My McKlveen Connection

My third-great-grandmother, Elizabeth (McKlveen) Stahl, was born in Ireland in about 1792. I’ve done almost no research on the McKlveens. Early on, I was lucky to find another descendant, Janet Kirchner Warter, who has unselfishly shared her extensive research and documentation. 

In 2010, Janet updated the McKlveen family history she’d self-published in 1996. I have an electronic copy of her excellent (133-page) 2010 revision, should any blog readers like to have a copy.

Following are excerpts from Janet Warter’s “McKlveen Ancestors, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania”  addressing the family’s origins and some family lore:

“Henry McKlveen came to  America  from Ireland,  accompanied by his wife Isabella (maiden name  unknown) and three children — two young adult sons, John (about 18 years) and Thomas (about 16 years) and a younger daughter Elizabeth (about 8 years)…  [Elizabeth was the wife of  Henry Stahl… Elizabeth was said to be 8 years old when the family arrived in America, which fits with arrival about 1800.]   Documented information on Isabella, wife of Henry, is lacking — she  was  apparently deceased before the 1810 Census for Donegal Twp., which lists in his household only one male over 45 years (Henry “McIlvain”)  and one female 10-16 years (probably his daughter Elizabeth).

A one page “history” of the McKlveen family compiled by the McKlveen – Cummings Family Reunion Committee around 1926  appears to  be in error on some of the dates we have recently located on documents,  and  also contains some obvious  folklore  about  the family  origins  in  Scotland [“Married Isabella, Cousin of Queen Mary of Scots. Being persecuted by her relatives on account of her marriage to one out of the Royal Family, they immigrated toIreland…”]   Unfortunately, no sources  were provided  for any of the information in this brief document.   It can be used as a general guide for more research, however.  Among other things, this story says that Henry and Isabella were both born in Scotland, he “near Glasgow, in 1738″ and moved to Ireland where their sons, John and Thomas, were born.  No mention of Elizabeth, also born in Ireland.  It further says “Henry and Isabella came to the United States in 1795.  They were accompanied by Henry McKlveen’s brother, Robert. Henry settled in Westmoreland County, and Robert settled in the Carolinas where trace of him has been lost”.  The 1795 date has not been proven, and other sources suggest it was closer to 1800. There was a Robert “McIlevain/McElwain/McIlwain” in Lancaster Co.,South Carolina for the 1810 – 1830 Census, so this may be the missing brother.  I have not been able to locate any records of a birth or marriage for a Henry “McIlvain/McIlveen/ McIlvean” (as the name would be spelled in Scotland) in the “Scottish Old Parochial Registers Index”, which lists all registered christenings and marriages for every parish in Scotland.   In addition, the date of 1738 seems at  least  20 years  too early to be Henry’s birth year, and I suspect that  it may actually be that of his unknown father (or earlier ancestor), who may have been the one who went from Scotland to Ireland.  At this time, the matter is unresolved, although it is possible that a brother of Henry did accompany him to America about 1800.

Another version of this McKlveen history in Scotland and Ireland is found in a letter written about 1964 from John H. McKlveen of Greensburg, PA to “Mrs. Richard E. Childs” [Karen Childs & husband Dick, then living in San Diego, CA.  Dick Childs is descended from Samuel McKlveen, 1849-1925, who moved to Chariton, Iowa about 1868 to join two brothers.  A copy of this letter was given to me by Karen Childs.]  Some excerpts:  “Never having met you in person, I am writing you as a distant relative, and am happy to know that some of the descendants are taking an interest in the history of our forefathers.  I remember quite well Isabel Childs, having met her in Florida and she at one time visiting us in Greensburg, Pa….I will tell you the story that I received from an uncle of mine, a minister [Rev. William McKlveen] who was a brother of  Isabel’s Grandfather [Samuel McKlveen].   Back in Scotland a McKlveen boy had a love affair with a cousin of Queen Mary of Scotland.  Of course you will understand that the nobility did not sanction relations with the peasantry, of which our ancestors were numbered.  The nobility made it so hot for him that he married the girl and had to leave Scotland.  He went to Donegal County, Ireland to live.  A single brother went to Ireland and told him he had better get out of there as they now knew where they were and would be after them and make it hot for them.  He decided to go to America.  So he and his wife and unmarried brother immigrated to America, and landed at Philadelphia.  The question was where we go from here. The one said there was a small settlement back in Pennsylvania that had been settled by people from Donegal County, Ireland and that he was going to go back and find them.  That he did.  The other brother said he was going South and located in the Southern part of South Carolina.  I have visited them on two or three occasions and we trace the history back to confirm our relations…In the Southern history of our connections, Admiral Byrd who made a discovery trip to the South Pole was a descendant of the Southern McKlveens.  They spell their names McElveen.  Of our connection, three brothers of my father went West and located at Chariton, Iowa, of which, through Isabel, you know a lot.   The McKlveens are pretty well located all over the United States…my age (89) June 2nd is against my further activities…[signed] John H. McKlveen, 402 Chestnut St., Greensburg, Pa.  P.S. I am a son of Cramer J. McKlveen, his father was Henry…”

There are several doubtful things about this story, the major one being the wife of Henry connected to Scottish Royalty, and that being the reason for leaving Scotland, then Ireland.  Put that one in the “family legend” bin. The time-line alone is impossible. Also, the connection to Donegal Co., Ireland has not been proved, but perhaps that is where Henry & family lived before coming to America.  We know that there were many Scotch-Irish families living in Donegal Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA well before the McKlveens arrived.   Many of these families intermarried with children and grandchildren of  Henry, the Immigrant – Scott, Hunter, Campbell, Larimer, McLean/McClain, etc.  Perhaps the County Donegal, Ireland origin just seemed to fit the story, and is not really their home region inIreland.  Various spellings of the name do turn up in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, but this is also speculation at this date. Another problem with the story recounted in the letter is the port of arrival in America.  The naturalization papers of John “McElveen”, son of Henry, say “Native of Ireland.  Arrived at port of New Castle in1800, a minor of about 18 years; and has resided in Westmoreland County ever since, being a period of about 51 years…”  His sponsor was James Campbell.  John was admitted as a citizen19 Aug. 1851, only five years before his death in 1856.   The port of New Castle is  in Delaware.”

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