In the age of the Internet, genealogy and our search for a connection to the past have taken on the speed of present day life. Searching for the Scotch-Irish emigrants from Ireland to America in 1718 can, however, bring the researcher to a grinding halt. We should remember that if we combine Internet searching with old-fashioned hard work, we can have amazing results. To many of the hundreds of thousands of living descendants still living in America, the 1718 emigrants are akin to a 'Lost Tribe'. We know they came in 1718, we know where they settled, we know they prospered, and we THINK we have no way of proving our connection to these long-ago people. Happily, that is no longer entirely true. Finding the 1718 emigrants is possible, and being able to prove a connection to these pioneers is becoming more likely.
To research the 1718 emigrant, we should understand the unique characteristics of the Scotch-Irish in early America. Our focus is pre-Revolutionary War, and because of this the value of being 'English citizens', as they were then termed, was immense. These rights of shared citizenship cause the scarcity of emigration documents derived from passenger lists. The local governments and 'state' governments of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina habitually documented boats with emigrants from the German Palatine and other European countries. The origins of the Scotch-Irish granted them the right to be accepted as fellow citizens. However, local newspapers many times named names and described ships that came to ports with emigrants. The local court system also plays a large role in documenting the 1718 emigrants.
The custom of the day was for each family to support itself, if at all possible, so as not to draw on the welfare of the local town. The proof of the financial status of a man or family was the word of a local citizen. When a man without friends or family settled in a town, he had no proof of his financial status. Therefore, the family was 'warned out' by the local town leaders. Those 'warnings' while seemingly, to present day eyes, a rude welcoming have proven to be one of the best primary documents in which to find the 1718 emigrants. The 'Boston Record Commission' volumes recording the activities of the selectman (elected officials) of Boston are largely responsible for our proving the names of the ships from 1718, and many of the passengers. 'Robert Holmes & wife, William Holmes and child who came from Casco into this Town [about] 12 days before was on the 15th of April [current] warned to depart' Boston Selectman records from meeting on April 27, 1719 in Charles K. Bolton, Scotch-Irish Pioneers, Boston 1910.
Two of the original proprieters of Londonderry, New Hampshire recorded in the Londonderry town records on June 21, 1722 can be found in the Boston warnings. Robert Doke or Doak and Abraham Holmes, from Ireland in the ship 'Elizabeth' were warned out November 3, 1719. Boston Record Commission, vol.13, p.63 as noted in Ethel S. Bolton, Immigrants to New England 1700-1775 Salem 1931 pp. 50, 90.
Abraham and Robert both have modern day descendants researching their large extended families. The Doak family website is an excellent example of the possibilities of current Scotch-Irish research into the 1718 emigrants. Combining documented facts with lists of possible connections, writing the story and timeline of an emigrant, and placing it on the World-Wide Web is one of the best ways to preserve our ancestors’ roles in history.
The political establishment in Ireland, though sometimes vexing for our ancestors, had generally insisted on minimal documentation of their lives from birth, marriage, ownership, through to death. In the 'New World' such obligations were few and far between. The early Scotch-Irish in America had little need for documenting their lives. Most vital records are found in Protestant church records or local town records in Massachusetts and other parts of New England. Many of the original Presbyterian churches have lost their original records, and in most places those churches now exist within a different denomination or not at all. Fortunately, the Scotch-Irish can still be found in the early court records of this time. The early 1718 emigrants were very active in purchasing land, establishing businesses, and abusing the Puritan-style rules of the old New England religious establishment. The legal system was 'English', and so English courts had been established in the colonies for some time. Many times the activities of the Scotch-Irish led them before the court as defendants pursued by the Protestant elites.
However, many records can also be found of the 1718 emigrants purchasing deeds, demanding payments from their English neighbours, and pleading their rights for land or church. Gaining access to, and utilising, those courts was an Englishman’s right. With their English citizenship intact, the 1718 emigrants understood the value of the legal system. Early 1900s historians pointedly remark about the knowledge of law that allowed the proprietors of Londonderry, New Hampshire to secure their lands in 1719. The leaders of the New Hampshire group purposely requested a plot of land set aside from their English neighbours. Even though this land was granted and gifted as 'unappropriated lands, in the Eastern parts' [C.K. Bolton p. 241] in November, 1719 by the Massachusetts General Court, the town leaders diligently pursued the rightful ownership of their lands, and purchased the original deed signed by four Indian leaders on May 17, 1629. When English speculators tried to take back the Londonderry lands in the 1720s, this early deed was proven to be valid and authentic [Parker p.321]. The likelihood that the Scotch-Irish will be found in the legal records of their time is a great resource for internet research.
