The Christopher Mackin Problem, or Three Brothers?

My husband’s most distant ancestor in his surname line is Christopher Mackin. Christopher was born in Ireland 10 August 18211 and first appears in American records in Madison, Wisconsin, where he filed a declaration of intention in 1854.2

Christopher also left land, tax, and voter records before dying intestate 14 January 1867, aged 46 years.3

Unfortunately, none of Christopher’s records point to an Irish place of origin or name his parents. However, there are clues in his association with two other men named Mackin in the Madison area. If we can establish the relationship between Christopher and these other Mackins with some degree of certainty, we may be able to infer the identity of his parents and his Irish place of origin from theirs. Intriguingly, all three men named sons James. If they followed Irish naming conventions, this suggests that their fathers may have been named James.

In 1860 Christopher shared a household with a younger man named John Mackin, age 30, who was also born in Ireland. Also in the household was John’s apparent wife Ellen, age 19.4 Christopher and John owned adjacent land,5 and Christopher later purchased John’s land.6 Christopher’s probate file contains a receipt dated 16 November 1867 from George Blake for interest on a note of mortgage given by Christopher Mackin to John Mackin and “having the charge and keeping of the minor children of said John who is in California.”7 The cohabitation, neighboring land parcels, land sale, and payment for care of John’s children suggest that Christopher and John were related, perhaps as brothers, perhaps as cousins.

Christopher’s probate record names a second man named Mackin, also without specifying a relationship. James McKin of Madison posted $1500 surety for Mary McKin of Vermont, administratrix of the estate of Christopher Mackin deceased.8 In 1870, three years after Christopher’s death, three men named James McCan/McKin/McCann lived in Madison:

  • James McCann, age 40, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 1 with apparent wife Julia, also age 40, and apparent children John, Mary, James, Katie, and Fidelia.9
  • James McCan, age 37, tin smith, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Mary, age 35, and apparent children James, Frank, Peter, John, Mary Ann, and Thomas.10
  • James McKin, age 42, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Kate, age 40, and apparent children Mary, Anne, Coleman, Anna, James, and Christopher.11

Of the three James Mackins in Madison, James who was married to Kate appears most likely to be the James who provided bond for Christopher’s widow, since he named a son Christopher the year after Christopher of Vermont’s death.

Six descendants of Christopher Mackin have taken autosomal DNA tests. Descendants of John Mackin and James Mackin have been traced forward in time, and efforts to find relevant DNA matches and recruit additional DNA testers are ongoing.

  1. St. James Cemetery (Town of Vermont, Dane County, Wisconsin; County Road F, south of Black Earth), Christopher Mackin marker; personally read and photographed by author, 2005.
  2. Wisconsin, Supreme Court, Declarations of Intention to Become a U.S. Citizen, 1840-1893, loose items arranged by year and thereunder alphabetical by name; series 1729, box 3, folder 2, 21 December 1854 declaration of Christopher Mackin; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
  3. St. James Cemetery (Dane Co., Wis.), Christopher Mackin marker.
  4. 1860 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Vermont, p. 126 (penned), dwelling 760, family 802, Christopher Mackin household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1404.
  5. John was issued a patent 15 May 1857 for 80 acres (the W1/2NE1/4 of section 21, township 007N, range 006E of the 4th Prime Meridian), and Christopher was issued a patent 1 June 1858 for 120 acres consisting of the E1/2NE1/4 and the NE1/4SE1/4 of section 21. Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx : accessed 30 March 2011), entries for Christopher Machen, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 22599, and John Meckin, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 24102.
  6. Dane County, Wisconsin, Deeds 59:313, John Macken to C. Macken; Register of Deeds, Madison.
  7. Dane County, Wisconsin, probate case files, box 28, McKin or Macken Christopher (d 1867), receipt of George Blake, 16 November 1867; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
  8. Ibid., bond of administrator filed 18 February 1867.
  9. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 1, p. 35 (penned), dwelling 266, family 266, James McCann household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
  10. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 29 (penned), dwelling 206, family 211, James McCan (indexed as McCaw) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
  11. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 30 (penned), dwelling 212, family 217, James McKin (indexed as Mc hin) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
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