McNab Ancestors Update

Loraine Smith from Canada has been in touch and reminded me why I started this blog. It looks like she’s solved the mystery about my McNab ancestors. My great great great grandmother was Christina McNab. She was the only daughter of John MacNab of Shenaghart in Kintyre, and Sherrobeg in Badendoch (see more here).

Turns out that Loraine’s great-great-granny’s brother, Dr. Robert McNab, started a scrapbook on clan matters (he was also, incidentally, one of 3 named by William Anderson in The Scottish Nation c. 1862 as next heirs to the Chiefship). Within that scrapbook is a copy of the letter written to the Clan Macnab Society in 1909 by Archibald Hearne McNab. AH McNab claimed the title of Clan Chief; and he was a descendant of my great great great great grandfather John McNab of Sherrabeg, etc. Here is what AH McNab has to say about his ancestry: 

  • Alexander McNab of Innishchewan, at the time of the 45, was first cousin to the then Chief (this would have been John Macnab, 15th Chief), and senior cadet of the clan
  • Said Alexander McNab commanded the clan through the campaign and the heads of the other branches served under him, because the chief was in the Royalist (anti-Jacobite) army
  • Alexander’s eldest son Duncan was succeeded in turn by his eldest son John McNab of ‘Shennagort’ and afterwards of Sherrabeg
  • John died in 1848 and was succeeded by his eldest son Duncan
  • On the death of Chief Archibald in 1860, said Duncan became Chief
  • Duncan died unmarried in 1868 and was succeeded by his brother John McNab of Dalchully, father of Archibald Hearne McNab

The records I’ve seen are pretty close, although John MacNab of Shenaghart in Kintyre  is shown to have died in 1847 rather than 1848. The clan Donald (Volume 3), includes the following information his oldest children. This tallies with AH’s account although the records show Alexander as the second son, and John as the third  (see more here):

2. Jessie, who married John Macnab of the Inneshewen family, who held the property of Shenaghart, in Kintyre, and had

(a) Duncan, W.S., Edinburgh, who died unmarried
(b) John, who married, with issue
(c) Alexander

So in one fell swoop Lorraine has helped show the lineage pre-John of Sherrabeg and connect the McNab sof Sherrabeg and McNabs of Dalchully. She thinks this proves her theory that “Alexander McNab of Innishewan” in Keppoch’s regiment was actually Alexander, second son of Robert 14th chief. Lorraine also thinks that the Alexander mentioned by AH above is either the same Alexander, or perhaps his son. There’s probably some date and generation checking to be done to see which makes more sense, but it strengthens her theory that this Alexander is Broilleach Mohr and we are both his descendants. There maybe some other living descendants of AH McNab in Australia, possibly called Duncan, and who knows maybe they’ll find us through this blog.


26 thoughts on “McNab Ancestors Update

  1. I’ve just realised that Lorraine’s discovery would also explain why John MacNab of Shenaghart in Kintyre, and Sherrobeg in Badendoch is described as a cadet branch of the McNab’s of the Inneshewen family in some accounts.

    I wonder how Alexander McNab of Innishchewan ancestry could be traced back further given that he’s first cousin to John Macnab, 15th Chief.

    1. A H M said from above “John died in 1848 and was succeeded by his eldest son Duncan. On the death of Chief Archibald in 1860, said Duncan became Chief of McNab”

      However according to “Archibald returned to Scotland in 1853 and died in France in 1860. After his death, the clan chieftainship lay dormant until it was confirmed on Archibald Macnab of Arthurstone, 22nd chief in 1955.”

      There is an public tree which seems to confirm the ancestry of John of Shenaghart and Sherrobeg as being that shown above as John son of Duncan, son of Alexander.

      McNabs of Innishewan shown on my website starting with Iain at . Also please notice the comment that it is unknown when or if the Innishewan line branched from the chiefs line of Bovain.

      Great to see this research collaboration on a family line.

      Andrew Macfarlane

      1. Thanks Andrew, I’ll make a note to check and then add a new post on here letting everyone know of update.

        Very much appreciated.


