The McCorkle Family

This is my husband's maternal line. His great-grandmother was Synthia Jane McCorkle.

Morton's History of Rockbridge County, Virginia

From this history we read: "There are few families in the United States, and in the old countries, whose history can be traced as far back as the McCorkles. We find branches of this old family in Canada and all over the United States, especially in the eastern and middle states, and in Virginia. We find other branches in England, Germany and Denmark. All of these families use a coat of arms that shows, although differing slightly, some main features:

McCorkle Coat of Arms Crest: A stag standing at gaze, attired gules (i.e. red horns);
Arms: Demi-stag, gules, naissant out of a fesse tortille (i.e. springing out of a twisted band);
Motto: Vivat Rex (Long Live the King!).

My thanks to Don McCorcle for this image.


"The difference between the arms is so slight that there is no doubt that these families belong together. Only the Danish branch uses a different coat of arms, but here the complete historical evidence is that it is the same name.

"The name is spelled in many different ways, but etymologically it is the same name. The oldest form that could be traced is Thorgial, in the Thorgial saga about 700 A.D. This name changes in Thurkell, Thurkill, Thorkill, Thorquil, Torquil, Thorquil-dale, Mac Torguildate, Mac Kordill-dale, McCorkindale, McCorquindall, McCorkuodell, McCorquedill, McCorkell, McCorkel, and MacCorkel.

"All these names appear in old manuscripts, books and inscriptions, and we find the different names in all the countries where the members of the family live. The different branches did not keep a certain spelling. They are scattered all over the civilized world using the different spellings of the name, but all tracing back to the same family. The name that is mostly used by the branches in the United States is McCorkle, MacCorkle or McCorkell."

"The McCorkle family was for a hundred years about the largest family in Rockbridge County, Virginia. It is connected with a great number of the prominent families in the Valley of Virginia and the Piedmont section. In the Confederate army there were more than two hundred of the name and relation of the MacCorkle famliy. The MacCorkle family has furnished the largest connected family who are alumni of Washington and Lee Univeristy at Lexington, Virginia. They have produced many distinguished preachers and developers of the country and have wrought manfully for Virginia. It is probably one of the largest connected families in the United States, and everywhere they have shown about the same characteristics of energy, determination, and patriotism."

"It remains for us to add that the MacCorkles of Ulster display the same characteristics as their cousins in America. One of the name was a recent mayor of Londerderry, the city that endured a notable siege in 1689."

Anderson's History of the Scottish Nation

From this history: "MacCorquodate, otherwise Mac Torquil (the son of Torquill) MacCorkle, or Corquindale, the surname of a highland sept, the founder of which was Torquil, a prince of Denmark, who is traditionally stated to have been in the army of Kenneth the Great, on his coming over from Ireland to the assistance of Alpin, King of the Scots, against the Picts. Previous to Kenneth's arrival, King Alpin, in a battle with the Pictish king, was killed, and his head fixed on an iron spike in the midst of the Pictish city, situated where the Carron ironworks now stand.

"King Kenneth offered to any one in his army who would pass the Pictish sentinels and remove the head, a grant of all the land on Loch Awe side. Torquil, the Dane, undertook the hazardous enterprise, and brought in the head to the King, for which act of bravery, he was rewarded by a charter of the land promised.

"This charter was for a long time preserved in the family, though the greater part of the lands had passed to other hands. Shortly before the Revolution the charter was lent to Sir Alexander Muir MacKenzie, for his inspection, and was lost. At least it disappeared from that time."

The name, which in some places in the Highlands is still called Mac Torquil, is perhaps one of the most ancient in the county of Argyle. Donald MacCorguodate of Kinna-Drochag, on Loch Awe side, who died towards the end of the eighteenth century, was a lineal descendant of Torquil and the chief of the clan; his grandson and representative, John McCorquodale, at one period resided at Row, Dungartonshire. The heirs of John McCorquodate afterwards lived in Row. The last lineal descendant afterwards moved to London, where he died a few years ago.

In the great Scottish invasion of North Ireland the family moved to County Derry, where a great many of them have lived since.

There is reported to be a McCorkle home about two hundred miles from Edinburg, Scotland.

Scottish Clans: According to the census bureau, there are 22 million Americans of Scottish descent, living in America today. About 250,000 of these Scottish-Americans live in New York and environs, including Connecticut and New Jersey.

Gunn Clan: In Scotland, the McCorkles were a sept of the Gunn Clan. The Gunns were a warlike clan of Caithness and Sutherland; the name is derived from the Norse word gunnr - war.

The Gunns and the Keiths were forever at enmity. Lachlan Gunn of Braemer had an only daughter who was famous for her beauty, and the day of her marriage with her cousin Alexander was fixed; but Dugald Keith, a retainer of Keith of Ackerfill, whose advances she had repelled, surrounded her father's house with a body of armed Keiths, slew many of the Gunns, who were unprepared for an attack, and carried the girl to Ackerfill, where she became the victim of her abductor, and eventually threw herself from the summit of the tower.

Raid upon raid now ensued, and during one of these, in 1426, a desperate battle was fought between the two clans at Harpsdale, eight miles from Thurse. The conflict was rancorous and bloody, and indecisive.

In 1464, the chief of the clan was George, who lived with barbaric pomp in his castle at Clyth. Weary of the feud, he and the chief of the Keiths agreed to meet with twelve horsemen at the side of the chapel of St. Tears and settle it amicably.

The Keiths came with twenty-four men, two on a horse, and attacked the Gunns; the latter fought desperately and were cut to pieces. George Gunn was slain and stripped of his arms, armour, and brooch. Soon after William McKames, a kinsman of the Gunns, killed George Keith of Ackerfill and his son with ten men, at Drummoy. On the tenth MacKeamish, or MacSheumais, the chieftainship passed to the Guns of Rhives.

The Clans and Tartans of Scotland by Robert Bain

From this we read: "The tartans as a dress properly belong to the Highlands and not to the Lowlands."

"Clan septs were of two classes, clansmen of the clan, related by blood and who formed separate brances of the clan; and individuals or groups from other clans who sought and obtained protection of the clan. This custom resulted in a clan having septs of different surnames."

The list gives sept names, with sept names of clans with which the septs were associated.

Sept - McCorkle           Clan - Gunn

If you have questions about any of the information here, please contact me.