April 7, 2021
When looking for your Scottish ancestors in America, a wee bit of history is important. Scottish immigration began after 1650 when Oliver Cromwell defeated Scottish troops and sent them to America, notably Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In the 1600s and 1700s, free Scots came to America and settled in places such as New Jersey and the Carolinas.
Highland Scots usually settled in frontier regions (North Carolina, Georgia) while Lowland Scots settled in urban centers (New York City, Philadelphia). Later, Philadelphia became the common port of entry for these immigrants. Most Scots came in family groups and became farmers. The second half of the 1800s saw single men and women immigrate and work in factories during the Industrial Revolution.
Don’t forget the Scots-Irish (or Ulster Scots) from Northern Ireland. These people also came to America during the 18th century. It is estimated that about 250,000 settled in America at this time. These Scots had settled in Ireland between 1608 and 1697. Many immigrated to America to avoid religious persecution.
Finding your Scottish ancestors involves searching all American resources at your disposal—private family records, interviews with relatives, family Bibles, family histories, and genealogical data in the county, town, or area your ancestors lived. Probate and land records may provide clues to the town of origin. Since Scotland (or Ireland) does not have one central location for records, locating the town, parish, or province/county of origin is important if you want to look for records in the old country.
Check to see if your ancestor participated in the American Revolution, as many Scots did and received a pension or land. Church records can be very important as well. Depending on the denomination, marriage records may include parents’ names and town of origin.
Need help? Check out the Mid-Continent Public Library online catalog for items available for checkout on Scottish research. Also, be sure to use the Library’s online genealogy resources, such as FindMyPast (available remotely for a limited time), Ancestry Library Edition (available remotely until the end of June), British Library Newspapers, and MyHeritage Library Edition. Another good website for research is FamilySearch.org.
With a wee bit of luck and research, you may find success in researching your Scots. What interesting facts have you found about your Scottish ancestors? Let us know in the comments below.
Midwest Genealogy Center
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