McQuaid Family DNA

McQuaid is my great-grandmother’s maiden name. She was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and her family first settled there in the early 1850s. Here’s what the DNA shows on our McQuaid family.

Surname Overview & Geography

The McQuaid surname is most common in Northern Ireland, specifically in the counties of Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh.

McQuaid derives from Mac Uaid, commonly translated to “Son of Wat” with Wat being a pet name for Walter.

Surname variations include: M’Quoid, MacQuaid, MacQuade, MacWade, McQuaid, McQuade, McQuoid, Quaid, Quaide, Quade, Quoid, Wade.

For geographic perspective, here is a map of McQuaid births in Ireland between 1864-1890. The top 15 districts for births during this span are in green. The darker the green, the more births. Belfast led the way (159), followed by Enniskillen (112) & Irvinestown (98).

Target Ancestor

John McQuaid was only a teenager, about 15 years old, when he came to Canada. His parents also emigrated. I’ve identified 18% of John’s DNA to date through phasing of his descendants, and in time I should be able to add to that total.

A tin plate of John McQuaid (1836-1919)

John was born in 1836 in Co. Tyrone to William McQuaid and Mary O’Neill. It is believed he was born in Dromore Parish, in part due to DNA evidence, which I’ll get to. If not, he was certainly born in or around that main cluster of green districts in the map above. A John McQuaid was baptized at Dromore Parish in April 1836, and his godparents were a Henry & Catherine O’Neill, but parents were not listed for that time period in Dromore Parish records (strange, I know).

John was indentured on the ship Clyde where he learned the trade of shipbuilding. The indentured servitude likely paid for his voyage and possibly helped pay for his family’s voyage as well. John continued his expertise in shipbuilding over the years, and oral family history states that he helped build the first ship capable of navigating the Lachine Rapids on the St. Lawrence River. John was listed as a carpenter in Canadian census records.

John came to Canada around 1851; his parents & siblings followed shortly after. They settled in Kingston, Frontenac Co., Ontario, Canada.

We are aware of four siblings of John, for sure, and it is said that a fifth sibling died at sea. The four siblings made the voyage to Canada as well – Catherine McQuaid born 1838, Margaret McQuaid born 1841, Elizabeth McQuaid born 1846, and William McQuaid born 1852.

On the 18th of July 1859, John married Mary Killeen, a York (Toronto) native born of Irish immigrants Patrick Killeen & Catherine Hartney. Both the Killeens and Hartneys were military families.

Above: John McQuaid & Mary Killeen’s marriage record from St. Mary’s RC Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario.

Another interesting anecdote on our McQuaids: multiple older relatives claimed that Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, the first bishop of Rochester, New York, and the namesake of McQuaid Jesuit High School, was related to our family. They say he was a cousin, possibly a first cousin of John, and that John himself spoke of the connection. Bishop McQuaid was born in New York City in 1823 to Bernard McQuaid and Mary Maguire, and his parents were from Tummery and Trillick in Co. Tyrone, in the vicinity of Dromore Parish. It’s possible his father Bernard was an older brother of our William. Our own McQuaids often visited Rochester, NY, and some relatives even moved to there from Canada.

Known Kin

A close examination of Kingston, Ontario records revealed that our McQuaids had some extended family in Kingston.

A Patrick McQuaid, born about 1799 in Co. Tyrone, his wife Catherine and sons John, Patrick and James McQuaid came to Kingston in the late 1830s or early 1840s. In 1849 they had a daughter Hannah McQuaid. Hannah went on to marry a Delaney, and our John McQuaid’s daughter also married a Delaney (they were brothers). Two other direct links to our McQuaids: James McQuaid, son of Patrick, is listed the godfather of John’s first child Mary McQuaid in Kingston in 1860, and James McQuaid is listed in court documents as kin to John. It’s almost a sure thing that Patrick McQuaid was a brother of our William, and their father was probably John since they both named their first son John.


A great-grandson of John McQuaid tested on Y-DNA, which passes only father to son, and this confirmed our family’s origin in Co. Tyrone.

One of the matches was a male McQuaid with a genetic distance of 1 – with a 58% chance of common ancestors within 8 generations. He descends of a Thomas McQuaid of Kilskeery Parish, Co. Tyrone, born about 1770. Kilskeery neighbors Dromore Parish, which includes Tummery – home to Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid’s father – tying it all together.

This DNA evidence substantially increases the odds that the John McQuaid baptized in April 1836 in Dromore Parish, with O’Neill godparents, is ours.

