The Reverend George McNiel (c 1720 – 1805), Frontier Baptist Preacher – 52 Ancestors #21

Do you ever save old letters?  Thank goodness someone saved this one!

This letter is 116 years old and shares with us valuable information that we would otherwise have never known.  Some of the information in this letter has been substantiated with historical research.  For example, we know for sure that George McNeil (also spelled McNiel) was a Baptist preacher.  There are many records that confirm that.  But without this letter, we would not have been able to connect the William McNiel/McNeal who was a Revolutionary War soldier in Spotsylvania County, Virginia with my ancestor, William McNiel, son of Reverend George McNiel.

McNeal, William rev war

Unfortunately, it appears that William McNiel died just before the legislation passed in 1832 to provide pensions for Revolutionary War soldiers.  Had he and his wife not died before 1832, his pension application would have told us a great deal more.  To date, we have been unable to find the location of his original land in Hancock County (then Claiborne County), Tennessee.  He is assuredly buried there in a little family cemetery, and I’d love to place a Revolutionary War marker for him.  We live today in freedom because of the sacrifices of these early pioneers, our forefathers and foremothers.

The letter was written on May 28, 1898 in Maple Springs, Wilkes, North Carolina. It is recorded in the book, “George Michael Eller and Descendants of His in America,” by James W. Hook, 1957, New Haven, CN, pg. 400-404. [This book is on-line in’s Card Catalogue and in many libraries.] The following letter was written in 1898 by George W. McNiel Sr., son of Thomas McNiel and grandson of Rev. George McNiel. It helps to name and identify descendants of Rev. McNiel.

Maple Springs, Wilkes Co., N. C.

May 28, 1898.

‘Mr. W. H. Eller,’

Dear Cousin and Friend:

With respect to you I will answer your kind letter of June 25, 1896, hoping that you will excuse my neglect of not answering sooner. I will gladly give you all the information concerning the McNeils in Wilkes that I am able.

My grandfather, George McNeil, came from Scotland and his two brothers, John and Thomas, also came from Scotland. They left their native land, looking back with love as long as they could see a green leaf, on account of their religious freedom. George McNeil, my grandfather, came into the State of Virginia and married a Miss Coats, and as the country settled up, being a Baptist minister by profession, was called for to constitute Baptist churches and to attend as pastor of Baptist churches.

He came into Grayson County, Va., after which he came into Wilkes County, N. C., and constituted and attended churches here. He attended more or less churches down the Yadkin River. He was pastor of a church near the head of the Yadkin River. He lived in Wilkes County in about two and one-half miles of New Hope church on the north fork of Lewis’ Fork Creek.

He was afterwards registrar of deeds of Wilkes County (this was about the date of 1802). His son, William McNeil, volunteered in the war of Revolution, and his son, Joseph McNeil, said he would volunteer and go with William, but he was not old enough.

(Rev.) George McNeil and wife lived near the farm of Esq. Henry Lenderman, late deceased; from this union six sons and two daughters were raised, viz.

John, who married a Cleveland and who lived near Greenville, S. C., where Col. Benj. Cleveland, the hero of King’s Mountain, lived; my uncle.

William McNeil, moved to the State of Tennessee, Clayborn Co.

My uncle, James McNeil, settled in Ashe County, but moved to Redie’s River in Wilkes and married a Miss Shepherd – they raised six sons and three daughters.

Uncle Joseph McNeil lived on the homestead of his father and married a Miss Wilson and they raised three sons and three daughters. The Rev. James McNeil, his second son, was well known by his friends as a Baptist minister, living near Moravian Falls, N. C., at the time of his death, and was a faithful and respected preacher of great ability. The eldest son of Jos. McNeil, being named Larkin, married a Ferguson and raised three sons named respectively, Franklin, John and Milton; Franklin being a soldier of 1861. The Rev. Milton McNeil, and family are well known in the county of Wilkes.

My uncle, Benj. McNeil living on South Lewis Fork, three miles from old Lewis Fork Baptist Church, married a Miss Lips and raised seven sons and one daughter, all moving west but Enoch McNeil, who died near Moravian Falls in the year of 1865 or 1866.

My father, Thos. McNeil, married a Miss Parsons, being a daughter of Rev. James Parsons, of Surry County, living on New River, near the Old Fields in Ashe County, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He labored as a Baptist minister in Ashe and Wilkes Counties.

You stated that you wanted me to give information about any ministers living at that time. I will give the names of Rev. Thomas Proffit and Rev. Smith Ferguson, who won many friends.

My father, Thos. McNeil, and my mother raised three sons and three daughters. The oldest being named James and being near fifty years of age, who died near Salisbury in the service of the Southern States on Feb. 16, 1855. The second son, Jesse McNeil, died from typhoid fever at his father’s home on North Lewis Fork on the date of June 8, 1830, being near twenty years of age. I, the youngest. My father, Thos. McNeil, lived to the great age of eighty-three years. He died September 8, 1865, He had two sisters not yet mentioned in this article.

Their names were: Elizabeth and Polly respectively. Elizabeth married Robt. Bingham, of the State of Virginia, being a Revolutionary soldier and living once near Hall’s Store, Stony Hill. They raised three sons named respectively William, Joel and George; Esq. George Bingham, of Watauga County, raised five sons, one of whom, Maj. Harvey Bingham, well known by many friends, went to the Senate of North Carolina in 1876. Mr. Thos. Bingham, having many friends, represented Watauga County three times in Legislature of North Carolina. Esq. John Bingham and Dr. Philmore Bingham are known by many friends.

My aunt, Polly McNeil, married Mr. Henry Miller, a son of Uncle William Miller, who was a soldier of the Revolutionary war, and lived on the farm where Mr. F. D. Hall now lives on the south fork of Lewis Fork Creek. They raised two daughters, one married a Parks, the other a Lankford. Mr. Harry Miller lived on a farm in Caldwell County on the Yadkin River, moving from there to the State of Illinois; Uncle Henry Miller’s grandaughter wrote to me giving her name as Mrs. Clarisa Rebecca Parks.

My uncle, James McNeil, raised his family on Redie’s River, having six sons and three daughters, the oldest named Larkin; others were John, George, William, Oliver and Eli. Fanny, married Capt. Simeon Eller, Rebecca, married the Rev. John Vannoy, a Baptist minister well known in Wilkes and Ashe; the younger sister being Nancy and married Edward J. Dancy, who lived in the town of Wilkesboro about the date of 1840. I further state that I was acquainted with Esq. John McNeil, Jr. He lived in Overton County, Tenn. He visited North Carolina about the date of 1840. His grandfather was uncle James McNeil, Sr. His widowed mother was a Miss Vannoy. He has or had four brothers, viz; John, Jesse, Neil and James.