      2. Having trouble keeping up with this flurry, as I was away when it started, but will try my best to catch up and offer some relevant commentary if I can!
        1) Andrew, I know with certainty that AH was never formally recognized as Chief (i.e. by The Lord Lyon). He styled himself Chief (as did a number of others) and it may well be that he was recognized as such by an element of the Clan. We should remember that traditionally, the Chief of a Clan was assuredly not chosen by The Lord Lyon, but (to oversimplify the complexity of tainistry) by the Chief and/or the Chieftains of the Clan.
        2) Regarding the tree – I will try to locate it today, as I would be very interested in getting in touch with the person who posted it to find out what their sources are.
        3) Reviewing the Innishewan entries on your website, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we can’t know when the Innishewans “came off”, but I think we can be reasonably certain that the John who was the father of Finlay MakEan of Innishewan was NOT John, 9th Chief of the Clan, for 4 reasons:
        – in at least one document (a 1599 charter) Finlay is styled as Finlay McAne VcAuley
        – John 9th Chief already had a son Finlay, who became 10th Chief. While it’s not impossible he called a second son Finlay, it’s unlikely.
        – John 9th Chief died before Nov 3, 1552. The first mention of Finlay MakEan I’ve been able to find is 1580, when he was witness to a charter. So it’s just possible he could have been a much younger son of John.
        – In his listing of the cadet houses, Archibald 17th Chief listed Innishewan as the second most senior to Auchessan (by which he may or may not have actually meant Acharn). His wording suggests the possibility that the Innishewans were the remnants of the original line of the Chiefs (which matches with the tradition that the pre-Gilbert Chiefs were “of Innishewan”). This would place their “coming off” pre-1336, which makes sense in that the tradition of the Barravorichs, stated to be the third cadet in seniority by Archibald, is that they descend from Duncan, second son of the Finlay who is stated in the Douglas Baronage to have been the eldest son of Gilbert, 1st Chief (though this Finlay is thrown out by The Lord Lyon).

        Andrew, thanks so much for your interest and input – and also, while I’m at it, thanks so much for your website – it has been an invaluable source of information for me over the years in my various genealogical researches!


      3. No problem Lorraine, Its great to see people getting some value from it.
        Could I have permission to post your comments on the beginnings of the Innishewan line on the website? Its this sort of research by people working more diligently on a particular family that is where the best sources are.

    2. Certainly! I likely have some other information for you on Macnab lines, Andrew, but rather than clutter up this thread with it, I wonder if I can send it to you direct (as time allows). If you’d care to send me a PM at my email address:
      I can then send you various updates as I verify the information.

  2. Excellent précis, Justin – thanks for getting it out there so quickly. I will add more comments as I go along, but thought I’d add my full theory (still pending anything approaching actual proof – but I think it got 4 or 5 steps closer today!)
    – Innishewan was the original line of the Clan Chiefs
    – if Gilbert of Bovain (styled by the Lord Lyon as the first clan chief) was, as has been said, the grandson of Angus Mohr, then Gilbert was of Innishewan – and so were all the line of chiefs following him
    – if you read the history of the Jacobite uprisings, you see case after case where clans split – sometimes with the father remaining loyal to King George and the son to the Stuarts (mostly, they were hedging their bets)
    – we know that with the McNabs, John, 15th Chief, remained loyal to King George
    – the oral tradition has always been, though, that “while the Laird of Macnab and his brother Archibald took the side of the government, the clan rose in support of Prince Charlie….” (from In Famed Breadalbane)
    – I now believe that Alexander, the next eldest brother of John 14th Chief (yes, the histories say Archibald was the second son, but their father Robert’s will clearly states Alexander was the 2nd son; Archibald the 4th) is the Alexander of Innischewan who fought in MacDonnell of Keppoch’s Regiment (either that, or his son was)
    – I believe he styled himself as of Innishewan because 1) as per the above argument, he WAS of the original line of Innischewan and 2) he and brother wanted to distance themselves as they fought on opposite sides
    – so if my theory is correct the “of Innishewan” was a smoke screen that’s been carried down through history, and you and I are descended directly from the original chiefs, via Alexander, 2nd son of Robert, 14th Chief
    (The alternative theory is that that Alexander was an uncle to Alexander younger of Innishewan, who fought in the ’45 with the Duke of Perth’s Regiment – which would be reconciled with Alexander Hearne McNab’s statement that he was a first cousin to the Chief if one of Robert the Chief’s daughters married Robert McNab McNab, Possessor of Innishewan. I can find no record of who Robert of Innishewan married, and there is one daughter of Robert the Chief unaccounted for in the marriage department, that being Elizabeth).

