Tuesday, November 17, 2009

True Tale of Thanksgiving on Prince Edward Island

While she was at finishing school, the Duke of Argyle's daughter ran off with the commoner MacNeill, who according to oral tradition, worked for the duke himself. The duke offered to give Malcolm MacNeill land to support his daughter as much as he could walk off in a day's time, but Malcolm was too proud. He paid for passage to the Carolinas where some of his family had settled, but the captain of the ship took the Scots to Prince Edward Island instead against their will.

The story goes that Capt. MacDonald's brother was given land in PEI by the king of England for services rendered and was told he had to have it populated or he'd lose it. No one wanted to go there, but their father was a minister and talked several of his flock into leaving Campbelton for a better life. Except he didn't say it was in PEI.

The people didn't pack tools to build homes, believing they were going to a civilized town in North Carolina. The ship arrived in the unpopulated PEI instead, but the Scots refused to get off the ship.

For days they refused, and the ship ended up wrecking offshore. The people had to get food and water in the inhospitable land as provisions on board were running out. Now, Lady Elizabeth Campbell MacNeill had two sons, 6 & 8, and either had just given birth to a daughter, or the daughter was very young when they arrived.

Elizabeth had expensive gowns and jewels and gave these to the native Micmac Indians hunting in the area in trade for food. The Indians showed them how to hunt walruses and seals and locate berries. They helped the Scots to survive the harsh conditions.

It is said that since Elizabeth had been raised as a lady, she could not survive the brutal winter and died. Her daughter was raised by another Scots family and she eventually married one of their nephews. One son was raised by the Matthews family, and he is our ancestor and married one of their daughters. The other son married another Scot, but I couldn't learn if he lived with his father or not. In a later census record, a Malcolm MacNeill was married with children and he might have been Elizabeth Campbell's husband.

My great grandmother and many of that branch of the family always berated Lady Elizabeth for running off with the commoner MacNeill, leaving behind a life of nobility. Instead of being farmers, we could have been living in a castle!

If it were not for the Indians who came to their aid, we would not be here today. It is said, we are distantly related to Lucy Maude Montgomery, also of Prince Edward Island. Maybe that's why I love to write!

So I give thanks to the native Indians who welcomed the Scots and helped them make it through their first bitter winter. And to Elizabeth, who though she did not live happily ever after, chose to be with the man she loved more than having a courtly presence and being tied to a nobleman she couldn't abide.

Now do you see why I love romance???

I believe Elizabeth was born of a mistress, since we can find no record of her in the listing of the Duke's offspring. Although she was told for leaving Scotland he'd cut her off from the family completely. Two hundred years later, the other male branch of the family has the same story to tell that's been carried down over the generations. In the PEI accounts of the ship that was wrecked off the coast, Lady Elizabeth is mentioned. And my great grandmother, her father, and my grandmother recounted how Scotland Yard came to speak with them about the Bible that would have had Malcolm and her names, and her children's, when the last Duke died without issue many years ago. It is said that an even more distant relation than Elizabeth's offspring ended up with the title and castle because they could prove a connection when Elizabeth's family could not.

So what would you have done, given the choice?

I don't get to post again after the big turkey day, for those who celebrate the occasion, so I want to wish everyone a grand year full of thanks!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."


  1. I love hearing people's lineages, mainly b/c we can't trace mine back too far. I know the records in Ireland were destroyed in either a flood or a fire in the church, so that's about it. I also know that there was a cottage and some land that was handed down through the family and one of my dad's cousins, who'd inherited it, didn't feel like paying the taxes and let it revert - WITHOUT mentioning it to any of the cousins. Hello? My dad would have paid the taxes to keep it! Sheesh.

    as for my Italian side, I love to be able to say that my great grandfather was the bastard son of a wealthy landowner and the maid. Their story actually has a happy ending b/c my g-g grandfather married the maid when his wife died, but by then my g-grandfather was 15 and he told them (when they wanted him to live with them) "You didn't want me as a baby, you're not getting me now." He'd been made a ward of the state and given a new last name. My g-g grandfather's last name? Pacino.

    And, yes, my mom SWEARS we're related to Al. She says that side of the family looks like him. And, actually, she's right...

    So there's some romance in there for you...

  2. I love your story, Judi! It's fun to connect the dots with genealogy research--taking the oral history, and finding the truths that are usually a LOT more interesting than the misconceptions! :) We do have an Italian in the bunch. One Italian. I think everyone needs at least one! But my French side of the family butted heads with another Al--Al Capone during prohibition and that's a whole 'nother story. :) We also have Irish roots--the Kelly's that ended up in Quebec, and like you, trying to find their history is impossible. And MacNeill are actually one of the Scots clans originally from Ireland, descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King. Many of the "Scottish" clans' names were actually Norman.

  3. This is very interesting, Terry! How cool tobe able to trace your lineage so far back. Like Judi, I can't trace mine very far back!

    I'd like to think I'd choose love, but I'm very much into being comfortable and traveling the high seas. ;)

  4. LOL, Danielle! I keep thinking about the castle, and well, I should be able to have a free night or two there, so I can write my next werewolf adventures, since I really am family!! :)

  5. This is fascinating, Terry.

    I know my lineage goes back to Ireland on my maternal grandmother's side and I'm a descendant of George Custer on my maternal grandmother's side. Irish and German. About as stubborn as you can get. :} My dad's side is the same.


  6. Fascinating story, Terry! I have some relatives who are interested in genealogy, but the only thing I've ever heard is that we are distantly related to Garth Brooks--we share a common great great great grandfather or some such thing. No clue how far back they've gone, but I have photos of my grandmother's grandparents, which I consider quite remarkable.

  7. Hey, Linda, really interesting! :) My dad's side were wild Germans! Wilde. :) Really wild! We thought they were Irish because of Oscar Wilde. And my Canadian mother thought she had an American in the bunch, but he turned out to be a Hessian soldier brought over to fight the Patriots. Only he had went AWOL and one of his sons named his son George Washington Cramer in honor of our 1st president.

    Thanks, Cheryl! I find genealogy utterly fascinating! That's so neat about the grandparents grandparents photo. I have my father's grandmother's photo, the only one I have that's that old. She was German and beautiful. :)