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The First Irish in America

The Scots Irish were the first Irish immigrants in America, but their story is frequently forgotten by succeeding generations. This may be due to the fact they are considered the first culture to make a complete break from their origins in the British Isles and to think of themselves as truly American. As a consequence, uncovering your family origins can be an adventure in research. However, the history of how they came to live here is quite compelling and unique, and chances are that if you are from South Carolina then it’s fairly likely that someone in your family tree is Scots Irish and if you are from the upstate then it’s very likely that most of your family tree is Scots Irish.

One clue to help you get started can be found in your own family’s linguistics. Case in point, all of these words have sprung from my grandmother at one time or another: “I liked to kill over waiting on Verna in that airy room, but she came directly.” Likewise, I believe my father said something similar to this after I’d done something bad: “I swanny Will if you don’t tell me who all rolled our neighbor’s yard you’re gonna be fit to be tarred.” If some of these words and sentence structures are familiar to you then you’re probably one of the many who are of Scots Irish ancestry whose family still uses their speech patterns, a dialect that is as one Spanish ambassador to Scotland in the 16th century said, “…is as different to English as Portuguese is to Spanish.” The Scots Irish carried this patois and many other cultural traditions from the bloody frontier border of Scotland and England to the unrest of Northern Ireland and finally to their third frontier marked by strife, the backcountry of South Carolina. And whether they entered from the “top” on the Great Wagon Road or from the “bottom” by way of Charleston on the “coffin” ships, the Scots Irish found themselves interwoven into South Carolina and America’s history; producing presidents, influencing culture, religion, music and speech and leaving an outsized imprint on the fabric of America.

Fortunately, Richland Library and the Walker Local History Room have a many great resources for linguistic, genealogical and historical research on the original Irish immigrants.


Amazon Says: This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of Amer more...
Amazon Says: This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins. While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations. less...
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Amazon Says: Over the last 350 years, Ireland has sent a constant stream of emigrants to North America. Estimates range from 6 to 10 million. Each emigrant spoke English, Irish, or Ulste more...
Amazon Says: Over the last 350 years, Ireland has sent a constant stream of emigrants to North America. Estimates range from 6 to 10 million. Each emigrant spoke English, Irish, or Ulster Scots. Many indeed used two of these tongues. One of the most formative chapters in this fascinating story is the often-overlooked arrival of perhaps 200,000 people from Ulster in the colonial era, specifically in the sixty years before the American Revolution. This book recounts the lasting impact they made on the development of the,English language of the United States from the 18th century to the present day. It documents nearly 400 terms and meanings, each with quotations from both sides of the Atlantic, that were contributed to American English by these 18th-century settlers from Ulster. Drawing on letters they sent back to their homeland and on other archival documents associated with their settlement, including local fiction and poetry, it shows that Ulster emigrants and their children, who settled mainly in the American interior, gave as much to regional American English as any other group from the Old World. Its pages contain many pleasant surprises: readers will find terms both instantly recognisable and unfamiliar. The numerous quotations not only bring alive the speech of earlier days on both sides of the Atlantic but also extend our understanding of the culture, mannerisms and life of those pioneering times and, through the spoken and written word, poignantly link the past with the present. less...
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Amazon Says: Dispelling much of what he terms the 'mythology' of the Scotch-Irish, James Leyburn provides an absorbing account of their heritage. He discusses their life in Scotland, when more...
Amazon Says: Dispelling much of what he terms the 'mythology' of the Scotch-Irish, James Leyburn provides an absorbing account of their heritage. He discusses their life in Scotland, when the essentials of their character and culture were shaped; their removal to Northern Ireland and the action of their residence in that region upon their outlook on life; and their successive migrations to America, where they settled especially in the back-country of Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, and then after the Revolutionary War were in the van of pioneers to the west. less...
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Amazon Says: More than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to the Scots, whose bloodline was stained by centuries of continuous warfare along the border between England and more...
