McBeath/McBeth of Londonderry, Ireland


From Cumber, Londonderry to Belfast, Glasgow, Nebraska and beyond.


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The family name McBeath or occasionally McBeth occurs in our ancestry. The McBeath usage seems to have been retained in Ireland and Scotland whereas McBeth is more common in the USA line.

James McBeath (1795 - 1843)

The family can be traced back to my 2nd Great Grandfather, James McBeath who was born c. 1795 in Cymber, Londonderry, Ireland. He married Mary Denniston, sometime before 1828 and they had 8 children. He died c. 1843. Cymber no longer exists, and has likely become Cumber, which by 1837 was split into Upper and Lower Cumber.

His Descendancy Chart gives known details. Much of this has been compiled by my cousin, Dr Chris Morrow.

McBeath/McBeth Family Name

This surname McBETH was common in Scotland in early times from the 11th to the 14th century. In old Gaelic it was spelt MACC BETHAD, and means 'son of life' a name for a religious person or meaning 'one of the elect' a man of the cloth. In modern Gaelic the name is spelt as Macbeatha. A twelth-century variant, Malbeth is found in record. It is thought the spelling McBeath, a variant more common in Ireland, may infact be the original, which was carried to Scotland from Northern Ireland in the 5th century by the then Scots or Scotti.

Macbeth (1005-1057) mormaer of Moray, became king of Scots after having murdered King Duncan I at Bothnagowan near Elgin on 14th August 1040. "The use he made of his acquired power so far as authentic records show, was generally for the good of his country; while his character, far from being irresolute, was marked by vigour and ability. He was a friend of the poor, the protector of the monks and the first Scottish king whose name appears in ecclesiastical record as the benefactor of the Church" (A short history of the Scottish Highlands, Mackenzie, published in 1906).

Alba, the country which became Scotland, was once shared by four races; the Picts who controlled most of the land north of the Central Belt; the Britons, who had their capital at Dumbarton and held sway over the south west, including modern Cumbria; the Angles, who were Germanic in origin and annexed much of the Eastern Borders in the seventh century, and the Scots.

The latter came to Alba from the north of Ireland late in the 5th century to establish a colony in present day Argyll, which they named Dalriada, after their homeland. The Latin name SCOTTI simply means a Gaelic speaker. Other records of the name mention John McBehaig and Duncan N'Behaig, who were servants to John Campbell, prior of Ardchattan in 1622.

The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Granted in Scotland in 1678.

It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.

Coats of Arms, Crests.

It's customary to link (or attempt to link) one's family name to a Coat of Arms or Heraldic Crest. Some of them may be associated with the family, but not always.

In the case of McBeath/McBeth, I have identified the following, one of which may have been legitimately used by 'our' McBeaths, but I have found no compelling evidence for a particular Crest.

The Crest on the Left is the Scotish MacBeth, whilst that on the right is the Irish McBeth.

Note that McBeth and McBeath spellings were used interchangeably.