A 19th century genealogy of the Kennedys of Carland, co. Tyrone

During a research trip to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast in 2003, my primary objective was to learn more about our Huggins ancestors from Glenarb townland in the parish of Aghaloo. Because most of the Huggins births, marriages, and deaths predated any surviving church records and the civil registration system, my only recourse was to follow the genealogical trail through a series of memorials and wills in the Registry of Deeds. Eventually, having ascertained that the wife of our fifth great-grandfather, John Huggins (d.1756), was Lettice Kennedy (1718-1797), a quick reference to the Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church, 1613-1840 [1] yielded not only the name of Lettice's father, the Rev. John Kennedy (1683-1761), and his father, the Rev. Thomas Kennedy (1625-1714) of Carland ... but also an astonishing *fourteen* more generations.

Just like that—in a matter of minutes, we had made the genealogical leap into twelfth century Scotland, through the Earls of Cassillis no less, to one Roland of Carrick and to his father, Duncan, the first Earl of Carrick. It was at once an exhilarating find, but also one that left me feeling at sixes and sevens. It was instructive to realize that for the very well documented families—the peerage and the nobility—there is none of the fun, and frustration, of the genealogical chase, as all the work has been done.

... or has it?

What happens when such a family claims an ancestral connection to a Baron or an Earl? and the family history was not recorded, for example, in a "received" genealogy such as Burke's? [2] or documents to support the claim either cannot be found or were never recorded? Well, then and in that case (to coin a phrase often encountered in Irish deeds), 'tis time to sink the genealogical wimble and burrow for research evidence once again.

The genealogical outline of the Kennedys of Carland, [3] as penned by J. Carmichael-Ferrall who, in turn, drew upon a manuscript by the Rev. Dr. James Kennedy-Bailie, D.D., F.T.C.D. (1793-1864), [4] is one such example. The great great grandson of Thomas Kennedy's brother, the Rev. Gilbert Kennedy (1627-1688), Dr. Kennedy-Bailie composed his genealogical notes about 150 years after the death of his forebear. He even went so far as to engage an agent to ferret out court records in Scotland—plus ça change.

As useful as this article proves to the construction of a goodly sized Kennedy family tree, it makes two ancestral claims which have yet to be substantiated, that is, corroborated to other sources, viz.—:

  • firstly, that the father-in-law of the Rev. Thomas Kennedy, Major William O'Brien of the Bawn,[5] was "nearly related to the Lords Inchiquin and Ibrican."—The phrase, nearly related, means closely related but not in the direct line of primogeniture (male inheritance). The phrase is also used to denote a degree of relationship somewhat removed from the hereditary line—cousins of the first, second, and even further degree. While several printed genealogies exist for the Earls of Inchiquin, unfortunately I have yet to find which one shows a William O'Brien whose daughter married the Rev. Thomas Kennedy. Major O'Brien may well have been a cousin-german to the main line of that noble house (or not), and his name and father simply not recorded.
  • secondly, that the Rev. Thomas Kennedy and his brother, Gilbert (also a Presbyterian minister), descended from the Earls of Cassilis of Ardmillan in Ayrshire, Scotland. Specifically, Dr. Kennedy-Bailie asserted the following, based on court documents which his agent in Scotland discovered:

       Gilbert second Earl of Cassilis, had, as appears from the
     Charter of the mains of Cassilis and other lands, several
     sons, of whom Gilbert, the eldest, inherited the honors,
     etc., and Thomas, the second, had a charter of the lands of
     Ardmillan, or Ardmilland, in Ayrshire. He was succeeded by
     his eldest son Thomas, who died in November, 1586, and was
     succeeded by Thomas, his eldest son, as appears from his
     retour* of heirship, dated 9th May, 1609. This last Thomas
     Kennedy had three
 sons——Thomas, Hugh, and Gilbert, as appears
     from the College of Glasgow, where the first and last studied,
     and the records of the Court of Chancery, where the retour of
     the second son as heir was
discovered by Dr. Kennedy’s agent
     which retour took place in 1640. The records of their
     matriculation bear date, respectively, 1637 and 1642.[3]