Amazon Says: More than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to the Scots, whose bloodline was stained by centuries of continuous warfare along the border between England and Scotland, and later in the bitter settlements of England’s Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scots-Irish migrated to America in the eighteenth century, traveling in groups of families and bringing with them not only long experience as rebels and outcasts but also unparalleled skills as frontiersmen and guerrilla fighters. Their cultural identity reflected acute individualism, dislike of aristocracy and a military tradition, and, over time, the Scots-Irish defined the attitudes and values of the military, of working class America, and even of the peculiarly populist form of American democracy itself. Born Fighting is the first book to chronicle the full journey of this remarkable cultural group, and the profound, but unrecognized, role it has played in the shaping of America. Written with the storytelling verve that has earned his works such acclaim as “captivating . . . unforgettable” (the Wall Street Journal on Lost Soliders), Scots-Irishman James Webb, Vietnam combat veteran and former Naval Secretary, traces the history of his people, beginning nearly two thousand years ago at Hadrian’s Wall, when the nation of Scotland was formed north of the Wall through armed conflict in contrast to England’s formation to the south through commerce and trade. Webb recounts the Scots’ odyssey—their clashes with the English in Scotland and then in Ulster, their retreat from one war-ravaged land to another. Through engrossing chronicles of the challenges the Scots-Irish faced, Webb vividly portrays how they developed the qualities that helped settle the American frontier and define the American character. Born Fighting shows that the Scots-Irish were 40 percent of the Revolutionary War army; they included the pioneers Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston; they were the writers Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; and they have given America numerous great military leaders, including Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Audie Murphy, and George S. Patton, as well as most of the soldiers of the Confederacy (only 5 percent of whom owned slaves, and who fought against what they viewed as an invading army). It illustrates how the Scots-Irish redefined American politics, creating the populist movement and giving the country a dozen presidents, including Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation’s elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music. Both a distinguished work of cultural history and a human drama that speaks straight to the heart of contemporary America, Born Fighting reintroduces America to its most powerful, patriotic, and individualistic cultural group—one too often ignored or taken for granted. less...
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Amazon Says: Using the community of the Waxhaws as his proving ground, Peter N. Moore challenges the notion that the Carolina upcountry was a static, undeveloped backwater until entreprene more...
Amazon Says: Using the community of the Waxhaws as his proving ground, Peter N. Moore challenges the notion that the Carolina upcountry was a static, undeveloped backwater until entrepreneurial cotton planters entered the region after 1800. Moore looks through the lens of a single community - a predominately Scots-Irish settlement in the lower Catawba River valley in what is today Fairfield, Lancaster, York, and Chester counties - to document the social, economic, and cultural characteristics of a locale that was dynamic before planters set their sights on piedmont South Carolina. Moore shows that social tensions within the Waxhaw community drove its transformation, rather than the land-grabbing speculators and aggressive planters. He identifies the forces for change within the Waxhaw community - immigration patterns, neighborhood rivalries, population growth, and developing markets for slaves and wheat. By 1800 the Waxhaws bore little resemblance to the backcountry community of the late colonial period. Moore complicates the broader picture of the transformation of the southern interior. He also contributes to the debate over the rural transition to capitalism and engages the literature of the evangelical Great Revival to demonstrate the influence of revivals, familial loyalties, and doctrinal differences on the region's religious culture. Telling a more inclusive story than many studies of the late-colonial piedmont, "World of Toil and Strife" points to the importance of Indian-white conflicts in shaping both the geography of local communities and the mentality of white settlers. Throughout the volume, Moore relocates the origins of southernness to an earlier period, arguing that commercial agriculture, slavery, and evangelical religion took hold in the upcountry immediately after the Revolution, long before the arrival of cotton culture. less...
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Amazon Says: The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to the South was first publishedd by McGraw Hill as part of its "Great American Trails" series, edited by A. B. Gutherie, Jr. It was ins more...
Amazon Says: The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to the South was first publishedd by McGraw Hill as part of its "Great American Trails" series, edited by A. B. Gutherie, Jr. It was instantly recognized for its insight into the birth of the American South from the early 1700's until the Civil War. Historian Carl Bridenbaugh wrote that "In the last sixteen years of the colonial era, southbound traffic along the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road was numbered in tens of thousands; it was the most heavily travelled road in all America..." and Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson marked its route on their map of Virginia in 1754 as "the great Wagon Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia distant 435 miles." Over the years the Road led countless Scotch-Irish, Germanic, and English settlers southward from Philadelphia to settle the Appalachian uplands from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Over the Road went the progenitors of John Sevier of Tennessee, John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina, Sam Houston of Texas, Cyrus McCormick of Virginia, and other Americans. Countless cities and towns from Philadelphia to Augusta, Georgia, owe their beginning to early camp sites along the Road that grew into tavern locations, then into county seats, and then into centers of agriculture and industry. Today such Wagon Road towns as Lancaster, York, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Harper's Ferry, West Virginia; Winchester, Newmarket, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, and Rocky Mount, Virginia; Winston-Salem, Salisbury, and Charlotte, North Carolina; and Newberry and Camden, South Carolina have grown along the onetime settler's trail. The Great Wagon Road also tells of Daniel Boone's pioneering from Big Lick, Virginia-now Roanoke-into the territory of Kentucky. Boone Expedited western settlement by cutting a trail across Cumberland Gap on Virginia's frontier to lead settlers in Revolutionary years into dangerous Indian country. less...
