding chieftain as the material implies.
For updates on progress in researching land records, see below, where results are being consolidated in relation to all the Scottish landholding claims under investigation on this page.
5. That “The family is said to have had an ancestor, one Esid O Esid (Gaelic) who in the time of Alexander III (1249–1286), was noted for his dispute with Argyll of the rival Mac Cailin division of the Clan Campbell”. “Said” by whom? That there was an Esid of the MacArthur Campbells does not make him a McCandlish ancestor, even if a connection to Clan Campbell could be established.
6. That “Somewhere in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Candlish McCandlish [by which she means Candlish Mac Candlish, i.e. patronymic naming, of the son of the aforementioned Candlish], a young West Highland chieftain married a daughter of the powerful House of Buchanan, of Buchanan Castle, Loch Lomond.” We have no documentary evidence (so far) of any such chieftainship, though the marriage is entirely plausible. Regardless, there is no strong extant connection between Buchanan and McCandlish, and the latter is not a sept of the former. The late 17th century is not so long ago that records should all have vanished, so research could yet be done. See below where one of the few plausible claims made by Prof. C.E. McCandless has McCandlishes/McCandlesses in Callander, Stirlingshire, which is not far from Loch Lomond.
7. That “it became necessary for those connected with the Stuart supporters [i.e. Jacobites] to live as quietly as possible; this may be one reason there are no details of the life of this McCandlish family in the West Highland home of their ancestors”, beyond family stories recounted to S.A. McC. This is the elephant in the room: there is no documentation of McCandlishes in the Highlands in this era. They certainly may have been there and may well have been Jacobites. But how to prove it?
8. That Candlish Mac Candlish had seven sons, and “the eldest took no interest in politics and when the [Jacobite] crisis came, turned to the English side to save his property, for he had a castle and ‘much goods;’ confiscation of estates was about the mildest penalty.” This is a rather extravagant claim, and there should be a record of a McCandlish castle, but none has appeared in research to date. Scottish land-record research is being consolidated into a section below.
9. That the parents and the other six sons, for “political reasons” (i.e. being Jacobites) moved to Belfast shortly before 1715 (i.e. on the eve of the Jacobite rebellion known as The ’15; see the Timeline page). This claim is entirely reasonable, but as most else in the work, it lacks documentary evidence.
10. That after landing in Belfast, two sons went to Antrim, one to Coleraine, the youngest to Moville near Innishowen, Carronaffe, and Lough Foyle; another, George (S.A. McC.’s ancestor) took over a large estate, about 8 miles north of Moville, named Grouse Hall, which was still inhabited by relatives (as tenants, though, not owners) when S.A. McC. was writing. The other sons are not accounted for. There’s nothing implausible about any of this, and it provides places to look for records, especially of McCandlish-to-McCandless assimilation and name change. It also implies considerable wealth (especially if the family could afford to abandon Scottish lands to one son), and would support the “chieftain” claim. Update: One of our Cuindlis.org forum users, Peter McCandless, who lives in Northern Ireland, wrote that “I have checked the church records of both Gleneely and Moville and they match almost perfectly with the family details” in S.A. McC.’s genealogy. He also visited the Grouse Hall house and found it still standing, though used as a barn. “Unbelievably I found lying on the floor upstairs a Christmas card sent from Sarah Adeline McCandless to her relatives (Patterson) who were living in the house” in her time.
11. That the home bought for the youngest son was purchased from a Samuel McCandless whose family had owned it for 200 years. This contradicts S.A. McC.’s own hypothesis that one Candlish in Scotland (father of Candlish Mac Candlish) was the progenitor of all these families. If the names are correct, however, it would demonstrate that McCandless was already an established name in Northern Ireland (though possibly still a Scottish import; Scots had been moving into Ulster for centuries).
