Scots Irish

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The Scots Irish, also known as Scotch Irish (especially in USA) or Ulster Scots (especially in Northern Ireland), are an ethnic group found in the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland Genealogy. They are to be found mostly in Northern Ireland Genealogy, but also in some neighbouring parts of the Ireland Genealogy particularly County Donegal.

Diaspora[edit | edit source]

The most notable Scots Irish diaspora is in North America, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains. Other areas where Scots-Irish have moved to include Central Scotland, England (particularly Liverpool, Manchester and London), and other parts of Ireland (particularly Dublin). Scots-Irish also migrated to other parts of the British Empire such as Australia and New Zealand, although they maintained less of a distinct identity there.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Scotland and Ireland have been exchanging populations for centuries. In Roman times, "Scotia" was used for Ireland, for example. The former Kingdoms of Dalriada and Galloway in South West Scotland had long standing associations with Ireland. The Gaelic place names and surnames that can be found on both sides of the North Channel (including in the Lowlands) are good evidence of those ties e.g. Campbell, MacDonald/MacDonnell.

In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period, the English started a number of Plantations, or colonisation projects, in Ireland, in places such as Dublin and Ulster. The Plantation of Ulster was started in the 16th Century under the English, and originally had little or no Scottish involvement. This changed when the Stuart King James VI of Scotland ascended to the English throne, and united the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 (Scotland retained its own government until 1707). The origins of modern Scots-Irish are generally taken to be from the Scottish Planters who came over in the early 17th century, and a subsequent migration in the early 18th century.

The bulk of the settlers came from southern Scotland, especially those parts closest to Ireland such as Galloway and Ayrshire. A more significant party came from the Scottish Borders, which had been an unruly and violent area for centuries. The Border Clans had been a nuisance to the kings of both England and Scotland and had caused international incidents between the two. King James decided to try and kill two birds with one stone, by moving many of the unruly Borderers away from their homeland, and to hold down Ulster. Hence, Borderers were a major contingent of the Planters, and this is reflected in many surnames.

However, despite their name, the Ulster Scots are not entirely of Scottish origin. Often surnames are a giveaway. English and Welsh people were also involved with the Plantation of Ulster, and so their surnames can be found among Ulster Scots. Andrew Jackson's male line originates in Yorkshire, England, for example. A number of Ulster Scots also have surnames which are of indigenous Irish origin. Another misconception is that the Scots-Irish came exclusively from the Lowlands - this is not true either, and there is evidence of migrations from Argyll in the southern Highlands.

In the 20th century, with the growth of Loyalism (radical unionism), a number of origin myths have emerged about Ulster Scots. One of them is that they are the descendants of Pictish people (Cruithin) who were expelled from Ulster by the Irish. There is no evidence of this. In 1921, Ireland was partitioned - most Ulster Scots found themselves in Northern Ireland. In the later 20th century, the Troubles further politicised the identity questions. Under devolution in Northern Ireland, an Ulster Scots agency has been set up.

Religion[edit | edit source]

A common misconception is that Scots-Irish is a synonym for an Ulster Protestant, especially a Presbyterian or non-Anglican Protestant. While most who self-identify as Scots-Irish/Ulster-Scots are Protestant, Scottish surnames are to be found throughout the Roman Catholic population in Ulster as well. It is not uncommon for neighbours of different religions to share the same surnames in much of Ulster.

While most of those who self-identify as Scots-Irish today are Protestant and/or unionist, many Roman Catholics have a Scottish origin too. Rathlin Island's population is traditionally Roman Catholic, but the island was repopulated from Scotland within recorded history.

Language[edit | edit source]

There is an Ulster Scots vernacular, which depending on one's point of view is either a dialect of Lowland Scots, English, or a language in its own right. It has a lot of Scottish words in it, along with some words of Irish origin. It is essentially a continuum, with a very strong form at one end (which is rarely heard now) over to a few words in an English sentence. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics use Ulster Scots words, although it is associated more with the former.

There is also historical evidence of the use of Irish Gaelic, and formerly Scottish Gaelic, by Ulster Scots. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses, a number of Protestant families in Ulster are recorded as speaking Irish, some of them with obviously Scottish surnames. In more recent times, the use of Irish has been limited among Protestants, and it has become associated with republicanism. However, there is a minor revival of interest

Ulster Scots surnames[edit | edit source]

There are a number of Ulster Scots surnames. Because of the Scottish, Irish and English origins of Ulster Scots, it is hard to point to any which are distinctively Ulster Scots. However, here are list of some fairly typical ones:

Abernethy, Adams, Adamson, Allen, (Mc)Andrews, Armstrong, Bell, Black, Bleakley/Blakely, Boyle, Brown, Burns, Calhoun, Campbell, Carson, Clinton/Clanton, Craig, Crawford, Crockett, Dodd, Douglas, Dunlop, Elliot, Ewing, Foster, Gibson, Gillespie, Graham, Hall, Hanna(h), Hart, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Hughes, Irwin/Irvine/Ervine, Jackson, Johnson, Johnston, Kane, Kennedy, Kerr, Knox, Logan, Lynn, McAfee, (Mc)Allister, McCandless, McClelland, McConnell, McCormick, McDowell, McGoffin, McKean, Maguire, Maharg, Martin, Maxwell, Moore, Morrison, Morrow, Orr, Parton, Patton/Paton/Patten, Paisley, Reid, (Mc)Reynolds, Robinson, Scott, Smith, Spence, Stevenson, Stewart, Taylor, Thom(p)son, Thornton, Traynor, Turnbull/Trimble, Tweed(ie), Walker, Wallace, Ward, Watson, White, Wilson

Research Tutorials[edit | edit source]