In working on a family line in which I am incommunicado, I wanted to take the approach of almost over-verifying my various ties. With the McCombie line, I was easily able to secure my lineage as my paternal Grandmother’s maiden name was McCombie. From there, using obituaries, census data and what birth/death certificates I could find, I was able to trace back the few generations to the first from my direct line to migrate to the United States from Scotland. His name was Robert Jacob McCombie, my third Great Grandfather. The picture I have of him is noted on a number of other ancestry trees. I am not sure if it is 100% verified, however I love it and will claim it as actual until proven otherwise. If a movie about Robert’s life was ever made and this picture is an actual portrait, I would vote for Graham McTavish to fill his role!
In learning what I could about the origins of the name McCombie, I was able to determine that the surname comes from the Gaelic MacComaidh, which is in turn from MacThomaidh or MacThom. The same Gaelic names have often been Anglicized Thomson. McComie seems to have been a common early version of spelling with the “b” being added later in the eighteenth century. In the “Roll of Clans,” 1587, the Maccomies appear as “Clan M’Thomas in Glensche.” The M’Thomas led me to Clan MacThomas and after a brief phone call with the American coordinator of the clan, I confirmed that McCombie aligns with clan MacThomas. I paid my membership dues and am now part of the Clan MacThomas.
Using the resources available on their members’ website, I was able to find my third Great Grandfather with relative ease. The information provided was very valuable as it gave me the lineage from Scotland. I am always nervous when researching outside of the United States as I am unfamiliar with customs, traditions and translations. I found out that Robert’s father was Adam (b: 1777), a stonemason from the area of Cabrach. While Robert was in Scotland, he was a carpenter. He and his brother William migrated to Cambria County, Pennsylvania in 1835. The page went on to note that there is no documentary evidence of how or exactly when they arrived in North America. There is also a questioning of his middle name being Jacob as it is a name unknown among McCombies of that time.
Using the year 1835 as his immigration year, and knowing he would be in his mid twenties, I started researching Cambria County PA sites in hopes of finding a solid lead. And that, I did. A domino effect of research led me to the Prothonotary Office of the Cambria County seat. As I am planning a research visit to the area, I thought I would inquire as to whether I would be able to stop in and fill out paperwork to request the ability to research any microfilm or old books they might have. The woman on the other end (who I wish I had asked the name of for thank you note purposes) simply asked three questions: 1-Name and spelling of your family member; 2-Date range you are looking through and; 3-What is your name and mailing address. Then abruptly she said: “I will look and if I find something I will drop it in the mail to you. Thank you, have a nice day.” And click. I was torn between trying to figure out if she was busy or rude. Ha! She must’ve been just busy because only a few days later an envelope appeared in the mail with the most wonderful breakthrough – the Naturalization Records of Robert McCombie!!
Four glorious pages of amazingness! He started his paperwork with the removal of loyalties to King William IV and by the time the process moved along, William was replaced with Queen Victoria. I hope to read a little more about both royals as well as what it was like in Scotland during that timeframe. I will also try to find additional information about the two men who vouched for Robert, Jacob Shabacher and John Campbell. They vouch that he lived in the United States for five years and Pennsylvania for the previous year. I am SO curious where he originally landed, into which port he first arrived and so many more little nuanced questions!!! Oh the fun of research and the frustration of lacking patience!!
A fun tidbit, it seems that my life has been tied to cats all the way through my ancestors, just look at our crest:
Motto: Touch not the cat bot a glove
Motto Translation: Don’t touch the cat without a glove.
I hope that maybe in my research I can find out why that motto was chosen.
Finally, I have found a comprehensive accounting of the families of M’combie (see picture below and the Amazon link for purchase is HERE). I am hoping it offers some greater detail about the family as it pertains to my line.