            *According to Merriam-Webster, the word, retour, is chiefly Scottish,
            meaning “the return made to the court of chancery on a brieve of inquest
            with the jury’s verdict thereon.” Source: merriam-webster.com (accessed

Whether these retours have survived is not known. A scan of the catalogue entries under PRONI ref. D2315, the Gaussen, Kennedy, Bailie, and Magill papers, shows a sub-fond at ref. D2315/9 entitled, Printed material and miscellaneous family papers, which would need to be checked for the existence of these documents. If the documents survive, they may have been deposited in another archive.

However, another problem exists, in that the outline above varies not only with the genealogy printed in Burke's, but also that given in McConnell's Fasti. [1] To illustrate, the first image below depicts extracts of the genealogy given for the Earls of Cassillis in Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary (1878) supplemented by Burke's Landed Gentry (2001) [2]:

Click on image to open in new window.

The next image extracts that portion of the family tree, above, beginning with the first Earl of Cassillis through the seventh, and shows where McConnell, in the Fasti, and Dr. Kennedy-Bailie provide additional information. Note that McConnell (Fasti) states that the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy were sons of Colonel Gilbert Kennedy, while Dr. Kennedy-Bailie concluded that they were the sons of Thomas who inherited Ardmillan in 1609.

kennedy cassillis burke fasti bailie sm

Click on image to view in new window.

Which, if any, of these sources is correct? Burke didn't provide sources for us to assess the evidence; neither did McConnell; and it is unknown whether the retours of which Dr. Kennedy-Bailie wrote have survived.

A very interesting treatise on the subject of the ancestry of the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy has been written by Iain Kennedy, coordinator of the Kennedy One-Name Study, and author of the web article, "Colonel Gilbert Kennedy of Ardmillan" (2007). [6] In his analysis, Mr. Kennedy examined the case made by McConnell, in the Irish Fasti, that the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy were descended from the Earls of Cassillis, specifically through Gilbert Kennedy—whom McConnell presented as master of Ardmillan, brother to the 6th Earl, and in possession of the title, Colonel.

In his essay, Mr. Kennedy addresses the following research questions:

  • In family pedigrees submitted to the House of Lords in 1760, Gilbert, the second son of Gilbert, 4th Earl of Cassillis, was identified as the father of John, 6th Earl. A third son, Hew, was described as Master of Cassillis at some stage, having resided at Brunston Castle near Daily and died without issue. However, Balfour Paul's Scots Peerage (1905) shows Gilbert as the son of Huw. Please refer to the family tree, below, which has been updated for Mr. Kennedy's remarks.
  • A will has not been found for the 5th Earl, or for Gilbert or Hew, which presumably would have helped to identify the father of the 6th Earl.
  • While several deeds appear to confirm the second tree—that is, that John, 6th Earl of Cassillis, was the son of Hew—a footnote in Balfour Paul's Scots Peerage (1905) mentions a misprint in the RMS† (1618) in which the 5th Earl was referred to as the father, or patris (Latin), of the 6th Earl, whereas the word, patrui (uncle) appeared in the original record.
    † This acronym is not clarified in the essay; however, it may refer to Balfour Paul's Registrum Magni Sigillii Scotorum,‡ Vol. II (Edinburgh, 1984).
    ‡ Translation: The Register of the Great Seal of the Kings of the Scots.
  • Was Gilbert, this brother of the 5th Earl, also a Colonel who fought at Marston Moor (1644)? Mr. Kennedy found no reference to Gilbert at this battle. A contemporary account of the battle of Alford (1645) did mention a brother of the Earl of Cassillis on the side of the Covenanter army—which, if that account was correct, could only have been Gilbert, as Hew had died some time previously. However, citing other references, Mr. Kennedy determined that this was "a muddled reference to Kennedy of Knockdaw."
  • Mr. Kennedy found no evidence that Gilbert Kennedy lived at or owned Ardmillan Castle.

kennedy cassillis fasti baillie onename

Click on image to view in new window.