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Amazon Says: What do Mark Twain, Neil Armstrong, and John McCain have in common? They're all descendants of a merry group of Scots-Irish braggarts that crossed the Atlantic from Ireland in more...
Amazon Says: What do Mark Twain, Neil Armstrong, and John McCain have in common? They're all descendants of a merry group of Scots-Irish braggarts that crossed the Atlantic from Ireland in the early 1700s and settled in America's South. Also known as the "Other Irish," this wild bunch of patriotic, rebellious, fervently religious rascals gave us the NRA, at least fourteen presidents, decisive victories in the Revolutionary War, a third of today's US Military, country music, Star Wars, the Munchkins, American-style Democracy, and even the religious right . . . not to mention NASCAR, whose roots go back to Prohibition-era moonshine runners. Yet few Americans are familiar with the Other Irish or their contributions to American culture. Now author and documentary filmmaker Karen McCarthy shines a probing light on this fascinating topic, illuminating the extent to which the Scots-Irish helped weave the fabric of our nation.   less...
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Amazon Says: The Scotch-Irish began emigrating to Northern Ireland from Scotland in the seventeenth century to form the Ulster Plantation. In the next century these Scottish Presbyterians more...
Amazon Says: The Scotch-Irish began emigrating to Northern Ireland from Scotland in the seventeenth century to form the Ulster Plantation. In the next century these Scottish Presbyterians migrated to the Western Hemisphere in search of a better life. Except for the English, the Scotch-Irish were the largest ethnic group to come to the New World during the eighteenth century. By the time of the American Revolution there were an estimated 250,000 Scotch-Irish in the colonies, about a tenth of the population. Twelve U.S. presidents can trace their lineage to the Scotch-Irish. This work discusses the life of the Scotch-Irish in Ireland, their treatment by their English overlords, the reasons for emigration to America, the settlement patterns in the New World, the movement westward across America, life on the colonial frontier, Scotch-Irish contributions to America's development, and sites of Scotch-Irish interest in the north of Ireland. less...
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Amazon Says: Recounts the long trek of the Scotch-Irish from their adoptive Irish homeland to the mountains of southwestern North Carolina. Focuses on the Scotch-Irish who settled in the p more...
Amazon Says: Recounts the long trek of the Scotch-Irish from their adoptive Irish homeland to the mountains of southwestern North Carolina. Focuses on the Scotch-Irish who settled in the present-day North Carolina counties of Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, and Yancey. Graphically describes the religion, occupations, living conditions, social life, and customs of these migrants. less...
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Amazon Says: According to some estimates as many as 100,000 Scotsmen were re-settled by the British government in the Irish Plantation of Ulster during the 17th century. The purpose of thi more...
Amazon Says: According to some estimates as many as 100,000 Scotsmen were re-settled by the British government in the Irish Plantation of Ulster during the 17th century. The purpose of this diminutive bipartite book is to help persons of Scotch-Irish descent make the linkage first to Ulster and then back to Scotland. less...
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Amazon Says: Border Fury provides a fascinating account of the period of Anglo-Scottish Border conflict from the Edwardian invasions of 1296 until the Union of the Crowns under James VI o more...
Amazon Says: Border Fury provides a fascinating account of the period of Anglo-Scottish Border conflict from the Edwardian invasions of 1296 until the Union of the Crowns under James VI of Scotland, James I of England in 1603. It looks at developments in the art of war during the period, the key transition from medieval to renaissance warfare, the development of tactics, arms, armour and military logistics during the period. All the key personalities involved are profiled and the typology of each battle site is examined in detail with the author providing several new interpretations that differ radically from those that have previously been understood. less...
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Amazon Says: This is the second volume by David Dobson to identify vessels that traveled from Ireland to North America before 1850 and were known to, or were likely to, carry passengers. B more...
Amazon Says: This is the second volume by David Dobson to identify vessels that traveled from Ireland to North America before 1850 and were known to, or were likely to, carry passengers. Based on research in contemporary sources--particularly newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic--this work identifies an additional 1,500 ships that were involved in transporting immigrants to the U.S. or Canada. less...
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