In New England, the governmental style was based on local government. This 'commonwealth' concept places the responsibility for record keeping solely in the hands of the local authorities. The local town maintained records, and legal occurrences on their town books. The town records, such as those in Londonderry, sometimes include vital records, land purchases, law breakers, and tax lists. These records are great sources for the 1718 emigrants. Unfortunately, proving your ancestor is the James Anderson mentioned in those books can be difficult. The majority of 1718 research is based not on factual primary documentation, but on secondary, proximal, amassing of documentation for a specific individual. When the state and federal governments took over record keeping roles in the early 1800s, many local towns had either lost their records or refused to turn over those records to the government. To this day, original records in the state of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and many other north eastern American locations can be found locked up in a little backroom inside the two-room office of the local town clerk. Finding those records require patience, diligence, and a little luck. The lack of 'interest' shown by county and state authorities in old, out-of-date records has led to the needless loss of much of America’s early documentary history. However, the recent explosion of genealogy as a legitimate activity and source of interest among Americans has led many states to begin saving, filing, and even documenting those “old papers” on websites. The state of Maine is one of the best examples with the establishment of the State Archives website. This archive has links to the York County Court of Common Pleas from 1696–1760. Names of the 1718 emigrants are located throughout the index. Massachusetts has also seen the value of online archiving. Unfortunately, the state websites are often merely generic and do little to help pinpoint ancestors. Even searching these sites can be a cumbersome task. Fortunately, many genealogical societies both large and small are working on finding and documenting those old records, and vastly improving their relevance and ease of access to the modern-day researcher. Learning your ancestor’s location in America is critical to being able to document of their lives.
It might seem to some that the life of the early Scotch-Irish in America was one of misery, hardship, and persecution, particularly if the lives of those in Maine or Worcester are our only point of reference. In those places the pioneer had to deal with harsh winters, hostile native Americans and an established church which was almost as unfriendly as the Church of Ireland. If we read the history of the 1718 emigrants in Londonderry or Chester, Pennsylvania, on the other hand, we read of relative peace, established farms and religious freedom. What is striking is that one group of people who shared a similar past in Ireland, and experienced the mutual bond of sailing the treacherous ocean, could experience lives in the new land that were amazingly diverse. After four years of researching this special group, I have come to realise that any limiting description of this ethnic group would be false. They were farmers, grocers, blacksmiths, servants, pastors, ship builders, judges, linen merchants, sailors and fishermen. Some were rich enough to pay for passage to America for themselves, and others had to indenture themselves as servants to eke out an existence. Researching the people who became the 'melting pot' of America has to be done with a broad mind and open eyes.
C.K. Bolton in the Scotch-Irish Pioneers provides a clearer view of their financial status. Based on the records from the early Boston newspapers, and the writings of Cotton Mather and Thomas Lechmere we gain an interesting insight into the financial means of the emigrants. Newspaper advertisements clearly show that there was a willingness among the 1718 emigrants to 'rent' their services as indentured servants. This common practice among their English neighbours was a means to gain financial security, and establish their own independence. Usually for the term of seven years, the servant would work for a master, gain some savings, and earn the right to be a freeman and establish a home where he so chose. The newspapers of Boston and Philadelphia are also full of advertisements showing that seven years was too much time for some of our Scotch-Irish brethren. Unfortunately, later articles do not mention if the runaway servants are ever returned. However, this means of procuring financing on American shores was not the only source of wealth. The 1718 emigrants of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine and Massachusetts were primarily families with the means to quickly establish their homesteads and businesses.
One of the primary records for the 1718 group from Ireland is the Conolly Papers in PRONI [Conolly Papers, T2825/C]. In August 1718, Robert McCausland lists men who have sold their interest in their rented lands and are either preparing for departure or have actually gone to America. These emigrants came from “two nearly contiguous estates stretching from the Waterside of Derry City to the mouth of the River Roe”. These papers clearly prove that the 1718 emigrants were generally not the poor and indigent. At least in this first group of emigrants, many of the Scotch-Irish were well-to-do; they had sold their lands and holdings and provided the financial means for the emigration of many of their fellow emigrants. Thanks to Richard McMaster, and his article in 'The Journal of Scotch-Irish Studies' vol.1 no.1 Spring 2000 pgs.18–23; American researchers can now understand how so many 1718 emigrants came to New England and immediately established homes, purchased land and developed business sites. Early American researchers, such as C. K. Bolton [pgs.132–144], had mentioned the possibility that the emigrants were reasonably well off; the Lechmere letters described by Bolton show a group of emigrants aware of the value of their service, and unwilling to lower their demands for payment, regardless of their status as newcomers. The Conolly papers prove that some of the 1718 emigrants were indeed relatively prosperous.