12. That one of George’s sons, Thomas McCandless (the name having assimiliated to the more common spelling in Northern Ireland by then) lived in Gleneely; relatives were still living there when S.A. McC. was writing. This is completely plausible, and we clearly have another plausible place to seek records. Update: As noted above, Peter McCandless of Northern Ireland has checked church records in Gleneely and found that they match S.A. McC.’s genealogical work. However, for many individuals in N. Ir. in this genealogy a lot of detail is missing, including birth and death dates. Some modern genealogical sites like WikiTree, Ancestry, FamilySearch, and RootsWeb might by now have some of these details available, for those looking into the details of this particular family branch.
13. That a General [first name not specified] McCandless lived in Pittsburgh in 1839. With a rank that high, this person should be easy to find in military records; would be a good addition to the Notables page. This is possibly a muddled reference to William “Buck” McCandless, a Union colonel who lived in Philadelpia (and who is on the Notables page), but he was not born until 1834, so could not have been any kind of officer in 1839.
14. That members of this family later went to the US (including Pennsylvia, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, eventually Michigan and California), Canada (Prince Edward Island), New Zealand (Christchurch), Australia, and back to Scotland (including Edinburgh and Mulgye/Mulingavie); many remained in Northern Ireland (in the same places and others, including Derry/Londonderry and Belfast). This is entirely consistent with what we know of out-migration of Ulster Scots from Northern Ireland, so should bear up in modern genealogical research.
15. That some time perhaps a bit before 1900 (it is difficult to follow all of S.A. McC.’s genealogy) “there came handbills [to Moville/Carronaffe] from Scotland, seeking information of the McCandless people … and in the West Highlands a castle with other property was waiting for an heir. … No one [of this family] went, and the property was put in [the Courts of] Chancery.” This is one of the most tantalizing but most outlandish claims in the book, suggesting that there are ancestral lands, to a very recent era, and a castle, that might still be standing, that were put up for auction but the location of which, and any other details about which, are missing. Note: The Scottish Land Court did not exist until 1911, so it would be the Chancery Court, though it is possible some land-related records have moved from one to the other. Scottish land-record research is being consolidated into a section below.
16. That “many of the surname of McCandless were already settled” in Pennsylvania when S.A. McC.’s relatives arrived there. This does bear out (e.g. in research on ship passenger lists and other early sources for immigration to the Americas). However, it also tends to contradict her idea of all the McCs being scions of her Candlish Mac Candlish.
Claims by Prof. Charles E. McCandless
Prof. McCandless in 1955
(from college yearbook) Prof. Charles E. McCandless Jr., teaching college physics at High Point College, North Carolina, in the 1950s (but possibly originally from Pennsylvania) self-published an undated book that, like the work analyzed above, made numerous claims, from plausible but unverified to downright outlandish and clearly incorrect.
McCandless, Charles E., Jr.; The McCandless Clan; High Point, North Carolina: self-published; undated, ca. 1950s. The author’s name was given as “Prof. C.E. McCandless”.
We’ll refer to him as “Prof. McC.” hereafter, to distinguish him from another “C.E. McC.” genealogist, Col. Clarence Edwin McCandless, who wrote McCandless, Werner/Winner, and Related Families of Southern Butler County, Pennsylvania (1989), a work that doesn’t have any questionable claims to analyze here.
The present author no longer has a copy of Prof. McC.’s book (and it is now very rare), but did take some notes while reading it 20-odd years ago. It is clear that Prof. McC. was the source of the Illumino Marem motto adopted by the ship USS McCandless in 1972, and he has been relied upon by several genealogists the present author was in touch with in the 1990s, for various claims (like that motto) not found in any other source. However, he material was distributed as hand-mimeographed typewritten sheets in a folder, is not in the holdings of the US Library of Congress, nor found via inter-library loan searches, and any surviving copies are in the hands of various family genealogists. Hopefully one can provide a copy (at our expense) since copies show up on eBay only about once per decade.
The assertions from Prof. McC. that we annotated many years ago are the following:
1. That the McCandless coat of arms is: Or, a lymphad sable, her sails furled and oars in action, on a chief, gules, three mullets argent. However, all heraldic sources assign this to McCandlish, and also give the ship red (gules) flags.
