SCOTLAND to the Four Corners of the Earth

Coat-of Arms of

McAdam of Waterhead


The tradition is that the name MackAdam, the original spelling, comes from the circumstance that Adam MacGregor changed his name to Adam MackAdam to hide his identity when his father, George or Gregor MackGregor was arrested in Galloway. Tradition says that George fled to Galloway with his cousin, Gilbert Grierson when the MacGregor Clan was outlawed. This tradition dates to 1445.

Tradition documents that the McAdam's Coat-of-Arms is derived from the fact that a McAdam had saved the King's life when a stag had endangered him. This is also claimed by another branch of the MacGregors and the McNabs. The design of the Arms suggest to historians that this tradition has merit and favors the McAdam claim.

The first document to confirm the existence of the McAdam family is dated in a court case dated 1501. A marriage contract between Donald McAdam, for his son and John Grierson, for his daughter, dated 1517. Is the first McAdam named in any record. By 1540, we can confirm that there were three McAdam families living along the Aryshire and Galloway border. These McAdam families were educated, but were tenants of the Griersons and Gordons.

In 1569, Andrew McAdam, the son of John McAdam of Waterhead, obtained a "Crown Charter", thus became a Landed Family. The McAdam family fortunes grew to include extensive land holding. Most of the family remained in the Ayrshire/Galloway area and can be identified through the 1600's. A few family members had moved to Ayr, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, but appear to have remained in contact with the head of the family at Waterhead. Fortunes of the family passed to a younger branch of the family know as the McAdam House of Grimmit and later to the McAdam of Craigengillan. The heirship and property was eventually willed out of the family just before 1900. By this date there was no head of the family and it's members had disbursed to the four corners of the earth.

By mid-1600's, the McAdames owned a combined estate the size held by many Clans and is said to have been 77 thousand acres. They controlled the heads of all the rivers on the major trade routes to England, Ireland, and Edinburgh. A few family members made their way to Ireland as members of the military or as merchants.


On to



In our earliest records from Ireland, there are some naming patterns that develop in family lines in different locations. There also seems to be about four regions in Northern Ireland that may be separate family groups.

It is believed that the McAdam in the Co. Cork area comes from Thomas McAdam, a son of John McAdam of Waterhead. This line seems to have died out there, but some relationship to the family has been established to be in Co. Antrim and Belfast. It is said some members of this family went to Canada in the 1800's.

All first records from Ireland are military or merchants where the names like George and David are found in the Co. Londonderry. (Of course, with the standard family names of James, John, and William) They may have been sons of George McAdam who left an estate in the about 1636 in Scotland. The name Alexander and Joseph is also a favorite in this group. The McAdam family in Co. Monahan may be from this group. However, names Patrick, Bernard, Michael and Terrace tends to only run in a family in Co. Mohahan.

The Island Magee area had a cluster of McAdam such as Gilbert, Quintin and Archabald, names which are generally associated to the main line of the family. These families appear in Military records and probably went to Ireland with Cromwell.

The Belfast area was settled by McAdam merchants. James McAdam was an early resident there where we find names like George, Samuel, Hugh, and Robert seem to be the choice in this cluster. A McAdam line of sailors in Belfast comes from a Charles and Clemmons McAdam and are allied with the Russell family. Another group, Danzell McAdam came to Belfast from Whitehore, England in the mid-1700.

It appears the McAdames in Co. Down and Armagh are associated to Belfast. County Mayo McAdames are probably from a Belfast family. A family given name popular in Armagh is Wilson and Henry McAdam. It is highly probably that a family who lived near Belfast had a brother who lived in Ayr, Scotland and a sister in Glasgow, his parents lived in Edinburgh and his wife was from County Mayo who had a cousin in Liverpool who went to American in 1843.

Early in McAdam history family members has migrated into northern England. The John McAdams in Co. Meath family may have gone to Ireland directly from London, England as his profession was Royal Gardener.

Families migrated in family and social clusters freely about from Scotland, Ireland and to England. In the old days it was not uncommon for a Church in Ayr to sail over the whole congregation to attend a Church Social for the day in Belfast. People moved about as they pleased and kept very few records. The ones that were kept were destroyed by fire in Dublin in 1922, except for the one where the Church or local parish did not bother to send their records there.

Scottish records mentions relatives stationed in the military or living in Ireland, but we find only one case where an American relative is mentioned in all the Scottish records. Not one Irish record we have gather to date even notes or mentions an American relative. This tends to suggest that there was no family left in Ireland to speak of or the whole family migrated to America leaving no one behind.

Some later Irish McAdams immigrants had been said to have kept contact with home, but by the early 1900's the relatives had apparently died off and the family history was lost.




The McAdams Historical

Society Mission


The "McAdams Historical Society" is a informal non-commercial family society founded in 1984. Membership into the Society is open to any person interested in McAdam/s or allied family history. The Society collects family archives records, photos, family charts and group sheets of all dates. All documents collected become property and records of the McAdam family history to be preserved and shared with anyone seeking McAdams information.

The Society is the central point for the members to share research, locate distant cousins, and is responsible to collect and publish the McAdam family history. The Society newsletter is published quarterly intended to include information on the MacAdam, McAdam, McAdams, McCaddam, and other variations of the McAdam name which came from one common ancestor. Included in our records are allied family lines. Our research efforts in the past were primarily directed to pre-1850 history where information from available records are more difficult to obtain.


Society Membership

Membership in the Society to receive our newsletter is $15.00 yearly. This fee is to cover the cost of publishing, postage and maintaining our web site. The society has a research fund that is used for professional research, the expense of collecting documents that is deem beneficial to all and our on-line service. The research fund is not mandatory to become a member, but a voluntary contribution generally is $15.00.

The Society published a hard bound book, of 268 pages in 1986. Our book, "Sons of Adam" The history of the McAdams family, contains some early Scottish and Irish history, but is mostly devoted to pre-1850 McAdam families who arrived in American in the early 1700 's up to the Revolutionary War. Most had come to America from Ireland. Our book is $37.50 pluse $4.75 postage and handing and can be ordered by e-mail or from our the society address.

McAdam Country locations in Scotland, Waterhead, Lagwine, Craigengillan, and many otheres plus Ireland including a screening of the family search from Derry, Ireland Video tape. The VHS video tape is $29.95 plus postage and shipping of $1.75.

The Society will search our current records for any information we might have on any McAdam/s family complements of the Society. We will answer all inquires to the best of our knowledge on any McAdam/s family. You may contact us by our e-mail address or a SAE is requested when making a request by mail.

We thank you for your support and interest in preserving McAdam - McAdams family history. Your own family records are welcome and are encouraged to be sent to the Society as they will become a part of our collection of McAdam - McAdams records.


The McAdams Historical Society
711 17th Ave. N., Surfside Beach, S.C. 29575
E-Mail -


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