The Rev. John Vannoy, a Baptist minister who married Miss Rebecca McNeil, lived in Ashe County on Beaver Creek. He was pastor of the old Baptist church at Beaver Creek many years. They had many friends as far as they were known, and raised quite a large family of children, four sons and four daughters, viz.: Jesse, William, James and Wiley, Mary, Louisa, Tilda. Mr. James Eller, of Wilkes County, married Louisa and Henry Hardin married Miss Tilda. The latter named moved to Colorado. Mr. Jesse Vannoy was in the late war of the ’60’s and died there.

So I will not write any more. I have given the most important history according to my knowledge of the McNeils in Wilkes. With my best wishes I will now close.

Your friend and cousin,

G. W. McNeil, Sr.

This old letter provided the family with a great deal of information otherwise not available, and certainly not available some 116 years later.

What I wouldn’t give to have a letter like this for all of my lines.

The Reverend’s Children

In summary, the Reverend George McNiel (spelled variously other ways including McNeil and both ways with double ls) was born about 1720 and died on June 7, 1805 in Parsonsville, Wilkes County, NC, at home.  He is very likely buried on his own land.

The spelling of McNiel always generates discussion.  George’s version is spelled McNiel, although not all of his descendants spelled it that way.  How and why is the stuff of family lore – the two brothers had a disagreement story – but I always check all spellings including McNeal and McKneal, neither of which he used personally but under both of which I’ve found records pertaining to this family.

George McNiel’s wife, Miss Coates, called variably Mary and Sarah, raised 9 children.  I’ve seen notes that she died in 1816, after George, but given that George’s 1790 census entry did not include a female of the correct age to be his wife, I suspect she died before 1790.  I’ve seen no actual evidence of an 1816 death.

The children of Rev. George McNiel and Miss Coates were:

  • Mary Hillary McNiel born 1757 – no further information and it is unknown if Hillary is accurate or not. If so, it could be a family surname.
  • John McNiel born 1759 married Fanny Cleveland
  • William McNiel born 1760/1761 died circa 1832 in Claiborne Co., TN, married Elizabeth Shepherd (my line)
  • James McNiel born circa 1763 died August 1834, married Mary “Polly” Shepherd
  • Benjamin McNiel born 1765 married Elizabeth Lips
  • Joseph McNiel born 1767 died circa 1855 married Hannah Wilson and Elizabeth Powell
  • Elizabeth McNiel born 1769 married Robert Bingham
  • Mary “Polly” McNiel born 1771 married Henry Miller

Additional information about George McNiel’s life has become available through other sources.

Revolutionary War Service at the Battle of King’s Mountain

As it turns out, the Reverend George McNiel had some part in the Revolutionary War himself.

In the North Carolina General Assembly, it is recorded that a bill to pay Elder George McNiel a pension for his Revolutionary War service was introduced.  It bounced around between committees, but no one questioned his service. However, the pension was denied on the basis that he had not officially enlisted in a militia unit and he had already been compensated for his horse.

It’s very likely that this is a result of the Battle of King’s Mountain.  Many descendant families carry the oral history that Elder George was at that battle on October 7, 1780, even though he was nearly 60 years of age.  The McNiel family was closely tied to the Cleveland family, and Benjamin Cleveland commanded the Wilkes militia in that battle.  George McNiel’s son, John was married to Benjamin Cleveland’s niece.

George McNiel is listed in the book, “The Patriots at Kings Mountain” by Bobby Gilmer Moss, as having been one of the soldiers at King’s Mountain, although no additional information is provided.

The Family Stories

What do we really know about the Reverend George McNiel?

We know that George was supposed to be from Glasgow, Scotland, born about 1720, but we have not one shred of evidence to prove that.  He and his brothers were supposedly educated at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry but again, no evidence.  I did check the University of Edinburgh web page and it said that, “Our records of students date back to the very first class which graduated in 1587. However they do not cover every student who ever attended the University. Because formal matriculation and graduation did not become mandatory until the nineteenth century, many do not appear in the records.”  I checked the records, which do not seem to be complete, and there was no McNiel or McNeal during this timeframe, but only the medical school was listed, so we still haven’t proven anything about George.

He reportedly immigrated about 1750 and landed in Maryland.  Reasonable, but again, no proof.  Other stories tell us he landed on the Cape Fear River.  Also possible.

He was Baptist minister.  Of that, we are positive, but we don’t know when he became Baptist.  However, there is a family story that covers that too.

The story says that for three months George and his brothers, unnamed, sailed the Atlantic and on the way to America, George and his brothers discussed religion, disagreed, and George seeing the light became a Baptist.  To show his disapproval, one brother changed the spelling of his name to McNeill.

The family story continues and part of it conflicts with the Baptist conversion on the boat above:

They came to N. C. and settled in Moore Co. between 1745-1750.  After arrival, George married Mary Coats.  They had 6 sons and 3 daughters.  He came as a Presbyterian preacher, but believing that he could reach the people better through the Baptist Church, switched and joined the church about the time of the Regulators Movement in 1771.  He joined the Regulators and after the Battle of Alamance fled for safety into Va. where he lived for a long time in Grayson Co.

I don’t believe that Moore County records have ever been checked, and they should be.  His signature does not appear on the Regulator Petition.  We do know that he was in Spotsylvania County, VA records in 1757, which seems to conflict with the dates above.  Although, the above information was provided by a grandson, so one would think he would be at least relatively familiar with his grandfather’s life.

Reverend George McNiel established churches, served as moderator of associations and served as the Wilkes Co. Register of Deeds 1787 to June 1805.

That we know is true.

He was a Chaplain in the Regiment of Col. Benjamin Cleveland during its famous campaign at Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War.

This too appears to be true, according to the NC State Records, although I’d love to see the actual memorial document being referenced.  (N.C. State Records, Vol. p10, 14, 18, 58, 241, 287-288 296).

Several descendants have written articles, or in one case, a small book, about the Reverend George McNiel and his descendants, this one being from a 1934 reunion.

During the past several years I have accumulated a lot of information on the McNiel family, including the reports by various branches of the family filed at the McNiel reunion held at Millers Creek in Wilkes Co., September 2, 1934.

The McNiels and their relatives in Wilkes, Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Surry and Tennessee, South Carolina, Iowa and Texas are descended from Rev. George McNiel who was born in Scotland.  He is said to have married Mary Coates in Virginia.  We are able to know that he was living at Deep Ford Hill of Reddies River as early as March 1778 for in that month he filed an entry no 35 for 120 acres of land, including his improvements (buildings), adjoining the lands of Roland Judd and Robert Shepherd, see entry 35, deed book B-1, page 188.  This affords good proof why George’s sons, James and William, married Mary and Elizabeth Shepherd, daughters of Robert.  There are sixteen references to him in the “Land of Wilkes” besides the one on page 444 referring to his land entry and his improvement at Deep Ford Hill of Reddies River.

For convenience I shall spell the name McNiel although it often appears McNeal, McKneal or McNeill (or NcNeil).

