Scot-Irish genealogy is the process of tracing your American ancestors across the Atlantic to one of the nine counties of the Irish province of Ulster.
The general assumption is that everyone who came from Ulster had ancestors in Scotland. This is not entirely true. Protestants from Scotland were the majority of settlers in Ulster, but Protestants from England and France also settled there. And of course, despite the hardships they faced, many native Irish remained in Ulster, especially in Counties Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan. Over the course of time, people changed religions and intermarried, so you may discover that your ancestors do not fit the standard story line of the Scots-Irish.
One thing that makes genealogy for the Scots-Irish different from other types is that general direction of the research flow is known: America – Ireland – Scotland. And if you ancestors did originally come from Scotland, they probably came from Ayrshire or another lowland county. While Highland settlement in Ulster was not unknown, it wasn’t common until the nineteenth century.”
Do you know where to look for your Scots-Irish ancestors? These resources might have the information you’re looking for.
The Book of Ulster Surnames by Robert Bell (The Blackstaff Press)
Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600–1800 by William J. Roulston (Ulster Historical Foundation)
The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght (Irish Academic Press)
Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History by George F. Black (New York Public Library)
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 3rd edition, by John Grenham (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
Tracing Your Irish Family History by Anthony Adolph (Firefly Books)
Tracing Your Northern Irish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Ian Maxwell (Pen and Sword Books)
Centre for Migration Studies
Ulster American Folk Park, 2 Mellon Road, Castletown, Omagh, Tyrone BT78 5QY, United Kingdom
General Register Office of Ireland
Convent Road, Roscommon, Ireland
General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House, 3 W. Register St., Edinburgh EH1 3YT, Scotland
Linen Hall Library
17 Donegall Square North, Belfast BT1 5GB, United Kingdom
The Methodist Church in Ireland
1 Fountainville Ave., Belfast BT9 6AN, United Kingdom
National Archives of Ireland
Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland
National Library of Ireland
Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland
Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast BT1 6DW, United Kingdom
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
66 Balmoral Ave., Belfast BT9 6NY, United Kingdom
Ulster Historical Foundation
49 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6RY, United Kingdom
Of course, it’s not just a matter of knowing where to search – having a thorough understanding of the history of the Ulster Scots will help guide your research and help you create a plan of attack.
For example, did you know that for much of the eighteenth century, marriages performed by Presbyterian members were not legal? That means that a Presbyterian ancestor may not have marriage records, or that they’ll be held in a different denomination.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.
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