The Presbyterian background of the 1718 emigrants is well documented. The desire to worship in their denominational church of choice led to many disagreements with the established Church of England in New England upon their arrival. Many of the early struggles of Londonderry, New Hampshire and Worcester, Massachusetts are related to religious matters. The first 1718 emigrants into Worcester had their Presbyterian church torn down, and some Massachusetts town records show that the verbal battles between Protestants and Presbyterians sometimes became physical assaults and sometimes ended up in court. When faced with these troubles, the relative peace promised by William Penn encouraged many emigrants to move on, and opened up the lands of Pennsylvania as the true land of hope. Some original Presbyterian churches in the Pennsylvania towns settled by the 1718 emigrants stand to this day. The primary site for Presbyterian records related to this group is housed at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. The relative scarcity of records located there is a testament to the ravages of time, war and weather that slowly eroded many records. In typical American fashion, the website for the PHS notes that transferring church records to the Society is purely voluntary and many churches did not avail themselves of that opportunity. The frontier churches were largely 'here today, gone tomorrow' and the records of their first members have often disappeared over time. The archives of the Presbyterian church held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are the best possible source of early 18th century churches.
For a short period of time, 1718 to 1790, Presbyterianism was the leading denomination for the Scotch-Irish. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Church was ill-prepared for the rapid expansion of territory in America, and there were not enough ordained ministers to serve the needs of a rapidly growing and expanding population. The political leaders of the early 1700s wanted the Scotch-Irish on their frontiers to protect themselves from the Indians, but they were disappointed if they expected that the Scotch-Irish would be 'settlers'. Settle they did not, and constant movement, exploration and expansion of the borders was typical behaviour for the Scotch-Irish. Large families, large farms, and large appetites for 'free' land constantly fed the expansion. Added to this was the explosion in Irish emigration in the 1720–1750 time period, and the continual push of people out of the cities into the settled lands cultivated by the generation of pioneers before them. This expansion, in the author’s opinion, led to the demise of the Presbyterian church as a prominent New England organisation, and as a church closely associated with the Scotch-Irish. Even the churches founded by 1718 emigrants in Londonderry, New Hampshire and the Pennsylvania churches of Donegal and Upper Octorara give us little information about the origins of their members. Few records of the early Presbyterian church in America exist, and most of those sit on dusty shelves waiting for the enterprising researcher to discover. Both of the Bolton books show that many 1718 emigrants are documented in the Protestant churches of Massachusetts. The present author found a 1718 emigrant in the records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Abington, Pennsylvania, in records dating from 1719! Clearly, our ancestors placed a high priority on their religious activities. However, they were often content to find a church that approximated to their Presbyterian heritage, and did not always purposely settle in an area simply because a Presbyterian church was nearby.
Four years ago, my search for the 1718 emigrants began in earnest. After seeing the success of the 'Migration Project' begun by the New England Historical Genealogical Society, I began to dream of such a project focused on the 1718 Scotch-Irish emigrants. Along the way I have learned some valuable lessons about this ethnic group that makes this project much more difficult.
The Scotch-Irish did NOT stay in their little towns for generations. Considering the times, I find their movement amazing. One man, Moses White, is found in the records of the Dutch Reformed church in Abington, Pennsylvania as an 'early arrival of Ireland' with many others in 1719. Moses is then listed in 1722 as an Elder in the new Presbyterian church in Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania just a few miles away from Abington. By 1750, Moses and his sons have moved more than 700 miles away to the highlands of South Carolina in York County. It was in an old school building, on the shelves of the York County Historical Society, that I found the life of this man recorded by his descendants some 250 years later. Imagine searching 700 miles of country filled with towns and counties for one man and his family. Seemingly impossible, but not to his family, whose traditions preserved the knowledge of where to start looking.
The Scotch-Irish began as Presbyterians, but within one or two generations became Methodist, Congregational, Reformed Presbyterian, Baptist, or any other of the numerous denominations that have served our country’s religious needs. There is some valid speculation that many of the second generation of Quakers to Pennsylvania from 1705–1725 were originally Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. That may explain the numbers of Quakers who willingly fought in the Indian and revolutionary wars of the 18th century, despite Quaker traditions. Researchers should not exclude researching in a particular denomination because it mightn’t look Presbyterian enough for a Scotch-Irishman.