In addition to his extensive activities as an early Baptist preacher, establishing churches, serving as Elder (pastor) and his attendance at the associations over which he often served as moderator, he served Wilkes Co., as Register of Deeds from 1787 to June 1805, having died June 7, 1805.

The exact time is not known but he moved from Deep Ford Hill to the north prong of Lewis Creek at what became the Parsonsville Post Office where he died and was buried.  Rev. W.H. Eller of Greensboro caused a monument to be erected at his grave on June 7, 1905, the 100th anniversary of his death, a pamphlet of which was published and a historical sketch is copied in Hook’s Book on George Michael Eller, pages 397-400.  This book is in the Wilkes Public Library and in the libraries of the Wilkes High Schools.

On the map below, which shows the 1786 Wilkes County militia districts, you can see that both Reddies River and Lewis Fork are between the numbers 6 and 10, just below the Blue Ridge Mountain divide.  Today, that divide defined the path of  the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Wilkes 1786 militia districts

Another record tell us that the Reverend George McNiel was a charter member of the Brier Creek Baptist Church in 1783.  Of course, he formed the Deep Ford Church.  In 1790, he was moderator of the meeting of delegates  who formed the Yadkin Valley Association of Baptist Churches.  It was this group who funded the Reverend George to “travel on” in the name of the association, which he apparently did.  Other churches in the region listing the Reverend George McNiel in their formation or as a member include Beaver Creek, Head of Yadkin, Three Forks (3 miles east of Boone, served as pastor,) Roaring River and Lewis Fork where he was a pastor.  Many McNiels are buried at Lewis Fork on highway 421 between Wilkesboro and Boone, NC.

Where Is George?

We first find George McNiel in the records of Spotsylvania County, VA, an unlikely location if he arrived via the Cape Fear River in NC.  There are also other McNiel men there at that time, possibly the brothers of the “3 brothers” story.  To add to the long debated topic of whether the George McNiel (McNeil) of Spotsylvania County is the brother of Thomas McNiel of that same county, I offer the following information from the book Apprentices of Virginia, 1723-1800.

James Cartwright, a white male, son of Thomas Cartwright decd, was to be apprenticed to Thomas McNial on October 1, 1754 to learn the occupation of a tailor.  This is from the county court order books, 1749-1755, pages 62 and 497.

Robert Mitchell, a white male, was apprenticed to Thomas McNeil on Sept 7, 1761 to learn the occupation of tailor.  Spotsylvania Co. will book B, 1749, 1859, page 540.

James Pey, a white male, to be apprenticed to George McNeil on March 1, 1757 to learn the occupation of tailor.  From Spotsylvania will book B 1749-1759, page 307.

I do find that both George and Thomas were tailors (or had tailors on their plantations) is an indicator that these men might have both been tailors themselves, or that they were related in some way.

In 1786, George McNiel witnessed a deed for John Shepherd in Spotsylvania Co., Va.  Keep in mind that George’s son, William, married Elizabeth Shepherd, daughter of Robert Shephard in 1781/1782.  These records put George in Spotsylvania County for 20 years and perhaps more.  The Shepherd family was from Spotsylvania County, as well.

The book “The McNeil Family” written by Mrs. Dorothy McNeil Moore (looks like about a 1950s booklet) of which the original is in the Wilkes Co. NC library, states that Rev. McNiel came to NC about 1750, later moving to Grayson Co., VA and then back to NC.  We know that he was living at Deep Ford Hill of the Reddies River as early as 1778, for in that month he filed entry no 35 for 120 acres of land, including his improvements adjoining the lands of Roland Judd and Robert Shepherd.

However, the 1786 deed in Spotsylvania County and the 1778 land application seem to conflict with each other, unless he was going back and forth, which is possible.

George McNiel, the Preacher

From the book, History of Western North Carolina, chapter entitled Pioneer Preachers:

First Church in the Mountains – According to Col. W. L. Bryan of Boone, the first church established west of the Blue Ridge and east of the Smokies was at what is still called “Three Forks of New River in what is now Watauga county, a beautiful spot.” It was organized November 6, 1790. The following is from its records:

“A book containing (as may be seen) in the covenant and conduct of the Baptist church of Jesus Christ in Wilkes county,… New River, Three Forks settlement.”

“This is the mother of all the Baptist churches throughout this great mountain region. From this mother church using the language of these old pioneers, they established arms of the mother church; one at what is now known as the Globe in Caldwell county, another to the westward, known as Ebinezer, one to the northeast named South Fork . . . and at various other points. Yet, it should be remembered that the attendance upon the worship of the mother church extended for many, many miles, reaching into Tennessee.” After these “arms” had been established “there was organized Three Forks Baptist association, which bears the name to this day, and is the oldest and most venerated religious organization known throughout the mountains. Among the first pastors of the mother church were Rev. Mr. Barlow of Yadkin, George McNeill of Wilkes, John G. Bryan who died in Georgia at the age of 98, Nathaniel Vannoy of Wilkes…”

Reverend McNiel was very active in the formation of the Yadkin Valley church association.

Minutes of the Mountain Asson. Began & held the 4th Saturday in August 1800 at Fox Creek in Grayson County, Virginia.

Names of Churches No. Delegate Names Readyes River 1 Thos. Johnson, Jas. Querry, Natt. Judd Three Forks of New River 2 Jos. Chambers, Jas. McCaleb & Shadrack Brown Beaver Creek 3 Wm. Landsdown Hd. Of the Yadkin 4 Solomon Smith, Jonathan Boon Lewises Fork 5 George McNeil, Natt. Vannoy…

He was then given the assignment of visiting another church and helping them with making decisions.

Yadkin Baptist Association. — This association constituted the Three forks association in 1790. From it many other churches had been organized east of the Blue Ridge.

{1} – William’s History of the North Carolina Baptists. In 1779 King’s Creek Church, in Caldwell, and Beaver Creek, in Wilkes, were organized. A few years later Brier Creek, in Wilkes, was constituted. It had many “arms,”{2} and from it grew Lewis Fork, in Wilkes, and Old Fields Church, in Ashe County. Three Forks was constituted by the Yadkin Baptist Association. It became an association itself in 1840. {3} – According to Rev. Henry Sheet’s History, “arms” were church communities which had not been regularly organized into constituted churches.

In 1790 Three Forks Church, the first in Watauga, was constituted. Part of the original members of this church came from the Jersey Settlement Church. Cove Creek was the second church in Watauga, being organized in 1799. At first these churches had only log houses in which to worship. The floors were rude, and large cracks were in the walls, so that they were often uncomfortable in winter. But the praises of God rang out from the lips and hearts of these old Baptist fathers. These churches first joined the Strawberry Association in Virginia, but in 1790 withdrew to organize the Yadkin Association. The first ministers of this body were George McNeil, John Cleveland, William Petty, William Hammond, Cleveland Coffee, Andrew Baker and John Stone . . . Later on, the Mountain, Catawba and Brier Creek Associations were formed, and so the Yadkin Baptists continued steadily to grow.

