Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

7/9/2004

Eigg Genealogy

Eigg: a Clanranald country
From the 12th century onwards, Eigg was included in the land of Garmoran, a territory stretching from Knoydart to Moidart. In 1337, Amie MacRuari brought it as her dowry on her marriage to John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. It then passed on to Ranald, their eldest son and founder of Clan Ranald, in whose hands Eigg remained for 440 years.

The island was mostly peopled by Clanranald cadet families and their followers. Losing its population twice during the 16th century feuds, it was soon repopulated by MacDonald clansmen, along with MacKinnons, MacQuarries, MacCormicks, MacLellans, and even MacLeods and Campbells, as under the Clanranalds the island became a place of refuge for harrassed Catholics and clansmen affected by the Clearances.

The island baillie was traditionally chosen amongst cadet families descending from the Clanranald of Morar, such as the MacDonalds of Laig, or MacDonald of Knockeilteag. When these chose to emigrate to Canada after Culloden, followed by a great number of islanders who hoped for a better life free from oppression, other families from the clan aristocracy moved in. Amongst them was Ranald MacDonald, the son of the Jacobite poet Alaisdair MacMhaighstir Alaisdair whose descendants remained at Laig until they in their turn emigrated to America in 1851.

When they left, 14 families were evicted from Grulin and sent to Canada. However, when security of tenure was brought on by the Crofters’Act of 1886, the crofting way of life managed to prevent the complete depopulation of the island, and descendants of old island families still live on the island.

Eigg genealogy connection
From the mid 18th century to the early 20th century, Eigg’s population dropped from 500 people to 120 mainly through emigration to America and Canada, but also to Australia.

For years, descendants of Eigg emigrants have come to Eigg intent on tracing their family roots and finding out who the parents of their first emigrants forebears were and where they used to live. Many were lucky enought to have visited the island during Hugh MacKinnon’s life time.

Hugh was the best historian of his generation in the Hebrides and was recorded by the School of Scottish Studies which devoted a whole issue of its magazine to him (link)to the website of the Sof S S) featuring his stories of the MacDonalds of Laig and the MacAskills of Kildonnan, two important island families.

The knowledge accumulated by Hugh, his son Angus and a number of tradition bearers on the island, is now being compiled into an extensive genealogical database by the Isle of Eigg History Society. This resource together with the copies of census records, some of the passenger lists and the island’s name book and old maps, is available to help those trying to trace their family tree.

For more information go to the link on the rhs

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