Searching for McFadzean

Searching for McFadzean

I’ve been searching for McFadzean,
an old Scots surname found in my husband’s family tree.

According to this site, is a “Scottish patronymic surname meaning ‘son of little Patrick.’ The Celtic prefix ‘Mc’ means ‘son of,’ while ‘Fadzean’ is a derivative of the Gaelic Pháidín, meaning ‘little Patrick.’ “

My husband’s great-great grandmother was named Janet. Her maiden name was thought to be McFadden. But as I researched, I realized that McFadden is an Americanized version of a Scots surname with a long history. I also learned that the spelling of Scottish names found in records was very flexible. When searching Janet’s husband line, the following surnames could all mean the same family: Mackie = Mackey = McKay = MacKay = M’key = McKie. With forenames, Jean, for example, could also be found in other records as Jane, Janet, or Jeanne. Christian (a female forename) and Christina were often used equivalently.

Scottish record databases understand this dilemma and often build in ways robust was to alter name searches, such as the search window (at left) at ScotlandsPeople:

I knew Janet  was born in 1828 in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, Scotland. When searching Scottish records for the surname spelled McFadden in U.S. records, no results were returned.

Changing the search to allow for name variants provided many useful results as seen above when searching the 1841 Scotland Census. Of these choices, the person listed as Janet McFADGEAN,  a 13-year-old cotton mill worker, is the person I was looking for.

In 1846, Janet McFADZEAN marries John MacKie. (In another abstract, they appear as Janet McFADYEN and John MACKEY.) In 1848, they emigrate to America with their son, Matthew. Their first home in America was in Cass, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, but shortly after that, they settle in Truro Township, Knox County, Illinois.

In an profile of John MacKie published in an 1878 history of Knox County, she appears as Janett McFAYDEN. In her son’s marriage record, she appears as Jennett McFADYEN. And in another son’s death certificate, she’s Janet McFADDEN. I solved the fairly common problem of which spelling, among many choices, to use, by using the one I encountered most frequently. And I’m still searching for McFadzean.

finding scottish ancestors online

If you’d like to know more about searching Scottish records effectively, try Sassy Jane’s Guide to Finding Scottish Ancestors Online.

In this Sassy Jane Guide you’ll learn about familiar and less-known websites and databases for finding Scottish records, from the 1560s to the recent past. Many records are indexed and digitized, making Scottish records fun and illuminating to use.

Discover the best ways to search records from Scotland and where to find supporting resources, including help locating place names, deciphering Scottish handwriting, and researching clans and tartans. Add new research skills and watch your Scottish family tree flourish with this downloadable e-book. Click this link for more information or to buy, 


About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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