Note that the McNiel line and the Vannoy line were closely connected and intermarried often.  The Vannoy family came from the Jersey Settlement in Rowan County.

The Reverend George McNiel’s name was found in association with several churches.  He appeared to have “traveled on” in the name of the association, judging from their minutes, and helped to establish many churches, including the Brier Creek Baptist Church in 1783, Beaver Creek, Head of Yadkin, Three Forks (3 miles east of Boone, as pastor,) and Roaring River.  Lewis Fork Baptist Church, very near where he lived, was established in 1792 and he was the first pastor. Many McNiel’s are buried there today in the cemetery shown below.

Lewis fork

This current photo is from Find-A-Grave where you can view the burials.

The 100th Anniversary – 1905

Other tidbits of information came to us in other ways.  One hundred years after his death, his descendants honored him with a speech and a monument among other things.

Captain SIMEON ELLER married Frances McNeill, daughter of James McNeill, the third son of Rev. George McNeill. This Rev. George McNeill was a man of great power and influence. He came to North Carolina and settled in Moore County about the time of the French and Indian War. About 1771 he joined the Baptist Church, and, his denominational brethren having suffered much at the hands of the royalists, with them he went into the famous Regulator Movement, which met its overthrow as an organization at the Battle of Alamance. Fleeing for safety from Governor Tryon’s revenge, he lived for a short time in Western Virginia, finally, however, returning to North Carolina, where he settled in the Yadkin Valley above Wilkesboro, near New Hope Church. He was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1776 and became the great pioneer Baptist preacher of northwestern North Carolina, organizing the Yadkin Association in 1786, which is the parent of associations now claiming a membership of 35,000. On June 7, 1805, after a long and useful life and a most remarkable and successful career in the ministry, he passed away. Upon the centennial of this event in 1905 his large number of descendants and the Baptists hosts of northwestern North Carolina erected a monument to his memory, Rev. W.H. ELLER, of Greensboro, a great-grandson, delivering the address.

A memorial booklet of 17 pages, with paper cover, was printed in 1905 by the committee authorized in the above resolution, to record the address of Mr. Eller and other papers concerning the life and times of Rev. McNiel. this booklet was distributed to the various Baptist Associations in North Carolina, to certain libraries and Historical Associations, to descendants of Rev. McNiel and to friends of the family.

Mr. Eller spoke as follows;

In accordance with the resolution of the Brushy Mountain Association providing therefor the committee of Arrangements has made it my privilege to address you at this place where the repose of the mortal remains of our ancestor. He entered into his rest one hundred years ago today, an old man and full of years, and his sons buried him in this mountain field across the stream from which he had his home when the country was new and where he had for some years passed his days, when not upon his itinerant gospel missions. This piece of ground was his also and dedicated to become and remain the resting place of the dead until by the will of God the trumpet shall sound and the dead in Christ shall arise.”

The oldest piece of manuscript in which we find any written account of the subject of this Memorial is without date. It is signed by his son Joseph McNeil, and was found among papers left by Rev. James Vannoy (who was born June 27, 1792, and died February 19, 1857), It was probably written for Benedict’s History of the Baptists. Joseph McNeil, as memory has marked him, was born in the year 1767 and lived to 185-. We remember him as a man of advanced age and decrepitude in 1852. His statement with reference to his father reads as follows:

The Rev. Mr. George McNeil was bornd on or about the year 1720 and was ordained some time before the year 1776, but the exact time I cannot tel, and he was frequently a corresponding messenger to different associations, frequently appointed a help to churches whose difficulties arose in them, and was called to ordain preachers, and constitute churches, and was Moderator of the Yadkin Association for a number of years, and he and the Rev. Mr. John Cleveland went in the Revolutionary War with the army as they went from Kings Mountain and preached to them until they got up into Burke County. Him and the Rev’d Mr. A. Baker yoused to preach a great deal together. He departed this life June the 7th, 1805. This is correct an account as I am able to give.

(signed)                              Joseph McNiel

George’s Voice

Do we have anything that the Reverend George McNiel said, himself, something in his own words.  Indeed, I think we do, in the form of information taken from the book, George Michael Eller and Descendants of His in America compiled by James W. Hook.

Being assembled together in the fear of the Lord we thought it expedient to write unto you certifying that we have received a very agreeable account from the different quarters of our District Association especially when the brethren came to testify by their gifts that you walked in the truth, they being faithful. both to brethren and strangers. Seeing that the Lord hath afforded you the gracious visitations of his divine favors by sending forth his servants, crying at the door, thereby figuring out the glorious dispensation under which you live.

Brethren remember the wonderful displays of divine power amongst you and rejoice when you hear the voice of the turtle sounding in our land. Gird on the whole armor of God. March in order at the sound of the trumpet, be continually on the watch guard and see that you fall not by the way, believing always that He that is your Advance Guard has promised that he will lead captive your enemies and put them under an eternal arrest. Therefore beloved march forward in the powerful influence of his Holy Spirit, strive to love and serve Him in this world and finally to enjoy Him in the world to come, and as we have been favored with much harmony in our deliberations we trust that the Lord hath enabled us to act for the welfare of Zion. Whilst we bid you farewell in the Lord, be ye faithful. Be ye of one mind and the God of love and grace be with you all-Amen

‘signed by order of the Association’                     George McNiel, Moderator

I sort of feel like I just heard a mini-sermon from George.  Amen!

What About George’s Brothers?

Thomas McNeil was living in Caswell Co., taken from Orange in 1777, when he made his will dated April 20, 1781 in which he named his children.  He named three sons, Thomas, John and Benjamin.  No relationship has been established between that Thomas and the McNeil’s of other counties.

Thomas McNeil’s will:

In the name of God Amen I Thomas McNeil of Caswell Co NC being weak of body but sound of mind and memory do  April 20th 1781make this my last will and testament in the manner following.  I give unto my living wife Ann the use of all my personal estate during her life or widowhood.  I give unto my son Thomas a tract of land lying on Sanderses Creek containing 200 acres which land I bought of my son John and my desire is that my said son John do make a right of said land to my son Thomas.  I give unto my son Benjamin 150 acres joining the lines of Andrew Caddell and my son John Land to him and his heirs forever.  I give to my daughter Mary 100 acres of land lying on Henley’s Creek joining Wilson Vermillions line to her and her heirs forever.  At the death of my loving wife that my sons Thomas and Benjamin have each of them a horse and saddle and a bed which horses to be of the value of 10 pounds in specie also the plantation working tools I desire may be equally devided between them.  I further give unto my daughter Mary one feather bed and furniture and two  cows and calves after the death of my loving wife.  All of my negroes and their increase after the death or marriage of my loving wife be by three honest men equally divided amongst my 8 children, or the survivors of them, to wit John, Thomas, Benjamin, Elizabeth Roberts, Nancy Vermilion, Mary, Patsey Hubbert and Lois to them and their heirs forever.  Lastly I nominate and appoint my wife Ann , my son John and my son-in-law Wilson Vermillion and George Lea (son of William) executors of this my last will and testament revoking all other wills by me made in witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal…signed.  Witnessed George Lea, Lucy Lea, John Clixby.  Proved Dec court 1781.