    Either way, I’m now virtually positive that my 6-great-grandfather, Alexander McNab, called Broilleach Mohr, was the Alexander of Innishewan who was adjutant in Keppoch’s Regiment…..and that you are also descended from him.

    More later!

    Loraine Smith, Canada

  3. My goodness this is quite a break through. If I am following it correctly, the only way Alexander (Alastair) MacNab, 9th of Innishewan could have been a first cousin of the 15th chief was if his mother was the daughter of Robert MacNab, of that Ilk,10th Laird,14th Chief, since apparently none of his aunts married Robert. And that is assuming Alexander’s male ancestry is as shown in Clan Macfarlane genealogy.

    So for now I show him with that possible mother, and as grandfather of John MacNab, of Shenaghart in Kintyre at

    Clan Macfarlane genealogy does not shown the wife of John MacNab, 8th of Innishchewan at

    As far as a previously confirmed links to the MacNabs of MacNab, his paternal g g g grandmother was a daughter of Finlay Macnab of Macnab, 12th Chief..

    Looking forward to further developments!

  4. Lorraine, I can’t quite tally this with what I’ve seen on the Clan Macfarlane genealogy site:

    Alexander MacNab, 9th Laird, 13th Chief and Elizabeth Menzies had issue:

    1. Robert MacNab, of that ilk, 10th Laird, 14th Chief, b. Abt 1674
    2. John MacNab
    3. Jean MacNab, b. Abt 1684
    4. Agnes MacNab

    Robert MacNab, of that ilk, 10th Laird, 14th Chief and Jean Campbell had issue:

    1. John MacNab, of that ilk, 11th laird, 15th Chief, b. 1698
    2. Archibald MacNab, b. Abt 1710
    3. Alexander MacNab
    4. Robert MacNab, b. Abt 1724
    5. son MacNab
    6. Allan MacNab, b. 1716
    7. son MacNab
    8. Mary MacNab
    9. Anne MacNab
    10. Christian MacNab

    3. Alexander MacNab’s children are listed as

    1. Mary MacNab, b. Bef 1769
    2. Anne Roy MacNab, b. Bef 1769

    His grandmother was Elizabeth Menzies and the only sister they have listed for her is Jean Menzies who married Robert Campbell, of Finab, Minister at Moulin:

    So doesn’t look like Alexander McNab of Innishchewan, at the time of the 45, was first cousin to the John Macnab, 15th Chief, through their mother by the Macfarlane account. That’s not to say it’s comprehensive or 100 per cent accurate.

    Their records show that John MacNab’s (of that ilk, 11th laird, 15th Chief) aunt Jean MacNab marrying a Patrick “Ban” Campbell, of Tuerechan, so maybe the connection is through the other aunts and uncles John MacNab or Agnes MacNab.

    Then again I might be getting my generations confused.

    1. I am the direct descendant of Jean McNab and Patrick Ban Campbell and have a large portrait of Jean holding her infant grandson.
      Neill Campbell of Inverneill

      1. Thanks for getting in touch Neill. What a great family heirloom. Wish we could work out how our cadet branch of McNabs are connected to the Innishchewan McNabs.

        We’d need to establish the claims made by Archibald Hearne McNab in his letter written to the Clan Macnab Society in 1909.

        Firstly, we’d need to show that John McNab of ‘Shennagort’ (and afterwards of Sherrabeg) was eldest son of Duncan, so we’d need to find records for Duncan, i.e. who he married, where he lived, and his offspring or at least John.

