The Myth of the Scots-Irish–The “Legend of a People.”

The  “Legend of a People” is very hard to fully document.  And even harder to understand–as it relates to your genealogy.  So while the people this Blog will focus on are called by a variety of terms (all of which we will discuss in detail), I will call them the Scots-Irish.

As far as I know about my own genealogy background–currently–there are no Scots-Irish in my lineage.  On either side of the ocean.  No matter.  I love them.  As a people.  As an object of study.  As a focus for the genealogy client work that I do.  And since I specialize in Virginia and the South, I have already searched a lot of Scots-Irish ancestors.  On both sides of the River Ohio.  On both sides of the ocean.  And will get the chance to trace many more.

George Washington also loved them and trusted them.  He said, “If defeated everywhere, I will take my last stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia…”

So let’s plunge in.  With a list of books that I recommend you read–if you want to trace your Scots-Irish ancestors, these older studies, based on the documents more than on the press releases and sound-bites, will prepare your mind, and your heart to know these ancestors.  With one or two exceptions, these works have extensive source lists and careful footnotes.  They are called scholarly studies.  And they have stood the test of time.  They are also easily available in most genealogy and research libraries.

Research and Study Bibliography

Bailyn, Bernard.  Voyageurs to the West:  A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.  Bailyn studies the English and Scottish who came to America using the registration of British emigrants as a base. Celtic areas of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and the English Uplands tended to be anti-English government.

Campbell, John C.  The Southern Highlander and his Homeland.  New York:  1921. Some interesting comparisons of the Scots, the Scots-Irish, and the Irish.  With some good maps.

Dickson, RJ.  Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718-1775.  London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.  Supported by the Ulster-Scot Historical Society. A study of the ships and passengers that left Ireland for America.

Fischer, David Hackett.  Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1989.  Includes a study of the borderlands and back country of the South.

Fraser, George MacDonald.  The Steel Bonnets:  The Study of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers.  London:  HarperCollins/Publishers, 1995.  Paperback edition; first published in 1986.  Maps with locations of surnames along the English-Scottish border in the 16th c.

Green, Alice Stopford.  The Making of Ireland and Its Undoing, 1200-1600.  London:  Macmillan & Company, Ltd., 1908.  Includes a good basic map of Ireland.  Green describes the immense destruction of everything Irish during the Tudor Wars.  Called the “Godly conquest,” and the “perfecting of Ireland.”

Hanna, Charles A.  The Scotch-Irish or the Scot in North Britain, North Ireland, and North America.  2 vols.  New York:  1902.  See also his short study of the Scotch-Irish Genealogies in the Ohio Valley.  Both are very important source books.

Hicks, Theresa M.  South Carolina Indians, Indian Traders, and Other Ethnic Connections Beginning in 1670.  Spartanburg, SC:  The Reprint Company Publishers, 1998.  The goal of this work is to help the genealogist find some link to their family line in the sources treated and abstracted.

Landman, Ned C.  Scotland and its First American Colony, 1683-1765.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1985.  Includes lists of those who came to New Jersey, where they settled, and where they migrated to.

Leyburn, James G. The Scotch-Irish:  A Social History.  Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 1962. Considered accurate by contemporary historians.  Genealogists have not weighed in yet.  Study of the Scots-Irish on both sides of the ocean.

McDonald, Forrest, and Grady McWhiney.  “The Antebellum Scottish Herdsman:  A Reinterpretation,” Journal of Southern History 41 (1975): 147-66.

McWhiney, Grady.  Cracker Culture:  Celtic Ways in the Old South.  Tuscaloosa AL:  University of Alabama Press, 1988.  Based on newspapers, and various kinds of press releases about the Scots-Irish.  Very well documented–shows the pervasiveness of the “Legend of a People.”

Meyer, Duane.  The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776.  Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

Ramsey, Robert W.  Carolina Cradle:  Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762. Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 1964.  Available in paperback.  Pennsylvania origins of Quakers and Irish [Scots-Irish].

Stewart, ATQ.  The Ulster Crisis:  Resistance to Home Rule, 1912-1914.  Belfast:  Blackstaff Press, 1967.  Reprinted, 1997.  Description of the many differences in Ulster.  The American Declaration of Independence was handwritten by an Ulsterman and printed by an Ulsterman.  Very interesting study.

You will note that this reading list includes Scots, Irish, English and their interactions and involvement in the British Isles and in America.  You cannot understand one group in isolation from the others.  Nor trace individual persons, who belong to that group through time with any hope of success.  Understanding often comes from comparing one people with another.  Your favorite Southern genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Stay tuned as each day we learn a few more facts and insights into the Scots-Irish.  Next, you get a laundry list of names and why they are significant.  See yah!









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