It has long been rumored that Thomas is the brother of George.  DNA testing would certainly shed light on that question.  He had sons John, Thomas and Benjamin, so it’s certainly possible that Thomas McNeil has male descendants that carry his surname, meaning they also carry his Y chromosome, today.

I’d also love to DNA test any of the Spotsylvania County McNiel lines.  I’d also love to find baptism or other records in the old country, but I really have no idea how to go about that search, beyond what I’ve already done.  Seems like a needle in a very large haystack.

A Visit to Wilkes County

When I visited Wilkes Co. in 2003 and 2004, I spent time with historian George McNeil whose wife, Joyce, also my cousin in the Vannoy side, had recently passed away.  This was a very sad time for George, but he was kind and gracious and took me to see the grave of the Reverend George McNiel as well as where George McNiel had lived, shown below.  I believe this photo is of Deep Ford Hill where George originally live.  Unfortunately, I only labeled it as “George McNiel’s land” after my Wilkes County visit several years ago.

McNiel land

Originally, George was the minister at the Deep Ford Meeting house, and there used to be a cemetery there.  George McNiel, currently living, tells me that the owners sometime in the 1900s bulldozed all of the markers into the ditch/creek and farm the land now.

Another cousin, Jack Peterson, told me in 2003 that Reverend George McNiel’s home that he owned when he died, and where he is buried, on the north fork of Lewis Fork Creek is still visible “from Parsonsville Road when the leaves aren’t out.” He says it’s known as the old Walsh House, which still stands in front of the remains of George’s home. Lewis Fork is about 15-20 miles from Wilkesboro, the county seat, where George was the registrar of deeds from 1787-1805.  Maybe he stayed in town for part of the time.

The Reverend George McNiel’s grave is located in a location where someone who didn’t know the area would stand no chance of finding it.  It’s behind a mobile home, up lane, across a field, and not visible from the road.

geo mcniel cem

The stone was placed in 1905 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of this legendary man.  His descendants certainly didn’t forget him.  Unfortunately, his wife’s grave, which most likely lies beside his, is entirely unmarked and she is only remembered in passing as “Miss Coates.”  I find that very unfortunate and very sad, especially since it would have been George’s wife that kept the home fires burning and everything running well while George was traveling the country visiting and founding churches.

Geo McNiel stone

Geo McNiel stone 2

The names of the committee members are inscribed on the third side of the monument.

Geo McNiel stone 3

It’s actually a quiet and beautiful location.

Geo Mcniel stone 5

This is known as the Elder George McNiel site and is available on Find-A-Grave here.

Cousin George McNiel told me that the old chimney standing across the road (at that time) was what was left of George’s daughter’s home.

geo mcniel dau house

George also gave me a copy of the book, Genealogy of the McNiel Clan by Johnson J. Hayes 1846-1929, Wilkesboro, NC.  From which much information has been taken, including annotations made by George and his wife over the years.

DNA and the McNiels

Between the years of 1755 and 1770 one or more McNiel families emigrated to NC and settled on the Cape Fear River.  Others came and settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Va.  Are these families related?

Cousin George McNeil, in 2005, provided a DNA sample to represent the Wilkes County McNiel family in the McNeil family DNA project.  The results indicated that this McNiel clan is from Ireland, not Scotland, originally.  This cross immigration is not unusual.

We need a DNA candidate from the Thomas McNeil of Caswell Co., NC.

McNiel Clan History

The history of the McNiel clan is set forth in the book, The Clann Macneil by the Macneil of Barra, chief of the clan, published in 1923 by the Caledonian publishing company.  It tells a fanciful story of how one Niall of Scythia was invited into Egypt by Pharoh Cingeris and of the great work he accomplished in regulating the flow of the Nile River, which was named for him.  He married Princess Ecota, the Phariah’s daughter who rescued Moses from the bullrushes and by her had a son, Gaedhal, or Gael, after whom the race was named.

According to the book,

The McNiel family itself descends from one of the Noblest clans of Scotland, which traces its ancestry without interruption through a long dynasty of Irish kinds to Niall of the Nine Hostages who ascended the Throne of Ireland in the year 379 AD.  Before that, according to Irish chroniclers, the line runs back to Niall of Scythia dn beyond him to Fenius the Antiquarian, son of Boath, son of Magog, son of Japhet, son of Noah.

The first Macneil of Barra settled on the island of that name off the west coast of Scotland about 1050 AD.  From him is descended the Highland Scottish Clan Macneil.  The Clann Macneil Association was formed to perpetuate interest in the family and all members of which claim descent from Scottish progenitors of common ancestry.

Cousin George McNiel of Wilkes County was convinced that our McNiel family was from the McNeil of Barra line, and so was everyone else.  That’s what our family had been told.  In fact, in George’s home, a beautiful water-color of Kisimul Castle on the Isle of Barra is framed and hangs, matted in McNeil tartan colors.

Kisimul castle

The DNA Story

That, however surprisingly, is not what the DNA tells us.  It tells a different story.

Cousin George tested his Y DNA at Family Tree DNA.  Needless to say, when we saw the “Niall of the Nine Hostages” badge, we were thrilled.9 hostages

However, that turned to shock when we realized that while we were confirmed to be descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, we don’t match the Barra McNeil families, and they don’t descend from Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Furthermore, there are two Barra McNiel lines and we don’t match either of them.

We do match several McNiels and a few O’Niels from Ireland, of whom a few have tested positive for M222, previously known as R1b1a2a1a1b4b, a subclade of haplogroup R1b1a2 (M269).

However, much to our surprise, according to the subgrouping on the MacNeil project at family tree DNA, the two Barra groups test at SNPs L176 and L165, both of which are Norse.

barra groups

Cousin George does have several STR 67 marker matches, two of which are from Ireland but who don’t know where in Ireland.

The M222 Northwest Irish group in the McNiel project is quite sizeable, although at 67 markers, cousin George only matches 4 other McNiel (by any spelling) men.

niall group

Several participants haven’t tested at 67 markers, so cousin George has a lot more matches at lower levels.

So, what does this tell us?

Well, the McNeils of Barra aren’t descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and our line is.  Maybe cousin George should take his picture of Kisimul castle down and install a picture of Tara, legendary seat of Niall of the Nine Hostages instead.

Who Is Niall of the Nine Hostages?