2016-07-10 update: A final revision of this chart has been posted to:
Genealogical sketch of the Rev. W. Kennedy M'Kay.

Mr. Kennedy concludes with a comparison of the biographical entries for the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy in the Scottish and the Irish Fasti. The two sources yield different details, which will be presented in the biographical sketches of these two gentlemen (pending).

Of course, Dr. Kennedy-Bailie asserted a different line of descent from the Earls of Cassillis for the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy—through Sir Thomas of Culzean, the second son of the 3rd Earl. A thorough assessment of the validity of this claim would require considerable resources and an intensive  undertaking which, to be frank, are beyond the scope of my research goals, at least for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, I would suggest that this particular family history, along with the contrary claim made in the Irish Fasti, ought best be filed under the heading of:

Lessons learnt:

  • Genealogical proofs have not been found to corroborate the claim that the Rev. Thomas Kennedy of Carland and his brother, Gilbert of Dundonald, descended from either the Barons of Inchiquin and Ibrican (O'Brien) of county Clare, or the Earls of Cassillis in Ayrshire.
  • Beware printed genealogies. The mere fact that a family history has been printed, published, and bound, as they often are, in cloth or leather, does not enhance the reliability of the genealogical evidence presented therein.
  • Many, if not most, of the "received" peerages (i.e., considered authoritative) do not cite sources: how, then, is the family historian to assess the reliability of the content, especially where conflicting genealogies exist? (...except by undertaking a long-term, expensive research project.)
  • Dr. Kennedy-Bailie's family history is probably much more reliable, moving forward from the lives of the Revds. Thomas and Gilbert Kennedy. The wise researcher would still seek independent corroboration and where this is not possible, append a cautionary note to the family tree so presented.


Related surnames:

  • The Rev. John Kennedy (1683-1761), Presbyterian minister of Benburb, and son of the Rev. Thomas Kennedy (1625-1714), married Elizabeth, daughter of Capt. James Stevenson. See Stevenson of Stewartstown.
  • Letitia Kennedy (1718-1797), daughter of John Kennedy and Elizabeth Stevenson, married John Huggins (d.1795) of Glenarb, parish of Aghaloo, county Tyrone. See also Huggins of Glenarb.



McConnell, James, with Samuel McConnell and F.J. Paul. Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church, 1613-1840. Belfast: Presbyterian Historical Society, 1951.


(a) Burke, Sir Bernard. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage, &c. London: Harrison, 1878. (b) Burke's Landed Gentry: The Kingdom in Scotland. 19th ed. Vol. I. Stokesley, North Yorkshire: Burke's Peerage, 2001.


Carmichael-Ferrall, J. “Note on the Kennedy and Bailie Pedigrees.” Citing notes from the Kennedy manuscript written by the Rev. Dr. James Kennedy-Bailie, F.T.C.D. The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archæological Association of Ireland. Vol. VII (4th series). Dublin: University Press, 1887. (pp. 30-6)


The author of the manuscript, on which the "Note" was based, the Rev. Dr. James Kennedy-Bailie, F.T.C.D., was the eldest son of the Rev. Nicholas Ward Kennedy and Elizabeth Kennedy (daughter of the Rev. William Kennedy and Martha Bailie). Dr. Kennedy-Bailie's great-grandfather was the Rev. Gilbert Kennedy (1627-1688) of Dundonald, in the county Down, brother to the Rev. Thomas Kennedy (1625-1714).


The Bawn was probably "The Bonn" townland in the parish of Pomeroy. Here, until removed in the late twentieth century, lay the ruins of an old fortification or bawn.


Kennedy, Iain. "Colonel Gilbert Kennedy of Ardmillan." Online at Mr. Kennedy's web site, Kennedy One-Name Study, www.kennedydna.com (accessed 2016-07-06).

Please cite your sources.

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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