        Then we need to establish that this Duncan was son of Alexander McNab. Not sure how important it is that he might have been the commander of “the clan” through the Jacobite campaign, and that the the heads of the other branches served under him, because the chief was in the Royalist (anti-Jacobite) army. Guess this might make him easier to identify if we could actually establish that there was an Alexander who fits the bill.

        Lastly, we would need to establish that this Alexander McNab of Innishchewan (at the time of the 45), was first cousin to the then Chief (this would have been John Macnab, 15th Chief), and senior cadet of the clan.

        That’s 3 generations back and from what I understand the record trail ends at John MacNab of Shenaghart in Kintyre, and Sherrobeg in Badendoch.

      2. Hi Neill

        Fantastic to hear from you – one of my key areas of interest is McNab descendants in the female line (since I am one – as is Justin), so it’s especially nice to “meet” you here. If you should ever happen to have an image of the Jean McNab portrait, I would be most interested in having a copy. I have a couple of portraits of ancestors from about that era (not McNabs, I’m afraid) so I know what a treasure they are.

        The Clan Macfarlane website entry you referenced is actually a couple of generations earlier than we’re looking at here. Alexander, 9th chief (or 13th, depending on which source you’re looking at) who was your Jean’s brother, would be the grandfather of the Alexander we’re discussing as a possible (purely speculative at this point) candidate for the progenitor of John McNab of Sherrabeg et al – who for simplicity sake I will call “The Badenoch McNabs”.

        The Macfarlane genealogy has “our” Alexander (the son of Robert, the son of “your” Alexander) as the third son of Robert (10th or 14th chief), but in Robert’s will, he specifically refers to Alexander as his second son. Macfarlane shows this Alexander as having two daughters, which is correct, but not necessarily definitive. There are no birth records for these two daughters (Mary & Anne Roy) – we only know of their existence because they are mentioned in their Uncle Archibald’s will (Mary) and in the list of witnesses at the Appin murder trial (Anne). So there is ample room for the possibility that this Alexander also had one or more sons.

        I don’t think there is an inherent conflict with Macfarlane, as long as you accept that Macfarlane is reasonably accurate, though not necessarily complete, and not infallible (for example, a combination of Robert’s will and what Killin parish records do exist, tells me that Robert McNab and Anna Campbell had at least 14, and possibly 16 children – not the 10 shown by Macfarlane ).

        Hope that makes sense – if you think I’m missing something, please feel free to point it out – we’re at the stage here of formulating theories and then probably spending the next several years trying to prove or disprove them, so nothing is sacred.


      3. Hi Loraine
        Here is the best photo I have of the portrait of Jean McNab with her grandson Duncan Campbell. It is a very large picture hung half way up a staircase so impossible to photo straight on. Duncan C had no children – I descend from his eldest brother, Sir James Campbell 2nd of Inverneill.

  5. I will post more later, but just a couple of quick comments for now.
    Hamish (nice to meet you!) – Alexander 9th of Innishewan (called Alexander younger of Innishewan at the time of the ’45) is definitely NOT the same Alexander of Innishewan as our ancestor. I have just sent Justin a fairly long and somewhat confusing set of notes about the history of Innishewan (which he of course is welcome to share with you – I just don’t know if it’s coherent enough yet for public display), and documents I have that suggest there was a break in the inheritance of Innishewan, and that the remnants of the original Innishewans went to Badenoch. I suspect “our” Alexander of Innishewan was a leftover from the original line.

    Justin, the traditional listing of Robert 14th Chief’s family is neither complete nor accurate. I will send you tomorrow the tree I’ve put together, based on information from Robert’s will and from the Parish registers. There were actually a total of 16 children (give or take one either way). However, setting that aside, if we take AH’s assertion at face value, that “our” Alex’r of Innishewan was first cousin to the then chief (i.e. the Chief at the time of Culloden) that would make him the son of a brother or sister to Robert, 14th Chief. Of course, there’s no guarantee either which chief AH was referring to him being first cousin to, or that the term was accurate – he could have been a second cousin.