For many years, doubt existed that Niall of the Nine Hostages, known as Niall Noigiallach, existed as an actual person outside of mythology.  However, DNA findings first published in 2005 out of Trinity College in Dublin confirm genetically that indeed, a very powerful and prolific male did live about 1700 years ago, and from that male one out of every five males, 21.5%, living in Northern Ireland today have inherited his Y chromosome.   Researchers and historians indicate that there could be as many as 3 million descendants of Niall alive today.  If you live in Ireland, it’s almost inconceivable that you’re not descended from Niall, if not directly through the patrilineal line, then via marriage someplace in the approximately 64 generations between Niall and those of us alive today.

The following is reported by Geoffrey Keating in 1636:

After the Scots from Ireland, together with their king Niall Naoighíallach, had plundered many territories in opposition to the Roman sovereignty, they severely pillaged Britain—the northern portion of it at first; and when they had banished the old tribes from it, they themselves dwelt in it.

Histories vary, but the older and less well known version states that Niall’s hostages were taken from each of the nine subjugated tribal dynasties of the Ulster kingdom of Airghialla, among the first of Niall’s conquests.  Later scribes record that he took one hostage each from Ireland’s 5 provinces, Munster, Ulster, Leinster, Connacht and Mide, as well as from the Scots, Saxons, British and French.  Today, the Aghade Stone is endowed with folklore that associates it with one of Niall’s hostages.

An ancient bard composed the following lyrics about Niall and his hostages:

Son of the noble Eochaidh of honour
Was Niall, modest in each high distinction;
He held the sovereignty of successions
In Erin and in Alba.
He got a hostage from each province
In Erin through high valour;
He brought under his sway, without blemish,
Four hostages from Alba.
Hence he was called
In the mansions of the great,
Through the gold of the prosperous kings,
Niall of the nine hostages, the heroic.

Four accounts survive of Niall’s death, all of them in texts dating after the 11th century. In each Niall is pursued by Eochaid, son of the archrival Leinster king Énna Cennselach. Eochaid’s enmity begins when he is refused food by Laidcenn, Niall’s poet, for which he burns Laidcenn’s house and kills his son. In revenge, Laidcenn satirizes Leinster, depriving it of all foliage for a year, and Niall invades it. Eventually Eochaid is turned over to Niall by the Leinstermen, but kills Laidcenn with a stone, causing Niall to banish him for the rest of the ruler’s life.

Later, while Niall is abroad, Eochaid kills him either (1) in Scotland, while Niall is being entertained by Pictish bards; (2) in the Alps (which may be a confusion with Alba [Scotland]); (3) in the English Channel; or (4) by the River Loire in France.

In all versions his body is returned to be buried at Ochann/ Ocha [folk-etymologized into och cáini, sighing and weeping], now known as Faughan Hill, Southwest of Kells and 3 miles South of the assembly at Tailtiu.

Niall’s place in Irish history was assured by the Uí Néill dynasty, founded by eight of his (perhaps) fifteen sons. Four sons established the northern branch, displacing the Ulaid of Ulster, with small, powerful kingdoms in Tír Chonaill [Donegal] and Tír Eógain [Tyrone], and four other sons along with Diarmait mac Cerbaill established the southern branch in the midlands, adjacent to Tara, over the modern counties of Meath, Westmeath, and Longford. They kept the kingship at Tara between them, deeply influencing the writing of history as well as the development of Christian institutions.

niall pedigree

Interestingly enough, the ancient bard’s verbiage further tells us that Niall was blonde, primrosevery blonde; “as yellow as the primrose was the hair upon the head of Cairenn’s son.”  Furthermore, the next line tells us that his mother had black curly hair, inferring that it’s likely that Niall inherited his blonde hair from his father’s side.

Tara today is an archaeological site which includes the Hill of Tara, aerial view below, passage mounds, one named Mound of the Hostages in honor of Niall, and the reputed Lai Fail, coronation stone, named the “Stone of Destiny”, immediately below, although some dispute that this is the original stone.

stone of destiny

Most of Tara is unexcavated today, although it is known to have been in use as early as 3500BC and is known as the seat of the “High King of Ireland.”  Most of its known 300 features are below ground.  Recently a huge temple, over 170 feet in diameter, has been discovered.

tara hill

Amazing isn’t it where your DNA and genealogy will take you….Wilkes County, NC to Tara in Ireland nearly 2000 years ago.  Go figure.  Wouldn’t Reverend George have been surprised!



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59 thoughts on “The Reverend George McNiel (c 1720 – 1805), Frontier Baptist Preacher – 52 Ancestors #21

  1. Roberta, I surely do wish my McNeil ancestors had left a letter like yours did! We are pretty sure they came into North Carolina but have no idea which county they settled in. All we know is that Daniel McNeil was born in 1791, according to 2 different censuses in NC or GA, and we have no clue about his parents. He eventually migrated, seemingly with no other McNeil family members, to Amite Co., then in Mississippi Territory.

    Two cousins have tested with Family Tree DNA, but we’d need to test one more male cousin to sort out which of the 2 we have is our line. Hopefully his wouldn’t provide a third alternative! One cousin shows up with one of the Irish groups, and the other cousin, who originally was told he was probably not a McNeil at all, now is included with a group probably from Sandray, the now-uninhabited island south of Vatersay (the island directly south of Barra, now linked by a causeway). I was very much surprised by this, as I had always thought that most McNeils coming into North Carolina were probably from the Inner Hebrides or the Kintyre peninsula, though your Irish McNeils prove otherwise.
    I have also done the Family Finder test, but so far I have found no McNeil matches.

    Anyway, a letter telling who Daniel’s parents and grandparents were, where they came from in Scotland, and where Daniel was born would surely help me with this brick wall I’ve been butting my head against since 1980!

    Kathryn Schultz

    • P.S. I forgot to mention that we have a print of that same watercolor of Kisimul Castle, painted by a fellow Clan Macneil member who was also at the 1987 Clan Gathering on Barra. The current chief’s wife is Chinese, so the next chief will be half Chinese, adding a new twist to the Macneil chiefly line’s DNA. Interesting to find out that they don’t descend from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Probably a greater shock to them than it is to me!

      Kathryn Schultz

  2. My great grandfather’s Civil War Letters got me to serious research on the War plus I sent them to Andersonville where he was a prisoner, we all came out winners because of them.


  3. Hi Roberta,

    I have read the letter by G. W. McNeill, Sr. several times. I have often wondered if this isn’t my Dad’s paternal line. The “Miss Coates” mentioned has always caught my attention because the Coates line is a known surname in our family tree. You know the status of my Dad’s Y-DNA right now on FTDNA.

    I’ve been comparing several “matches” and noted several names from Cape Fear, including many McNeill’s. My research with a McKusick family member has led us to the possibility that early Neill’s/McNeill’s emigrated to Nova Scotia, and later McNeill’s were directed to Cape Fear. I do have one match on FTDNA of a Burney (F) from Nova Scotia, Canada. Interestingly, she was married to a McNeill!

    We know that my Dad’s great-grandfather, James Milton/Melton Neal, attended the Mill Springs Baptist Church in Nolachucky, TN in 1836. On that list are several members with the notation “of Collen” beside their names. Sounds like a reference to Ireland or Scotland?

