The McDonalds Project

A Functional Database and DNA Vault
for McDonald's, MacDonald's, and Macdonald's

What’s in a name?

Did you know the McDonald Surname means descendant of Donald?

According to, it is the 2036th most common surname in the world, with approximately  272,000 people bearing the name (McDonald and MacDonald combined).  Most of those people live in the United States.

There are many variants of McDonald, including MacDonald and Macdonald, which are Anglicised versions of the Scottish and Irish Gaelic: MacDhòmhnaill or Dòmhnallach.  The name is a patronym (a name conveying paternal lineage) meaning “son of Dòmhnall”. The personal name Dòmhnall is composed of the elements domno “world” and val “might”, “rule”.

How appropriate!  Think of all the McDonalds you know!


MacDonald of the Isles tartan

Somerled – The Common Ancestor

Somerled may have upwards of 500,000 living descendants, second only to Genghis Khan. The key person for the McDonald (MacDonald) descent lines was John, Lord of the Isles, who was known as “Good John.”   Good John died in 1386 and is the progenitor of most of the Somerled descendants. DNA testing has shown that all of the MacDonald clan chieftains were genetic descendants of Somerled, as are roughly a quarter of all those who bear the MacDonald name today.

Since the early 2000s, several genetic studies have been conducted on men bearing surnames traditionally associated with patrilineal descendants of Somerled. The results of one such study, published in 2004, confirmed that five chiefs of Clan Donald, who all traced their patrilineal descent from Somerled, were indeed descended from this common ancestor.

Lord of the Isles

Somerled seized the Scottish Isles (i.e. everything except the Isle of Man & Skye) from the King of Man in 1156 and founded a dynasty that, in time, became known as the “Lordship of the Isles.”

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About Somerled

Somerled was an extremely popular military and political leader of the Scottish Isles in the 12th century.  His father was Gillebride of Clan Angus who had been exiled to Ireland.

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Somerled the Norseman

Somerled is credited with driving the Vikings out of western Scotland, but according to research, he was actually descended from Norsemen himself.   Somerled’s wartime success is attributed to a simple “rudder.”

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You’ll Never Guess Who?!

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first McDonald’s restaurant was started in 1948 by brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their small hamburger restaurant from salesman Ray Kroc, who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and shake mixers.

Other Famous McDonalds

That’s a Lot of McDonald History!

Finlaggan was the seat of the Lords of the Isles and of Clan Donald.  Successive Lords of the Isles fiercely asserted their independence from Scotland, acting as kings of their territories well into the 15th century. Then in 1462, John MacDonald II Lord of the Isles signed a treaty with Edward IV of England to conquer Scotland with him and the Earl of Douglas. The treaty between Edward IV and MacDonald II has been used to show how the MacDonald Lords were viewed as independent rulers of their kingdom, freely entering into national and military treaties with foreign governments.   The picture to the right shows The ruins of Finlaggan Castle on Eilean Mòr, Loch Finlaggan, on the island of Islay, where the Council of the Isles met.


Somerled descendant?

It’s all History…

Check out our contributor section.  A growing body of historical articles, fact sheets, and informationals all about the McDonalds, MacDonalds, and their progany!

Somerled – A Quick History

Who is Somerled? Why was he important and what did he do?

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Who Where the Lords of the Isles?

Who Where the Lords of the Isles and how did they become?

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What’s in a name….

The Scottish Highlands The first recorded spelling of the McDonald family name is “Therthelnac MakDonenalde.” This was dated 1251, when he was a charter witness at Lesmore, during the reign[…]

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My name is Ron McDonald – I’m an antiquarian & retrophiliac

I am enamored by history.  And, because I’m lucky enough to carry the McDonald surname, I’ve contributed an inordanite amount of time to studying the name’s origins.  Recognizing the enormous contributions our McDonald forefathers made to the European continent (and the Americas), I’ve decided to unite MacDonalds, Macdonalds, and McDonalds everywhere, by creating a functional surname database and DNA vault.  I provide this for pure archival-based gratification, borne out of simple academic enthusiasm.


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