2. That the bearer of those arms had the motto Illumino marem et terram. However, this is not found in any reliable heraldry source, and is directly contradicted by period evidence that has the motto as Sola nobilitas virtus. See the Heraldry page for details. Prof. McC.’s book is almost certainly where the USS McCandless got its Illumino Marem motto from in 1972, since it hasn’t been found in any earlier material after 30+ years of looking.
3. That a general family motto (properly known as a slogan) was Fideli nil difficile. This is plausible, but there is no evidence for it aside from Prof. McC.’s assertion. See the Heraldry page again.
4. That numerous individuals he places in his genealogy were certainly named McCandless. Most were, but it is known from multiple other sources that quite a few of them were named McCanless or McCanles; and in a few cases he skipped or merged generations, so his genealogy very far away from his own immediate family line is not reliable according to the work of other genealogists. In short, Prof. McC. wanted to make all Cuindlises into McCandlesses to fit his narrative instead of building his narrative to suit the actual facts.
5. That the McCandless crest is a demilion rampant vert. However, this is again a McCandlish crest in all reliable sources that provide it.
6. That the crest pairs with “a tilted heume, argent” (a silver/white helm). But this is not heraldically possible except for a knight, and there are no records of a McCandless/McCandlish knighthood to be found. Non-knights and non-peers take an iron (grey) helm below their crest.3
7. That the crest and heume go with an “ermine cloak, or, gules”. But this is also heraldically impossible, as ermine is only black on white. There are several variants with different names, such ermines and erminois4, in other colour schemes, but none of them are red on gold (or vice versa) as Prof. McC. suggests. Nor is the heraldic mantle (or mantling or lambrequin) referred to as a “cloak”5. Furthermore, there are rules of Scottish (and English) heraldry as to mantle colours, with which Prof. McC.’s prescription is in direct conflict. It appears that he was either just making stuff up or was confused by something he saw somewhere or heard from someone.
8. That the bearer of the above arms and crest was the Earl of Montrose (i.e. that a McCandlish/McCandless was the Earl of Montrose). This would be incredible news, but there’s zero evidence of this, and it comes across as preposterous. First, the entire history of the lords of Montrose is well-known, and second so are the arms of the Earl (later Marquess, later still Duke) of Montrose, and they have nothing in common with McCandlish arms. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Montrose for a summary.
Update: Someone on a website wrote: “I might have found an illegitimate line of descent from James IV of Scotland on the McCandless side, but am not sure. In involves an Earl of Montrose.” We asked for details on 2023-10-02, but have yet to see a reply. It is unlikely this person has a copy of Prof. McC.’s work, so this idea likely came from somewhere else. And sounds more plausible. A McCandlish as an Earl (or other peer) of Montrose does not align with known documentation of the Monstroses, but an illegitimate son of a Montrose might have taken any name. How this could relate to the royal Stuart line is anyone’s guess, though.
9. That the bearer of these arms and crest was granted lands in Callander, Stirlingshire. This sounds like a plausible enough assertion, but as usual no evidence has come to light. Given that S.A. McCandless, above, also asserted that McCandlishes were significant landowners at some point, Callander would probably be the place to begin looking, especially as it is not far from Loch Lomond, where S.A. McC. placed the alleged Highlander McCandlishes.
For updates on progress in researching land records, see below, where results are being consolidated in relation to all the Scottish landholding claims under investigation on this page.
10. That “on good authority” the name translates to ‘Lord of the Castle’. He didn’t specify what this “authority” was, and we know from research in all available Gaelic language references that it comes out much more vaguely to ‘Head of the Enclosure’, which could possibly mean something like that or something much more prosaic like ‘Owner of the Cattle-pen’, or even something more toponymic, ‘Headland of the Enclosure’. If there is an earlier work that Prof. McC. was drawing on making more specific etymological arguments, we need to see what it was and what it said.
Prof. McC. made several other bold claims, but this page will not list and analyze them until the book can be re-examined again and quoted from directly.
