North Carolina: Scottish, Irish, Scots-Irish–settled early on. Some got along, some didn’t.

More Scots settled in North Carolina, in the Cape Fear River Valley than in any other part of Colonial America. This long valley, with its graduated elevation climbing to the Fall Line and beyond, could be reached directly by ship and then canoes and eventually steamers. Eastern North Carolina was blocked by sand dunes.

Historians are agreed that the best and most detailed descriptions of this inland “Paradise” were letters home inviting family members and close friends to come and settle nearby. The population grew from ca 36,000 in 1729, just as the Scots began coming in earnest to more than 300,000 by 1776 at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Some 50,000 were from Scotland, with a large number from the Highlands and the Hebrides Islands. The miracle of the American Dream was a heady attraction to the economically deprived and weary Scots.

Let me recommend two studies for your reading list this summer:

  1. Carolina Scots: An Historical and Genealogical Study of Over 100 Yeas of Emigration written by Douglas F. Kelly with Caroline Switzer Kelly. Dillon, SC: 1739 Publications, 1998. pp.485. Includes end maps of Western Scotland with its Isles and Inlets by Martin Martin about 1748 and Coastal North Carolina, 1775. The first third of the book includes history of Scotland and the specific historical causes of migration–why the Scots left Scotland forever for a new life in an unknown land. Genealogies of specific families and their kinship networks fills the bulk of the pages. Kelly explains his methodology, which includes a heavy emphasis on oral history which the Scots are known for. Includes a detailed bibliography.
  2. Voyageurs to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution written by Bernard Bailyn with the assistance of Barbara DeWolfe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986. Well indexed. Bailyn describes, in detail, the differences between the Scots and the English settlers in America. If you are serious about tracing your ancestors from North Carolina back to Scotland and Ireland, these details are essential knowledge. Bailyn describes his sources and provides specific pages and archives for each fact. Of all the books in my own reference library, Bailyn’s Voyageurs to the West has been read most often and provided the way to resolve really difficult genealogy problems.

Both of these books are still in print. You may want your own personal copy if you have more than one ancestor from this background. Your favorite Scots and Irish genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Are you in a State with “sheltering at home” restrictions? Buy a book for your genealogy and spend some time really studying it–the sources used, the conclusions of the author, the illustrations and the maps, the footnotes and explanations of the author. You might draft a checklist of the sources used and why they are significant. You can use these checklists time and time again to trace ancestors.

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