The local and national historical and genealogical societies are great resources for 1718 research. By contrast, universities and colleges in America have little or no interest in genealogical research; for them, it simply does not pay the bills. The academic world often does not grasp the fundamental premises of genealogy research, and since conjecture and surmise play a large part in our work, there is little room for genealogy in modern day classrooms. Fortunately, societies which have been in existence since the mid-1800s have undertaken the preservation and documentation of our nation’s genealogical past. Societies also were first to realise the vast wealth of information and tremendous value of the internet to genealogical research. Most societies focus on a geographical location. Finding such a society in an area in which a large group of Scotch-Irish lived can be invaluable. The Lancaster County Historical Society in Pennsylvania is such an example.
There is no such thing as a Scotch-Irish surname. Our names may have originated, and may still be found, in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, even sometimes in France. I still laugh when I enter a genealogical library and the first question is 'What surname are you looking for?' My answer of 'Yes' usually gives me an opening to explain my research. If you have a particular clearly identified surname of interest, count your blessings, but don’t be blind to the inability of American writers to discern the true spelling of that name. Imagine the old English harbourmaster talking to the young Gaelic shipmaster and you can imagine the difficulty both felt in understanding each other. Reverend Parker mentions many times that Gaelic was still used in Londonderry, New Hampshire by the second or third generation of the 1718 emigrants, and we know that the Scots language also survived for several generations.
My generation is largely ignorant of its past. In fact, not until I had completed research on my Boyd family did my 70-something mother discover her Presbyterian roots. She had always thought she was the 'first' in the family to be Presbyterian. Seeing her cry while reading about her ancestors in Londonderry, New Hampshire and Ireland opened an amazing window to my family’s true heritage. Unfortunately, the passage of so many generations and the daily grind of life in America has shut that window for many descendants of the Scotch-Irish. However, the explosion of interest in the Scotch-Irish heritage can be seen all over the genealogical landscape. Over 800 members actively discuss Scotch-Irish research at the Rootsweb site monitored by Linda Merle. This emailing group is largely responsible for my involvement with Scotch-Irish research.
No one has yet written a definitive book about the methodology for Scotch-Irish research in America, though William Roulston’s book, Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors (2005) is an essential introduction to the Irish background. The pioneer lives of these families, their ability to melt leaving few traces, into widely varying religious and political parties, their distinct distrust of political or religious authority, and their 'wanderlust' make them a hard people to document. I research a family, a town, a church between the time period of 1715 to 1800; given the networks of kinship and neighbourhood within which these people lived their lives, chances are I’ll strike gold, and find information about the families I’m particularly interested in.
The search for the 1718 emigrants can be summed up in a familiar Biblical phrase known to many – 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' Our ancestors who died in the pioneer towns of New England, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina and other colonial states left little behind to remind us of their lives. The daily work to create a farm, a land, a living leaves little time to appreciate the effort, and even less time to document those events. The history of America was a part of English history until 1776. Even after that date, one does not see a proliferation of history books being published about the history of the new America. Not until the early 1840s do you begin to see numerous books written about the histories of families, towns, counties, and states. The awareness of our history as a nation most likely began when people realised that the Revolutionary War heroes were all but lost into undocumented history. The rush to write this history can be seen in the many books that were published in the nineteenth century; for instance Rev. Edward L. Parker’s 'History of Londonderry' in 1851, and Charles W. Brewster’s 'Rambles about Portsmouth' in 1869, and The History of Portland [Maine]' by William Willis in 1865. These men wrote with the distinct disadvantage of having little or no direct connection to the earlier settlers of their towns more than 100 years before. Their books lack the proof of documentation, but their stories carry the veracity of years of handed-down legends and tales associated with old artefacts and relics from the past. The Bible records and town records the authors refer to may have long been lost, but the inherent accuracy of these old histories provides a good foundation for researching early settler families.
The modern researcher has a much more pressing problem. How do I find my Scotch-Irish ancestor? Many modern Americans can take their ancestry back two or three generations with the use of basic census and vitals records research. However, the rapid expansion of America from East to West during the 1800s created a huge gap in record keeping and documenting the pioneers. Fortunately, the internet has opened a door to those records and the families of the 1800s. The key to modern genealogy is to always start where YOU are. Find the records of the living first. Old Bibles, letters, census and vital records can give key names and places. Search those key locations; town histories, county records, land deeds, and military records are a goldmine of Scotch-Irish activity. The histories of Mid-Western and Eastern counties in the 1800s and early 1900s are famous for their massive amount of genealogical biography. Some highlight a few legends of the past, but many are well documented and accurate in their genealogical information. The majority of my finds relating to 1718 ancestors have been made within the nineteenth century histories of the counties and towns laid out by people who had migrated onward from the areas in which the 1718 shipmates first established themselves. Many such histories are stuffed into the shelves of old, dusty town libraries, neglected over the course of time.