    By virtue of the marriage of Finlay of Innishewan to the daughter of Finlay of Bovain (perhaps somewhere around 1620), Robert 14th Chief and Finlay of Innishewan’s grandchildren would have been SECOND cousins…..or, if “our” Alexander was a younger son of a younger son, first cousins once removed isn’t inconceivable.

    More later.


    1. I tend to agree that the term cousin was used fairly loosly and seemed to be used for any other person with whom you had a common ancestor up to about 5 generations distant.
      Does AH’s letter specifically say “first” cousin?

      1. The direct quote from the letter is “….Alexander McNab of Innishewan, at the time of the ’45, was first cousin to the then Chief…”. It’s clear from the context and other historical information that the Alexander referred to here is NOT Alexander, younger of Innishewan (though he too fought in the ’45). There would have appeared to have been 2 Alexander Mcnabs fighting at Culloden – one with the Duke of Perth’s and one with Keppoch’s. One was Alexander, younger of Innishewan; the other, our ancestor, either a younger son or a son/grandson of a younger son of an earlier generation of Innishewan, There is clear anecdotal, and strongly suggestive actual, evidence that the direct male line of descent of Innishewan died out sometime in the early 1700s, and that Alexander younger of Innishewan was descended from James of Acharn and Helen or Innishewan, who became heiress of Innishewan on her brothers dying without male issue. “Our” Innishewans, who had gone to Badenoch in an earlier generation, seems to feel they were the true Innishewans.
        But I digress…..I’m not too bothered by AH’s use of the term first cousin – he was writing for a purpose, and wouldn’t be the first man in history to stretch a point to aid his cause!

  6. Hi Neill – the photo doesn’t seem to have posted to the website. Would you be kind enough to email it to me? I really am quite interested to see what Jean McNab looked like – the only other McNab lady I’ve seen a picture of is my 3-great grandmother Maria McNab, born in St. Fillans and latterly of Glasgow.

    Many thanks!

  7. Hi, I’m not sure how my McNab family fits in here, but I’d like to post part of a letter that was written to my grandfather by his aunt in 1932. I would love to get more information on my McNab lines. “My grandmother’s father (John McNab) was a rich sheep farmer in a place called Lochs at the head of Glen Lyon…John lost all his money going surety for a friend and died soon after. My grannie thought there was no clan like the McNabs. Her father’s people were in a farm named Innishewan in Glen Dochart for 500 years from father to son but he was the last of them. An uncle of his was out in Prince Charlie’s rebellion and had to go to France after Culloden and married a French woman and joined the French army and rose to high rank. John McNab of the Lochs was near related to the Chief of the McNabs who lived at Kinnel House outside Killin.” We know that John had a daughter named Morrow McNab (often misspelled as Murray in records). Morrow married Robert McDonald who belonged to a dale near Aberfeldy and was an overseer at Castle Menzies.
    If anyone knows where this John McNab come in-I would love to hear it.

    1. Hi Jodi

      I believe that I do have some information on John of Lochs somewhere, though it may just be a repetition of your grandfather’s aunt’s letter (which I know for sure I have seen quoted before). I’m away from home just now, but once I’m back, will see if I can dig it up. The reference to an uncle of John’s going to France after Culloden is one I have also seen elsewhere, and it’s both very interesting and a bit problematic. The description – of him marrying a French woman and rising in the ranks of the French army – is a very close match for the life story of Edward Daniel Macnab, who was of the Cadet House of Acharn. That’s not to say, of course, that there wasn’t also an Innishewan Macnab who went to France, but because by that time the Innisehwans and the Acharns were very closely related by marriage, I also wonder if the two stories got a bit garbled along the way.
      I would be very interested in having whatever you can give me of your family tree, and in exchange, I’m happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the Innishewans, and to dig up whatever I have on John of Lochs for you. I suspect there is a strong chance he fits in somehow with the line that Justin and I are exploring, and every little piece of the puzzle we can gather may help to someday complete the picture. Please feel free to email me at

  8. Hi Justin,

    With Loraine’s invaluable help we were able to piece together a few more things on my John McNab of the Lochs line. Starting with my 3x great great grandmother Morrow McNab:

    Morrow b: 13 Dec 1811 Kilmonivaig (father: John McNab). m: 23 May 1830 Robert McDonald (son of John McDonald and Catherine Menzies. John McDonald was an overseer at Castle Menzies) Morrow died: 27 Dec 1893 Crieff. No mention of a mother in birth, marriage or death records. John of the Lochs spouse is a mystery. Morrow’s death record says “Deceased” under mother but no name is provided.

