John Alasdair Macdonald's Ancestry
John Alasdair Macdonald
Iain Alasdair Dòmhnallach - my Gaelic name
Iain Alasdair mac Calum Iain Iain Dhòmhnaill ‘ic Raonuill - my patronymic name
As a Macdonald I decided to concentrate on the direct male line in my family, however in my wider family tree if I go back to my great grandparents I have 3 Macdonalds, 2 Mackenzies, and 1 Macleod, Morrison and Finlayson. I have managed to trace my roots back to my great, great, great, great grandfather - Murdo (Murchadh) Macdonald, who was born around 1750 on the Outer Hebridean Island of Lewis.
Murchadh was his Gaelic name but from the 1800’s most people were expected to write (or was written for them) an anglicised name on official forms such as birth certificates and census forms. Murdo is known to have come from the village of Siadar on the Atlantic coastline of the Isle of Lewis. Around 1815, Murdo’s son (also called Murdo) moved the family to the eastern side of Lewis and became a tenant farmer in the village of Coll.
Over the last two hundred years his direct descendants have been on the same plot of land continuing the traditions of working the land and fishing. Even today, although I don’t currently live in Lewis, both my younger brothers, Kevin Alexander (a former Harris Tweed weaver) and Mark Ronald (a Master Mariner) still work the land as a part-time crofters. For as long as we can remember there has been a flock of sheep on the croft, a tradition continued to this day by my brother - my children go over every spring to ‘help’ Kevin Alexander with the lambing.
In Gaelic culture, a system of patronymics has been widely used for many centuries (eg. Macdonald = son of Donald). As a Gael, when asked by another Gael who I am “Co leis thu?” I reply with “mac Calum Iain Iain Dhòmhnaill”, meaning I am the “son of Malcolm John, son of John, son of Donald” (my great grandfather). It is also common to finish that reply with an overriding family name or nickname that may stretch back many generations. I would say “ic Raonuill” which, in this case, is used to signify that we are descendants of "Ronald/Ranald".