Also in the Y-DNA matches: multiple Wade matches. The McQuaid match mentioned above also had Wade matches, with one matching him at a genetic distance of 0. Wade is a clear variation of McQuaid.

Close Relatives per Autosomal DNA

Several McQuaid/McQuade families are linked to John McQuaid descendants through autosomal DNA.

First is Honora ‘Notty’ McQuaid, born in 1836 in Co. Tyrone, who married Francis Cassidy. They had several children in Makenny townland, Kilskeery Parish, Co. Tyrone: Catherine, Margaret, Bridget, James, Francis, Michael and Andrew Cassidy. This family is DNA-linked to our McQuaids.

Charles McQuaid of Trillick, Co. Tyrone (1907-1950)

Next is Hugh McQuaid, born about 1814 in Co. Tyrone, who married Catherine McKenna. They lived in Trillick, Kilskeery Parish. Their children: John, Mary, Catherine, William, Hugh, Patrick, Charles & James McQuaid. William married Mary Ellen McBride and they had: Mary, Maggie, Hugh, William, Patrick, Charles (pictured), John, James, Bridget & Francis McQuaid. So it was a very large family and the William McQuaid name handed down for several generations – interesting to us given our William McQuaid born 1810, John’s father, who went to Canada. It is possible given the DNA link – about 4th cousin range – that Hugh McQuaid was a brother of our William McQuaid, and since both named their first sons John, their father was probably John.

One more close connection – this one revealed on AncestryDNA and confirmed via phasing, segment matching and triangulation on Gedmatch as DNA through John McQuaid – is actually on the O’Neill side (John’s mother). But it led to a key discovery on the McQuaid side too.

This match descends of a Catherine O’Neill, born about 1814 in Co. Tyrone, and matches John McQuaid descendants on multiple segments, including 20-45cM size segments. Due to the strength of this DNA link, Catherine O’Neill was surely a sister of John’s mother Mary O’Neill. Then, the best part. After the DNA discovery, a search for Catherine O’Neill & her husband Daniel Cambridge turned up their 1837 marriage in Aghaloo Parish, Co. Tyrone – the kicker: William McQuaid was a witness. Officially bringing the families together with a traditional record. A William McQuaid & John McQuaid are found in Caledon, Parish of Aghaloo Tithe records for 1825 & 1837. A Michael O’Neill is also found for those years in Caledon, and there are other O’Neills in the parish as well. In fact, the O’Neill name dates back to the 1600s for the townland of Caledon in the Parish of Aghaloo.

A fascinating part of this: Catherine O’Neill & Daniel Cambridge moved to Belfast where they had 4 children, William, Ellen, Catherine & Daniel. Did William McQuaid & Mary O’Neill follow them there before going to Kingston? It’s very possible because Belfast is known for ship building and John McQuaid was a shipbuilder, as was Catherine O’Neill’s son William Cambridge. A William McQuaid is listed as godfather of two children baptized at St. Patrick’s Church in Belfast – the same parish Catherine O’Neill & Daniel Cambridge have kids baptized at – a John Curden in 1844, son of Edward Curden & Margaret Hagan, and a Mary Hamil in 1848, son of Patrick & Sarah Hamil. So it’s possible they went to Belfast first and then to Kingston.

Altogether, the DNA evidence supports William McQuaid having roots in Kilskeery Parish & Mary O’Neill in Aghaloo Parish, where her sister married (weddings typically take place in the bride’s home parish). Aghaloo Parish records are incomplete, so that could explain not finding a record of marriage for William & Mary.

One unsolved mystery: some kind of connection to Tydavnet Parish in Co. Monaghan, involving a cluster of matches who share DNA. Monaghan and Tyrone share a border, and this parish is close to Aghaloo Parish, so it’s most likely a link on the O’Neill side. The surnames McQuellon and McKenna come into play here. McKenna is an especially common name around Tydavnet and appears often in DNA matches.

As time goes on, more DNA evidence may arise to help paint a better picture on our McQuaid & O’Neill families. Please leave a comment below or contact me if you may have info on the above families, or if you’d like to share your own McQuaid & O’Neill connections.

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2 comments on “McQuaid Family DNA”
  1. Angela Townsend says:

    I am a descendant of Honora McQuaid .Have you come across my DNA results?
    very best wishes
    Angela Townsend


    1. Hi Angela, first I am very curious how you found this post? I just started this blog so it’s early days and not a lot of readers just yet.. will keep adding more posts over time!

      Let me check my family’s kits. Can you tell me which site you tested on? If you’d prefer to correspond privately feel free to email me at Thanks!


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