    Morrow’s father: John McNab (of the Lochs): Baptised 1 July 1776 Kilmadock.
    father: Alexander mother: Margaret Ferguson. John McNab’s death: Perth index card says: “McNab, John. Yellow Cottage, Killin. former tacksman, the Lochs, Glen Lyon. Death 19-8-1845.

    Alexander McNab marriage: 18 March 1775 Kilmadock. Spouse: Margaret Ferguson. Alexander’s death: 11 1829 Lochs, Perthshire.

    Margaret Ferguson: Death: 4 1835 Lochs, Perthshire.

    John (of the Lochs) baptized: 1 July 1776 Kilmadock
    Alexander baptized: 9 Nov 1777 Kilmadock
    Mary 1779 baptized: 18 March 1779
    Murray baptized: 24 Sept 1780 Kilmadock

    Loraine had information on John of the Lochs, Alexander and Margaret Ferguson’s burial. This is what Loraine wrote: John McNab “he is buried in the Suie graveyard (created in 1759 by John McNab of Innishewan, on the site of an earlier burial ground…..the inscription reads: John McNab late tenant of Lochs Glenlyon d. 19.8.1845, age 69 by widow and children. Timor Omnis Abesto…..within the same railed enclosure are three other graves….Dread Nought. by John McNab in Lochs Glenlyon in memory of his father Alexander McNab d. Lochs 11.1829 and mother Margaret Ferguson d. there 4. 1835. The other graves in the enclosure are both members of the Innishewan family, which would tend to confirm for me the connection of John of Lochs with Innishewan.”

    Hopefully we can piece together how John of the Lochs fits in with the Innishewan McNabs!


  9. Macfarlane is far from accurate and was copied from an Ancestry tree which it seems so many people are doing these days. This is not the way to go as there are so many Ancestry trees that are full of inaccurate information and folk copy this and add it to their own causing even more confusion.
    The only way is to do the research yourself, pay for certificates, double check every entry BEFORE adding it to your own tree or site.
    Here is an example from Macfarlane site: This is the message that I sent to them.

    Description: Impossible for Alexander MaNab, Person ID I104849, to have a father, (Capt. Alastair 9th of Innishewan-Person ID I25896) born in 1719 and then himself to have a son Duncan b. 25 Jan 1728-Person ID I104845. Something is away wrong with this information.

    The reply that I received said that the information was copied from an Ancestry tree and would be corrected next month.
    Just one example of what copying can do.
    It has also come to my notice that there are quite a few people, presumably copying from each other, who have Duncan McNab WS (Writer to the Signat) b 1805 eldest son of John McNab of Sean-ghart and Sherrabeg as being a WS in Edinburgh who died in various years. The fact is that he was NEVER a Writer to the Signet but was in fact just a plain writer(solicitor) who was a partner in the firm of McNab an Philp solicitors in Stirling and not Edinburgh. He died on the 1st of January 1872 at No.2, Park Terrace, Stirling, a house which he bought some time after the death of his father in 1847. He was prior to this in lodgings in Stirling.
    His entire estate was left to his sister Mrs Christina McNab otherwise McDonell of Keppoch.

    1. Thanks Richard, but I am not a genealogist. The 100% accuracy of who begat who is not what really interests me or what this blog is about. It’s simply a record, or diary if you like, of what I have have found out from whom and where. It’s the connecting with others who have same family history interests that really interests me, and stories and other artefacts that come out of making those connections. It is the meaning that knowing more about one’s ancestors provides as to what makes me who I am. That’s not achieved for me by collecting certificates, although I am grateful to those who are more thorough than I am, but I hope people enjoy the blog as a repository of those exchanges given it is provided for free… unlike ancestry ;)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s