There is no centrally located Scotch-Irish repository in America. Our history is as vast as the land and as diverse as the people. Finding our history requires an open mind and diligent search. It is the author’s hope that this website will begin the process of providing a central location for all researchers in Ireland and America to share in their search for the origins and descendants of the 1718 Scotch-Irish emigrants to America.
1718 Emigrant Sources- Books
Charles Knowles Bolton , Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (1910). [The premier book on the 1718 emigration].
Ethel Stanwood Bolton, Immigrants to New England, 1700–1775 (1931)
Edward L. Parker. History of Londonderry (1851) Republished by Town of Londonderry, New Hampshire 1974
George F. Willey. Willey’s Book of Nutfield (1895)
Charles A. Hanna. The Scotch-Irish or the Scot in North Britain, North Ireland and North America (new edition 1995).On line, free, at www.ancestry.com as "Scots-Irish".
Daniel Gage Annis, Vital Records of Londonderry, New Hampshire, 1719–1910 (1914, reprinted 1994)
Leonard A. Morrison. The History of Windham in New Hampshire and Supplement (1892) Morrison’s books are true genealogical resource books, unlike the books by Parker and Willey, which are local histories that include genealogical material. Morrison wrote many more on the Scotch-Irish of New Hampshire.
General Scotch-Irish resources
R.J. Dickson, Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718–75 (1976)
David Dobson. Scots-Irish Links, 1575–1725. Any of the numerous books written by Mr. Dobson is a great index of S-I surnames.
Henry Jones Ford, The Scotch-Irish in America (1915)
Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (1944?)
William Henry Egle. Pennsylvania Genealogies, Chiefly Scotch-Irish and German (1886)
Jean Stephenson, Scotch-Irish Migration to South Carolina, 1772: Rev. William Martin and His Five Shiploads of Settlers (1971, reprinted 2005)
Joyce Alexander, editor, The Journal of Scotch-Irish Studies, Center for Scotch-Irish Studies. Glenolden, PA 2000 An annual peer-reviewed scholarly journal on current S-I studies in the USA and abroad. Five journals published up to 2005
Research on CD
The latest trend has been to burn resources into CD. This makes searching very much easier and faster. There are CDs for sale by Family Tree Maker at www.familytreemaker.com:
• Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607–1776 (#350) This CD contains approximately 140,000 names. It includes the texts of six books by Peter Wilson Coldham: The Complete Book of Emigrants (four volumes), along with The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage and its supplement. Peter Wilson Coldham, the foremost authority on early English emigration, compiled this data from a myriad of original English sources over several decades.
• Immigrant Histories: Huguenot Settlers in North America and Europe, 1600s–1900s (#600)
• Immigrants to the New World, 1600s–1800s (#170)
• Passenger and Immigration Lists: Boston, 1821–1850 (#256)
• Passenger and Immigration Lists: Irish Immigrants to North America, 1803–1871 (#257)
www.genealogy.com has CDs and books such as CD 276: Scotch-Irish Settlers in America, 1500s–1800s Immigration Records. CD 276 contains many of the book resources listed above.
Searching on the Web (free)
homepages.rootsweb.com/~merle Linda Merle is the premier Scotch-Irish researcher in America. As the moderator of the Scotch-Irish Rootsweb email list, she interacts with over 800 researchers on a daily basis. Her web page is the most complete website discussing the Scotch-Irish.
lists.rootsweb.com & rootsweb.com Rootsweb is the international site dedicated to free genealogy research. The above link also explains the email lists. Rootsweb is an archived site. Past messages are saved from before the year 2000. Researchers can also use Rootsweb to download and save primary resources, family resources, and genealogy websites like Linda Merle’s.
Independent USA lists focused on local areas of research
Searching on the Web (pay sites)
Colin’s Notes: All of the above are great resources. Starting with the free websites will give you a huge amount of information, and an easy way to learn what resources you REALLY need. Purchasing CDs will give you mass amounts of information for a relatively small amount of money. I am assuming all readers of this page know the basics of internet genealogy. Therefore I won’t waste time discussing the LDS site or Ancestry.com etc. Like 'em or hate 'em you really should use 'em. The two pay sites mentioned are the premier New England websites on the market (author’s opinion). Both have incredible databases, newspapers, records, and other genealogical material. The above list is a small start into the vast amounts of Scotch-Irish resources ever published.