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A Wee Bit Scots, A Beagánín (Little Bit) Irish

A Wee Bit Scots, A Beagánín (Little Bit) Irish

March 15, 2023

My Irish ancestors are from the North—Northern Ireland, to be more specific. Before that, they were Scots from the lowlands of Scotland. Many Americans have Scots-Irish (or Ulster Scots/Ulster Irish as they may be referred to in Ireland) ancestors. The vast majority of Scots-Irish came to America in the 1700s and 1800s from the province of Ulster. Today there are more than 35 million Americans with Scots-Irish ancestors. 

Many people left Scotland during the time of the Ulster Plantation of James I. The English monarchy was trying to move more crown-friendly people into the northern parts of Ireland to settle. Many English and Scots made the move. Religious persecution and economic hardships followed, and many emigrated to other countries like Canada and America.

At first, this group identified themselves as Irish, as they had been in Ireland for a couple of generations. After the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, however, they started calling themselves Scots-Irish to separate themselves from the southern Catholic Irish who were not Scottish. Many of the first Scots-Irish landed in Pennsylvania but eventually migrated to Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other southern states. 

As with other European ancestors who I searched for over the years, I traced my Scots-Irish back to my immigrant ancestor. By searching each and every U.S. record I could find, I did locate where he was from in County Down. From there, the searching of Irish records began. 

There are many websites to help you find your Scots-Irish. The usual suspects, such as Ancestry Library Edition, Findmypast, and FamilySearch.org, have records from Northern Ireland. More specific websites are PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), the Ulster Historical Foundation, the National Archives of Ireland, ScotlandsPeople (subscription required), The Scots in Ulster, Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, and Ulster Ancestry.

I found my William (a common given name in the whole of Ireland) in County Down. Going back a couple of generations, I located where they were from in Scotland. Once again, check every record you can find; I found the Scottish location on an Irish survey under the landowner’s name as my ancestor was renting a section of land. I hope you have the luck of the Irish (and Scots) in tracing your Scots-Irish!

Sheri V.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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