McGinnis Family

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Daniel McGinnis[edit]

Daniel McGinnis
Born(1759-01-01)January 1, 1759 *still researching exact dates
Nova Scotia
DiedFebruary 27, 1827(1827-02-27) (aged 68)*still researching exact dates
Oak Island
Spouse(s)Maria Barbara Saller Sept 8, 1795

Daniel McGinnis is one of the most common names associated with Oak Island, but also one of the biggest mysteries as well. While virtually every account of the money pit includes some variation of a story including three boys discovering the pit, it really is not clear to anyone who those three boys were, especially not Daniel. He is known by Daniel or Donald, McGinnis, McInnis, and even MacInnes depending on who's account you are reading. 

It is not entirely uncommon for names and correct spellings to be altered over the years when literacy was not necessarily a priority in the 1700s. Even those that were literate were known to misspell their own name as they didn't necessarily think it mattered as long as you could pronounce it. 

Randall Sullivan has clearly done the most research on the lineage of Daniel and reports the following in his book The Curse Of Oak Island

[1] According to Sullivan's research, the closest thing to a first-hand account of the initial discovery was provided by Anthony Vaughan in 1849 in an interview with Robert Creelman (Truro Company). There are some that believe McGinnis was a fictional character, to dispel this theory, Sullivan provides the following circumstantial evidence:

  • Anthony Vaughan was 13 in 1795 (confirmed by family records) making it reasonable that his friend Daniel was also in his teens.
  • John Smith (who is documented to have been living on Oak Island in 1795 was 19 in 1795) also making it reasonable that Daniel was in his teens.
  • [2]No record of Daniel McGinnis in the tax records of 1791 (which would only be required of those older than 21).
  • [3]No grave marker in Lunenburg county for Daniel, but he is believed to be buried on Oak Island, and there is a pile of stones with a broken stone containing letters and numbers consistent with the name, date of birth and assumed date of death of Daniel on the island.
  • [4]Multiple records of the McGinnis family living on Oak Island throughout the 1800s and remains of a stone foundation referred to as the McGinnis place.

Fortunately, in addition to the circumstantial evidence, Sullivan also did considerable research in the available historical records.

  • [5]Families of Western Shore by South Shore Genealogical Society contain a section on McInnis-McGinnis clan which names Donald Daniel McInnes as a "planter" of Welsh descent who came to Chester from New England with the Vaughan brothers in or around 1772. It is believed that McInnes was the original family name and it was changed at some point to McGinnis. 
  • [6]McInnes was awarded a crown grant of 100 acres near Chester in 1784. This could imply that he actually came to Nova Scotia in 1784 vice 1772, or it is possible that he came with the Vaughan family, and did not acquire his own land until 1784. 
  • [7]McGinnis family records contain documentation of an "Application for Compensation for losses" suffered during the American Revolutionary War dated 1785. Based on these documents the McGinnis family believes him to have born in 1759, immigrating to America in 1770 fighting with loyalists in 1776 leading to his claim of compensation in 1785. If this timeline is true, that would make McGinnis 36 or 37 when the money pit was supposedly discovered.
  • [8]Families of Western Shore by South Shore Genealogical Society also contain a record however for Daniel Jr. along with marriage records for Daniel Jr to Maria Barbara Saller Sept 8, 1795. It would seem odd (by present-day standards) that Daniel married at the age of 16, but there are marriage records for John Smith marrying Sarah Floyd at the age of 15, so it stands to reason that both friends married very young.

So, based on this research, I think it is safe to conclude that Daniel McGinnis was 16 or 17 at the time of discovery, married Maria Babara and lived on Oak Island until his death. There are also records of Maria giving birth to a son (James Johan McGinnis) on 28 Feb 1797 and baptized July 26, 1797, who is believed to have lived on Oak Island as well. 


Daniel -II will index as found on Lunenburg county records

Additional Family details (provided by Riley Dawson McInnis on OakIslandTreasure Forum) What I find curious about this is that it perpetuates the confusion as it appears to leave out the 16yr old Daniel McGinnis who would have been born between Daniel I and Daniel II by Sullivan's research. 

  • Me: Riley Dawson McInnis b 9 May 1946 Burbank, CA 
  • My father: Albert Edward McInnis, b 17 Sept 1917 Martin's Point. d 15 Apr 2005 at Templeton, CA 
  • Grandfather: William George McInnis b 29 Jul 1893 at OI, NS. Married Rhoda Hiltz 
  • GG: George William McGinnis b 9 Sep 1870 at OI, NS. Married Bessie Rafuse 
  • GGG: George McGinnis b 25 May 1832 at OI, NS. Married Emma (Amy) Elizabeth Corkum. Married Adelaide E. Publicover. Died 1887 at OI 
  • GGGG: Daniel (Daniel II) McInnis born 20 Jan 1805 at Chester. Married Elizabeth Anna Barkhouse. Married Elizabeth Rost. Died 16 Nov 1869 at Chester Basin 
  • GGGGG: Donald (Daniel I) McInnis b circa 1758 (possibly North Carolina USA (Loyalist?)) Married Maria Barbara Sawler. Died circa 1827 at Chester. Immigrated circa 1784.


  1. The Curse of Oak Island, Randall Sullivan, pg 8-13
  2. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 11
  3. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 12
  4. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 12
  5. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 12
  6. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 12
  7. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 13
  8. The Curse Of Oak Island, Sullivan pg 13

Donald McGinnis[edit]

By the above accounts, I believe Donald McGinnis is often confused with Daniel McGinnis, one of the original money pit discoverers. Donald is believed to have been born in 1758 in North Carolina to Scottish parents and moved to the Chester area following the revolutionary war. His wife gave birth to Daniel in 1779. No formal records have been found to substantiate this claim. 

George McGinnis[edit]