    I appreciate the thoroughness of this blog and will study it carefully for clues.

    All the best,

  4. Thanks for the history of Niall of the Nine Hostages. I was informed by a Murphy/Murphey researcher that it had been “proven” that the descendants of Alexander Murphy/Murphey d 1757 in York County PA were from Niall, whereas the researcher’s Murphy line was not. This Alexander Murphy is my fifth great-grandfather. Verification for us has come through numerous FF matches.

  5. Another very interesting and informative post Roberta, thanks. On a sideline I couldn’t help notice your reference to your ancestor Miss Coats. That is my maiden name and we have a family finder match to someone who has an Estes in their line, Susannah from Hanover County 1702-1754 (parents Abraham and Barbara). Couldn’t help wondering if there was any possibility if she was in your line too? Is your lineage published anywhere?

      • I cans across your article today. I’m not sure how to leave a comment but wanted to say thank you! This information is invaluable. George McNeil is my 6th Great Grandfather. I can’t wait to show my dad this information.

    • There is supposed to be a Coats (possibly Coach) connection to either Virginia Alfords or Hollingsworths (his wife’s maiden name), but we haven’t been able to find the connection yet.

  6. Good morning Roberta
    What a wonderful study, very scholarly. Best history on Niall that I have read. Thank you.
    The DNA study on Niall was helpful in determining one of my FF cousins NPE ancestral situation and their probable true surname.
    My Slaughter great grandmother was a Webb/Blackwell but not in the NPE line. Our common ancestors are a 4th great grandparent set.
    Several direct male descendants of this NPE ancestor who YDNA tested matched other known Webb men from our proven Webb ancestor. The cousin from the NPE line and I both match each other on FF and we also match multiple Webb descendants in FF (5-6) and others in AncestryDNA (7-8 male and female) from various lines originating from the same ancestors.

  7. Thanks, Roberta. Great post. Can you share the source for the 1786 military (tax) districts of Wilkes and whether there are tax records for that year, too? I can clearly pinpoint the location of my Linvilles and Vanderpools in 12. They were early members of Cove Creek church when it was created. But interestingly enough, one of their land records cites “Linville meeting house” though there is no indication that I have found indicating it was one a early church in Wataugh. Thanks!
    Alice Eichholz

    • Hi Alice. Well that tax map came out of my “years old” file. I copied it form something in the library in Wilkes County, years ago. Unfortunately, either there wasn’t a source there, or I failed to copy it. Chalk it up to “young and stupid.” The bottom line is that I would contact the historical society in Wilkes County and ask their assistance. I apologize for not knowing.

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  10. Roberta – I am descended from Rev. George McNiel through his son James, so I am delighted that I stumbled across this blog post! I have had my DNA (autosomal) tested on FamilyTree, 23andMe, and I have a public tree on called “Snyder-McNeil Family Tree.”

    I have a blog,, where I’m mostly posting old family photos from Wilkes County. I added a post today with a link to this blog post.

    I hope you’ll be in touch so we can compare notes.

    Barbara McGeachy, Raleigh, NC

  11. Hello distant family member. I enjoyed this blog very much. My family comes from George’s son Benjamin. I have quite an extensive tree that I think I have going back to George’s great grandfather MacMillan. I am not sure if you will be able to view my tree but maybe you can view my profile and then get to my tree. I would love to see what you have come upon past George as well.

    • Hello cousin. I’m also descended from Elder George. I’m curious what source of information gave you the confidence to add Thomas as George’s father? I haven’t found anything yet in my research, so would appreciate your insights. Thank you.

      • I don’t show Thomas as the Reverend George McNiel’s father. There are so many people with the same names. You might want to take another look at the article:) I have not found anything yet either.

  12. Roberta, George McNiel was my 5th great grandfather, also. I descend from him through his son Joseph McNeil/Hannah Wilson, Larkin McNeil/Elender “Nellie” Ferguson, Milton McNeil/Martha Barlow, America McNeil/Thomas Harvey West, William Charles West, Sr./Ada Beatrice McQueen, and my parents, William Charles West, Jr./Ruth Stella Hughes. My sister and I have tested through FTDNA’s Family Finder and have several matches with our MRCAs being George McNiel and Mary Coats. I used Rev. George McNiel as my Revolutionary War Patriot for my acceptance into the DAR. Thank you for your very thoroughh article about him. I write a blog, The Wests of Wilkes, in which I posted a post, “Reverend George McNiel, a Founding Father,” on August 30, 2012. Your article is much more detailed than mine. Thank, again. Charlotte West Dade

  13. Roberta, you and are I are related as I also descend through William McNiel and Elizabeth Shepherd. This is my grandmother’s mother’s lineage. I’ve been curious about her lineage as there isn’t much documented. Thanks.

  14. WOW! Thanks so much for the wonderful history lesson on the Rev. I am descended from his daughter Elizabeth who married Robert Bingham. It’s been a while since I’ve done any research on this line. My tree just lists the basic dates and a few facts and I’ve been going back to “fill” out the “rest of the story…” so to speak. Your site was the first to come up in a basic google search. I was so excited in reading it that I didn’t notice who the author was until the end. Low and behold it’s Ms. Roberta-the DNA lady. I have read many of your articles while trying to make sense of DNA research. Still trying, but your posts have helped quite a bit. I’m happy to see we are cousins. Genealogy really makes one realize “it is a small world after all”.

    Thanks so much for the history and the wonderful photos.

    Melanie Cagle

    • I’m so tickled to receive your note. This is exactly why I’ve been writing these articles. Have you done the autosomal DNA test, and if so, where? I wonder if we match.

      • Hi Roberta,
        Just left you a reply on your Magna Carta/Ky article before reading your reply to this. Got my cart before my horse I guess! Yes, I did have my autosomal test done through Family Tree DNA (the only way to go) several years back. In fact that’s when I discovered your blog. I was trying to figure out what the heck my percentage of Middle East ancestry meant. Found your article on the Native American connection to these results and found it very enlightening. I do have one known American Indian ancestor but show no relation to this on the Family Finder test. Jumped over to GedMatch and ran through the gazillions of possible configurations they offered and found several that showed about a 2 percent Nat. American result. I still can’t figure out what is accurate. I must confess everything DNA is pretty puzzling to me but I LOVE that it is available. About ten years ago I had a mtDNA test done through FTDNA and about two years ago I got an exact match. I was sooooo excited. Then when I compared my match’s tree to mine I found our in common grandmother all the way back to the 1700’s. I was jumping for joy and pumping my arms as if I had made the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Proving this line tore down the biggest brick wall I had. (Guess I should have said I felt like Joshua at Jericho when I proved my maternal line.) I had a distant cousin that swore up and down that our in common great-great-grandmother’s mother was a woman who descended from a prestigious New England family who came over on the Mayflower. I spent YEARS trying to get this cousin to send me proof of this. Oh, he sent me everything under the sun that did not pertain to this exact person for years. It was like pulling hen’s teeth to get him to send me proof. Finally he sent the “proof”. It was a copy of a will that was being probated that stated our GGgGrandmother was a child to this New England family. But at closer inspection I noticed that certain words in the document were exactly the same. I’m talking I pulled the words out and was able to super impose them on each other and that matched exactly. In other words the document was a forgery. (The old copy and paste trick.) “Someone” had added a few clever words here and there along with the copied and pasted words to make it read just the way they wanted. Although I was furious, I politely told this person what I discovered and he/she feigned total ignorance and said they couldn’t remember where they got the original document but from family tradition they knew the Pilgrim ancestry was true. Being a true southern lady 🙂 I told him “bless your heart, maybe someday we’ll know the truth” knowing that “VENGEANCE IS MINE” and someday I’ll prove you wrong…..and I did. Mitochondrial testing is worth the price of admission and in my case even more.