Claims by House/Hall of Names (Swyrich)
The heraldry products vendor Swyrich Corp., operating as House of Names in the US and Canada and as Hall of Names in the UK (hereafter just “HoN”), produces rather loose family name histories which seem to be based on public records but which cite few of them directly. They make such a report for McCandlish (and another for McCandless which is nearly identical).
The Most Distinguished Surname McCandlish; House of Names / Hall of Names / Swyrich Corp.; 2022
Among the unverified claims in this document:
1. That McCandlish “was found in Galloway … where they held a family seat in Western Scotland.” Galloway is certainly known from other sources, but none so far provide any evidence of a “family seat”, i.e. significant land holdings. This claim is consonant with both S.A. McC. and Prof. McC. above, but could in fact be relying on either or both of these questionably reliable sources in the first place.
Update, 2023-09-29: Research into the Chancery records called the Retours of Services of Heirs for the period 1544–1699, abstracts of which are available freely online (frustratingly written in Latin), reveals zero persons under any spelling of a name related to [Mc]Candlish (even checking for odd variants like M’Kindelish and whatnot), other than a single entry for a McCanlish/M’Canlish as a juror in a case in Straiton, Ayrshire.1 This has two almost-conflicting implications: There were probably no major landholders by any such name (either as an early surname or a patronymic) during this period, since inheritance of major parcels of land would have eventually resulted in some kind of legal records; but the one John McAnlish recorded must have been at least a minor landholder, or would not have been a juror in a land-rights case. More Retours of Services of Heirs records have been published by National Records of Scotland for 1700 straight through to the 1970s, but only on paper2, and they are the sort of volumes that are probably only going to be found in libraries in Scotland or perhaps the very best genealogy libraries in the US or elsewhere, so they have not been checked yet. The 18th-century records in particular will be of interest for clearing up the claim by S.A. McC. relating to the period of the Jacobite uprisings, and 19th-century records for her claims that there was a McCandlish “castle” in Chancery toward the end of this period; but the entire range of the pre-20th-century records needs to be checked as they could relate to HoN’s and Prof. McC.’s broader assertions.
2. That “The name was first recorded in Scotland about the 15th century in Wigtown.” Wigtown is correctly identified as a place associated with this name, but we have yet to find any records going back that far (only to the late 17th century), so one has to wonder what alleged sources HoN is drawing from.
3. That “the name McCandlish was found in Wigtown where they held a family seat.” This is muddled regurgitation of the above two claims.
4. That “They were later found in Balamangan in Kirkudbright”. The location is a correct one according to Black’s research, but there’s presently no evidence of a clear timeline that would put them later in this area than they were in nearby Wigtownshire.
5. That “They may also have been McCanish sept of Atholl to the north.” This is preposterous. McCanish is from Neish/MacNish, and occasionally from MacAngus or MacInish/MacInnes. This is just HoN blindly assuming that any Scottish name ending with an /ish/ sound must be related, and reflects extremely poorly on the quality of their research.
6. That “The family name McCandlish is believed to be descended originally from the Strathclyde Britons.” This is patent nonsense. What’s happened here is the ancient kingdom of Strathcylde overlapped what is now the Ayr/Wigtown/Kirkcudbright area, and HoN is blindly assuming that any names found in this area must go all the way back to Strathclyde. This is pure bollocks. The name is Gaelic not Brittonic, with a known derivation to 8th-century Ireland. It’s like saying that a provably German name from Alsace is of French derivation just because France at one point held Alsace.
7. That “From their early beginnings, for the next few centuries, the family also acquired other territories.” Too inspecific to be at all meaningful, and there is no evidence of any territory acquisition. Scottish land-record research is being consolidated into a HoN claim 1, above
8. That “Many swore fealty to King Edward 1st of England in his brief conquest of Scotland.” No evidence for this, which sounds more like a general claim about most lowland Scots during this time period.
9. That “Many of this clan were banished to North Ireland in the plantation of Ulster.” No evidence of this, and it is historically muddled. The Plantation of Ulster was not a banishment of rebels but a colonization primarily by loyalists, rewarded with seized Irish land. That said, it is clear that various McCandlishes among other spellings (whether of one family line or several) did go to Ulster and become predominantly McCandlesses, and comparatively numerous there.
