Identifying origins in the British Isles is a real challenge, especially for the Irish and Scots-Irish because of their common names, their movements around the British Isles before they arrive in America, and because immigration sources do not have to identify their origins–they move from part of the kingdom or commonwealth to another.
(Population percentages derived from Peopling of Virginia by Robert Bennett Bean, published in 1938.)
English—39% of the Colonial population in Virginia.
Younger sons of great families; cluster in towns and on plantations.
Usually marry within their social class.
Maintain households with servants—often indentured servants related to the family.
Land holdings in more than one county; more than one state.
May be Quaker or Baptist before it is legal to practice their religion.
Migrate early into the South—Georgia, South Carolina, into the Deep South.
Welsh—11.4% of the Colonial population, especially in Piedmont sections, reaching 13.2% of the population; clannish, congregate in “Welsh Tracts” or Reserves;
Acquire landholdings—land is essential for an on-going pedigree.
Immediate family members often have different surnames—versions
of the same patronymic or metronymic; Daniel=Daniels, Danielson, ODaniels;
Nicknames can be the same for male or female—examples: Winna, Joy.
Intermarry with Protestants, may assume another surname.
Church attendance is important—will travel to attend.
Hate the English, new immigrants rarely intermarry with them
Scots—28.4% of the population, included merchants and their factors (usually related to the family); highest concentration in Augusta County (56.8% including the Scots-Irish), Southwest Virginia, and trading towns of Alexandria and Fredricksburg. Concentrated along rivers and major roads: trade routes;
Trade with the Indians and intermarry with them (called alliances).
Do not fight the Indians; newly arrived immigrants usually not soldiers.
Purchase plantations as a seat of operations and to qualify to vote–
Rely on others to prefer, appoint, recommend, and aid.
Not frontiersmen per se, arrange trade zones and centers around their residences.
Hire only their own relatives! The persons they can control through family ties.
Most often Loyalists—close ties to families in Scotland, low legal profile, stay out of public eye, go underground to save their property from confiscation.
May include “hidden” or disguised surnames—for clans that were proscribed by the English government—MacGregar is an example.
Migrate directly to the American South—South Carolina, Maryland, Southside Virginia.
Scots-Irish—17.2 % of the population in Southwestern Virginia, into West Virginia; also called Ulstermen, Ulster Scots, Presbyterian Irish.
Protestants who lived in Scotland and settled in Ireland before coming to America;
Records often call them Irish—may be born in Ireland of Scottish parents.
Migrate into Pennsylvania, then down the Great Valley into Georgia Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and points South and West.
Neither Scots nor Irish as a race, their origins are shrouded in the mists
of Eastern Europe; mummies buried in the hoarfrost were wrapped in tartans!
Frontiersmen, herdsmen–always pushing westward away from the crowds.
Willing to fight—in court for their rights, in battle for their freedom.
Attend church, participation is a passion. They accepted their relationship
with God by Covenant, and were told never to forget!
Marry within their own blood kinship networks, brothers frequently marry sisters to keep their lands within the family; intermarry with Indian populations.
Own land wherever they settle—move on if owning land is not an option.
Buy Revolutionary land warrants and bounties if they did not serve themselves; claim Government bounties wherever and whenever they are offered—“other people’s money.”
Irish—5.5% of population, includes Quakers; concentrated in Southside Virginia
migrate directly from Ireland, north and south, includes Celtic Irish; over 25% of the population of New York and portions of Rhode Island.
Or migrate directly into Georgia; merge with those who settled in South Carolina, southern Alabama and New Orleans.
Can be Roman Catholic as well as Protestant; if Catholic, take low legal profile–being Catholic was illegal in British territory until 1829, in America until 1790.
Live mostly in cities and towns, educate their children. Serve in “train bands.”
Willing to identify their exact migration pattern to apply for land—read the deeds!
Willing to fight—in court for their rights, in battle for their freedom–insist on correct spelling of their names! May go into court and have the records specifically changed to the correct spelling. Keep O and Mc–Watch carefully!
Irish Origins and Names—a Matter of Controversy
Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Research: A Guide to the Genealogical Records, Methods, and Sources in Ireland. 2 Vols. Strasburg VA: 1961. Ms Falley identifies Celtic-Irish, Norman-Irish, Anglo-Irish, and Scotch-Irish. Almost 1,200 pages of sources.
Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Thorough study of the settlement and culture of Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Carolina Back Country.
McWhiney, Grady, and Forrest McDonald. “Celtic Names in the Antebellum Southern United States,” Names, Journal of the American Name Society 31 (1983): 89-102.
McWhiney, Grady. Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South. Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press, 1988. A cracker is a braggart, a “poor white” in the Old South, a person who has no settled place to live, so he hunts and plunders what others have worked for. McWhiney quotes numerous observations by eye-witnesses.
O’Brien, Michael J. Irish Settlers in America, 2 Vols. Articles printed in the Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, 1891-1941. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1979, 1993. Writing from 1919 through 1960, when he died at age 92, O’Brien identified and documented by name and origins, thousands of Irish settlers. He did not distinguish Irish and Scots-Irish.