        Sorry for such a long reply. I would LOVE for you to compare our results. Just let me know what you need. Maybe we should do personal email contact for that. Whatever you think best. Thanks so much for the reply. I can’t wait to hear back from you.

        Your Cousin,
        Melanie Cagle

  15. Roberta, Melanie again. Was wondering if you knew which daughter lived at the location of the old chimney in one of your photos? My ancestor Elizabeth MCNiel Bingham stayed in the Wilkes Co. area after marrying. Just wondering if this could be her home? Thanks so much.

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  17. Fascinating information in this article. I’m a McNiel through my maternal grandfather.

    I’ve been able to trace the line back to a Franklin McNiel born in Virginia. He married a Jane Johnson in Stoddard Co., MO in 1873.

    The only other reference to Franklin McNiel I’ve been able to find is a Private with the 53rd NC out of Wilkes CO.. Because the VA and Wilkes Co., connections, it’s my assumption that This Franklin McNiel is a descendent of Rev. G. W. McNiel. How he relates to Rev. McNiel and whether or not he is the same Franklin McNiel that I am descended from I have no idea.

    A bit of interest to note… I’m currently living in Spotsylvania Co. (since 2012) and had no idea of the possible connection to the area until just now.

    I’ve done an autosomnal DNA through Ancestry… how do I (or can I) compare my results to the McNiel DNA information you have listed above?

    Any information or recommendations you can provide would be tremendously helpful.

    Thank you for all your work and your willingness to share.

    Mike Brown

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  20. I appreciate the post. I have always been fascinated in learning about my families history and knowing where my family comes from. Keep posting as you find out more. If I find out more than what is here I will be sure to post it. My lineage is from Rev. George McNiel –> Rev. James McNiel –> Larkin McNiel –> Cornelius Washington “CW” McNiell –> Franklin “Frank” Pierce McNiell –> Thomas Ora McNiell –> Guy Earnest McNiell –> Michael Wayne McNiell –> then me.
    I will be doing a Dna test over the next few months. Do you have any recommendations on which sites/companies to go through and is anyone compiling data I could forward mine onto to help in any searches?

    Again thank you.
    Mitchell Raymond McNiell

    • Hi Mitchell, Please test your Y DNA and your autosomal DNA with Family Tree DNA. There is a McNeal (by many spellings) Y DNA project there and that’s where all of the McNiel people I know of have tested as well. There are certainly others in other data bases as well (23andMe and Ancestry) but contact is challenging through 23andMe and Ancestry lacks tools. Neither of those companies does the Y DNA testing, so Family Tree DNA is where you want to be. I’m excited to know another cousin will be testing.

    • Hi cousin, I just ordered my FamilyTreeDNA Y test too! I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you. I hope all is well. This is such a cool blog, right?!

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  24. I have just become interested in my genealogy. I have been going through family records. I am so fascinated with all the information available. On my mother’s side I am a descendant of Reverend George McNeil thru his son James who married Mary Shepherd. My great great grandmother was Rebecca McNeil, daughter of George McNeil who was one of Jame’s McNeil’s sons. Rebecca married James Hervey Taylor in Wilkes County, NC and James Hervey Taylor and Rebecca McNeil were my mother”s great grandparents. I am thinking of doing DNA but need to do some research. It is all so overwhelming but so much fun.

      • Not to the exact same parents, no. However, there are a lot of Duncan and Margaret children, but the mother’s surnames are all different. Interestingly too, the MacNeil FTDNA group shows a couple of Duncan McNiel’s as the most distant known ancestor for some of the other test takers closest to me, genetically. Thoughts?

      • Not to the exact same parents, no. However, there are a lot of Duncan and Margaret children, but the mother’s surnames are all different. Interestingly too, the MacNeil FTDNA group shows a couple of Duncan McNiel’s as the most distant known ancestor for some of the other test takers closest to me, genetically. Thoughts?

          • The FTDNA names show two Duncans, but they would have been born much later than the Duncan I found through Scotland’s People search. There might be a clue as to an inherited family name. I’ve asked the Clan MacNeil genealogist, Alissa Nolan, for a bit of help and I’ve also signed up for GedMatch to see if I can find any other sources for triangulation. Do you think FTDNA is better for triangulation than GedMatch? Thanks again for your thoughts and advice.

          • Yes, I am. I’m also on 23 and Me and recently did the Living DNA test too. I also received your email and will read through and follow-up with you. Thanks for sending that information.

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  27. I am a defendant of Rev George McNiel. My mother was Cynthia McNeil daughter to Cleber McNiel. I am curious to learn more. My grandfather passed away when I was 6 and he was my absolute favorite person in the world. Finding this article helped me fill in many gaps. Thank you

  28. We traced my genealogy back to this article today. My grandfather was Cleber Cullom McNiel, his father Alvin Dawson McNiel. Sadly my mother passes away in 2018. I have so many questions about where I came from. I was told my ancestors came to America long ago and fought in the revolutionary war and were pastors. Thank you so much for writing this and filling in the gaps.

  29. Hello, I recently did our family lineage. George McNeil is my 8th generation grandfather. My grandmother is Nancy McNeil from West Jefferson. We are descendants from his son James McNeil. Our family land in west Jefferson still has many of our ancestors buried there. My family line goes, Nancy McNeil, daughter of William McNeil, William is son of Fielden McNeil, who is son of Leeander McNeil, who is son of Elijah McNeil,who is son of James McNeil, and James is a son of Reverend George McNeil. Thank you for the history on our family. Much love ❤️

  30. So amazed and grateful for all your work! Growing up not knowing much about our family ancestry and finding all this information is an amazing feeling! We are direct descendants of Rev. George McNiel! My father has done some research and visited some of the family areas. I am currently working in the SC/NC area and hope to visit some of the sites while i am here. An Ireland trip is on my bucket list too! it would be so neat to visit and trace back the lineage. I had no idea how far back it has been tracked!

    Thank you !!

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