10. That “There are 7 heads of families of McCandlish recorded as being transported to Ulster”. No source given for this “recorded as” claim, and McCandlish and similar are not among the names of known families to have emigrated to Ulster during the Plantation (though such records are not complete). The “7” is reminiscient of S.A. McC.’s claim that 6 of 7 sons moved to N. Ireland just before 1715 Jacobite uprising. But it isn’t actually evidentiary of anything, especially since S.A. McC. may be a source that this HoN document is drawing on. Again, we know that McCandlishes went to Ulster, but not that they necessarily did so as part of the Plantation (it may have been earlier). See also the previous point 9; the Plantation was not a “transporting” of the banished.
The rest of the HoN document is a bunch of quasi-historical blather that has nothing to do with the McCandlish name/family in particular, and an overview of the McCandlish coat of arms that is incorrect on several points (it is missing both the crest and the oars of the galley).
Update, 2023-09-22: We sent HoN an email asking that they provide source evidence in support of some of these claims, and that they fix the clearly incorrect ones (heraldry errors, equating the name with McCanish, etc.) No response yet. Will send them a similar letter every quarter or so until we see some evidence of correction.
1: “Retornatus Quinquennalis Terrarum de Delvenna, &c. in Favorem Magistri Rodorici McKenzie Advocati, Nov. 22 1687”; Inquisitionum ad Capellam Domini Regis Retornatarum quae in Publicis Archivis Scotiae adhuc Sevantur, Abbreviatio, Vol. II; at “Inquisitiones de Possessione Quinquenalli” section, pp. 18–19; Records Commission; 1835 ; https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Inquisitionum_ad_Capellam_domini_regis_r/ZlKELERXEj8C?hl=en&gbpv=0 (via Google Books). The fastest way to get to the applicable material is to keyword search the PDF for “McAnlish”. The summary of the Latin material is that a John (“Joannem“) McAnlish, also indexed as M’Anlish, was a juror in a dispute about land forfeited by John Binning (who turns out to have been the son of famous Covenanter and Protester Rev. Hugh Binning) in Dalvennan, Straiton, to baillie Roderick MacKenzie of Carrick; the case went in favor of MacKenzie. Mc[C]an[d]lishes remain associated with Straiton; it is the location of McCandlish Hall, built in 1912 (see the “Notables” page, under “Namesakes”).
2: “Chancery Records”, in “Research Guides A–Z” section; NRScotland.gov.uk; 2023; Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland; https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/research-guides/research-guides-a-z/chancery-records (accessed 2023-09-29). See “Indexes to Services of Heirs from 1700”, about 4/5 down the page.
3: Fox-Davies, Arthur C.; Brooke-Little, J.P. (ed.); “The heraldic helmet”; A Complete Guide to Heraldry; Bonanza Books; 1969; pp. 228–244.
4: Fox-Davies, Arthur C.; Brooke-Little, J.P. (ed.); A Complete Guide to Heraldry; Bonanza Books; 1969; pp. 61–62.
5: Fox-Davies, Arthur C.; Brooke-Little, J.P. (ed.); “The mantling or lambrequin”; A Complete Guide to Heraldry; Bonanza Books; 1969; pp. 287–302. See especially p. 295 on Scottish mantles: “That the mantlings of all other [i.e. non-peer] arms matriculated before 1890 shall be of gules and [lined with or “doubled”] argent. … That the mantlings of all other persons whose arms have been matriculated since 1890 shall be of the livery colours [the dominant ones in the blazon], unless other colours are, as is occasionally the case, specified in the patent of matriculation.” The English rules also have non-royal, non-peer mantles as the livery colours. Since these arms were never matriculated or otherwise official at all, and there have been no McCandlish (McCandless, M’Canlish, etc.) peers, only the livery colours could be appropriate for depictions of the McCandlish blazon as assumed arms, which results in Gules and Or, red and gold.
Last modified 2023-10-16 by SMcCandlish.