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 A Jameson Irish Whiskey Connection?

Our Jameson family are not descendants of the Jameson family who founded the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, Ireland, in 1780. Most genealogies of that family have them as descendants of a William Jameson of Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland (northwest of Edinburgh), whose descendants emigrated to Ireland about 1780. Our Jameson family is descended from a Jameson family who emigrated from the Coleraine area of County Londonderry in Ireland, prior to 1746 and although thought to be originally of Scottish ancestry, were themselves descended from other Jamesons thought to be living in Ireland since at least the middle 1600's.

It does appear however, that the ancestors of our Hugh and Thomas Jameson and the ancestors of the Irish Whiskey Jamesons were somehow related in past generations, but the details of any such relationship are not known. YDNA testing of a known descendant of John Jameson the founder of Jameson Whiskey shows a YDNA profile[1] similar enough to our Jameson profile[2] to suggest there was probably some common ancestor between our two families. It is likely to be somewhere in Scotland, between the twelfth century, when surnames were first used, and the 16th century where after the Whiskey Jamesons are otherwise accounted for without any apparent connection with our family.

Never the less the history of whisky in Ireland and particularly of Jamesons Irish Whiskey is interesting. Stephen Gilberg wrote in 2001 about this - No one really knows when the distillation of Irish whiskey began, or for that matter, who began it. It is however thought that the secret of distillation was probably brought to Ireland by missionary monks from the Middle East around the 6th century A.D. In the 12th century, Henry II and his soldiers paid their first visit to Ireland, and quickly took a liking to a liquor distilled by the Irish monks called "Uisce Beatha," or "the water of life." Uisce Beatha was Anglicized in later years, first to "Fuisce," and finally to "Whiskey."

In 1780, while Mozart was winning the adulation of Europe for his music and the Americans were fighting for their independence from Great Britain, John Jameson established his Bow Street whiskey distillery on the north bank of the river Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. Mr. Jameson had recently (1768) married Margaret Haig, whose family was linked, by marriage, with the Stein and Philip families - collectively the genesis of the commercial distilling business in Scotland.

Jameson's distillery prospered, and each generation of the Jameson family became known as perfectionists, constantly setting new standards in the distillation of whiskey. Jameson's Irish Whiskey is made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley and other cereal grains. Jameson had discovered that certain strains of barley made better whiskey than others and persuaded local farmers to grow the desired strains. He did this by providing them with seed each spring. In Ireland, the malted barley is dried in closed kilns without the presence of peat smoke. Thus, Irish whiskey does not have the smoky character traditionally associated with most Scotch whiskies. In fact, traditions have it that it was John Jameson himself who deliberately spelled the name WHISKEY and not WHISKY, to distinguish it from Scottish Whisky. Many consider Jameson's the finest Irish whiskey in the world.

By the early part of the 20th century, Jameson Irish Whiskey was being exported to countries around the globe. But Prohibition in America destroyed the lion's share of John Jameson & Son's export trade. When Prohibition was finally repealed, reserves of properly aged Irish whisky had fallen dramatically, giving Scotch whisky the opportunity to get ahead in the international markets previously dominated by its Irish cousin. In 1966, John Jameson & Son merged with John Power & Son and the Cork Distilleries Company, to form the "Irish Distillers Group." Since that time, the "IDG" has made huge strides in rebuilding the export sales of Irish whiskey, and the Jameson brand has led the way.

No Jamesons are actually part of John Jamesons and Sons Irish Whiskey Company anymore, apart from those that may be shareholders. Jamesons Whiskey is now owned by Pernod Ricard of France, although it is still made at the Midleton distillery complex in southern Ireland. Descendants of this Jameson family have prospered and proliferated and can now be found living all over the world.

It might however be safe to say that many of our Jameson family have had a familiarity, even a working knowledge and appreciation, for this other Jameson family's special creation.

Related information here.

More detailed information here.


[1]     FTDNA test # 311680

[2]     FTDNA test # 88227, 185066, 195455, 201202