Scotch-Irish Immigration

Scotch-Irish Immigration

Alexander Lindsay, who resided in Dracut, Middlesex, Massachusetts at least by 1734 and who owned land there is believed to be the immigrant American ancestor of our Lindsay surname line. This belief is based on the facts and circumstances relating to the Scotch-Irish Immigration to America at that time period. The Scotch-Irish was the most numerous and most widespread of the non-English immigrations in Colonial America.

The first large scale immigration of the Scotch-Irish was to New England during the period beginning in 1714. This New England phase reached a peak in 1718 but nevertheless continued thereafter. Fifty-four (54) shiploads of Scotch-Irish arrived at Boston Harbor between 1714 and 1720.

The Scotch-Irish were encouraged to settle in Massachusetts in order to create a barrier against the Indians. Other peaks in the Scotch-Irish immigration were 1727–1728 and 1740–61. A severe famine swept Ireland in 1740–41 in which it has been estimated that 400,000 persons in Ireland died of starvation. The next decade saw a tremendous exodus from Ireland to America.

The Scotch-Irish came from the province of Ulster in Ireland; and had previously settled there from Scotland. Ulster was made up of nine counties (Antrim, Down, Donegal, Armagh, Londenderry (formerly Colerainne), Tyrone, Monagham, Fermanagh, and Cavan.) Ulster constituted 8,567 square miles or about one-quarter of the area of the island of Ireland.

"In 1609, six years after accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England as James I in its line of Kings, a scheme was matured for planting Ulster with Scotch and English and the following year the settlement began. The actual settlers were mostly Scotch." (1)

James I had encouraged the planting of Ulster with new settlers to counteract the influence of disaffected Catholics and to make Ireland a civil place. Archbishop Synge estimated in 1715 that 50,000 Scotch families had settled in Ulster since the 1641 revolution (civil war). The Presbyterian Scotch did not intermarry with the Catholic Irish in Ulster. The rector of the Parish of Dungiven, in county of Derry, writing in 1814 says:

"The inhabitants of the parish are divided into two races of men, as totally distinct as if they belonged to different countries and regions. The Scotch include the descendants of all the Scotch and English colonists who have emigrated hither since the time of James I and the Irish comprehending the native and original inhabitants of the country. Than these, no two classes of men can be more distinct. The Scotch are remarkable for their comfortable houses and appearance, regular conduct, and perseverance in business, and their being almost entirely manufacturers; the Irish, on the other hand, are more negligent in their habitations, less regular and guarded in their conduct, and have a total indisposition to manufacture. Both are industrious but the industry of the Scotch is steady and patient, and directed with foresight, while that of the Irish is rash, adventurous, and variable." (2)

The immigration to America was motivated by both economic and religious reasons. The Scotch were so industrious in building first a cattle industry and then sheep and a woolen industry that they took away many of England’s markets. This caused the English to pass restrictive economic legislation. In addition, the Test Act of 1704 excluded Ulster Presbyterians from all-important military and civil offices, made it illegal for them to teach school, and denied them many other civil and religious rights. Presbyterians in Ireland were fined for practicing their form of worship and the doors of many of their churches were nailed shut.

The foregoing conditions caused the heavy immigration to American beginning about 1714 and continuing for some time thereafter. After the initial influx into New England the tide of Scotch-Irish immigration turned south of New York centering most heavily in Pennsylvania but extending into the Carolinas and Virginia. Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire were among the important points of settlement for the Scotch–Irish immigrants who arrived in 1719.

Among the signers of a petition to the governor of Massachusetts to locate a place to settle was a David Lindsay, relationship, if any, unknown. (3) Some of the families of the 217 signers of this petition remained in Boston, some went to Worcester, Massachusetts but their religion was opposed so they scattered to Colerain, Palmer and Peiham, Massachusetts.

Sixteen families went to Casco Bay, Maine and the remaining to Andover, Dracut, Haverhill, etc. In 1719, a James Lindsay signed a petition of incorporation of the town of Londonderry (formerly Nutfield). Our relationship, if any, to this James is not known. These Lindsays along with Alexander and others appear to be a part of the same general immigration of Scots from Ireland.

It is very possible that many of the early vital records of the Scotch-Irish were not preserved due to the fact that their religion was new to the area and because of the considerable time that elapsed while the Presbyterian churches were getting established. During this time, many of the immigrants attended other churches such as the First Congregational.

On the other hand, the records that have been filmed, printed, or otherwise been most available for searching are only a small part of these that were actually kept. Many old records are being made accessible and many records in other libraries and archives need to be searched.


Notes

(1)  Ford, The Scotch Irish in America, Princeton University Press, 1915, Page 1, AM 122.

(2)  Ibid, Volume 1, Page 166, Gen. Hist. 20.

(3)  History of Londonderry, Page 318.