Are your Virginia Ancestors Scots or Scots-Irish?

When I find myself yawning in the midst of a dicey genealogy puzzle, I walk to the book shelves at the Family History Library–or any Library where I am working that day, including my own shop–and read the titles of the books. I pull specific books and read the tables of contents and the lists of illustrations and the conclusions and the bibliography of sources consulted.

Strange way to relax and build some new cells–Right?

And it works–always–it works. What I find chases the yawns away and re-energizes my whole being. I’m ready to go back to work with some zest. I learned this research technique from my beloved colleague, Afton Reintjes. When confronted with a seeming dead-end, she would say, “I am going over to the Library and read the book shelves until I find the answer.” And off she would go. When she came back, she would stand in the doorway and spread her arms wide: “Tah dum! I found it.”

Sometimes it took an hour; sometimes a day; sometimes longer. And the answer might be a new category of records or a new source to be carefully researched. As long as you have records and sources to search, you do not have a “dead-end” ancestor.

Well then, please add this source to your reading list (for I will bet you haven’t discovered this important study: Charles H. Haws, Director of the Institute of Scottish Studies, Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA, gave permission to the Family History Library to copy his book Scots in the Old Dominion, 1685-1800 on microfiche: #6087317. Published Edinburgh: John Dunlop Publishers, 1980, this book includes 19 pages of Scots who came to Virginia from Scotland, in alphabetical order “as an aid to both students of Scottish Ethnic History and to genealogists in search of family histories.”

I ran the list of names and found some real surprises. Most of the names in Haws’ list are  not included in other compilations of Scots immigrants. Here are some entries so you can see the format, which includes the source:

Giffin, Robert. 1743-1829. From Kildoul, Argyllshire. Settled Virginia and died in Wheeling (DSE, 133/1869).

Graham, Richard. Merchant. From Dumfries. Settled Prince William County VA (DSE, 144/2026).

McKenzie, John. Weaver. To Westmoreland County, VA by 1755 (VMH, ii, 49).

Ralston, Gavin. 1735-1819. From Beith, Ayrshire. To Virginia before 1744. (DSE, 364/5067).

Sangster, Thomas. Some time in Nova Scotia. To Fairfax County VA, ca. 1770 (DSE389/5435).

Each entry is documented so you can trace the sources. The bibliography identifies many of the Scottish trading companies which employed these men (and some women) and where their records have been deposited–very significant when it comes to documenting the origins of these Scots. And the chapter of the Scottish merchants on the Norfolk and Portsmouth tidewater fills an important gap in our knowledge of how early the Scots came, where they settled, and their contribution to Virginia ancestry.

Migration to Virginia via Nova Scotia 

And note the reference to Nova Scotia. Some years ago, I was hired to trace a Fulton family who settled in Augusta County in the early 1700’s–with a tradition that there were 5 brothers who sailed to America in their own ship and then scattered among the colonies. In his will, James Fulton left a thoroughbred horse to his daughter which he imported from “New England.” A short time later the horse sickened and died. So Fulton ordered another from”New England” in a codicil to his will probated in Augusta County, Virginia.

Imagine my delight when the Fulton family history was published with this same tradition on its first page, naming James as one of the Fulton brothers. I also learned that parts of Nova Scotia were often called “New England” to differentiate them from New Scotland and from the American colonies–Massachusetts, Rhode Island, etc.  See  The Fulton Family of Atlantic Canada by Margaret Seward Cleveland, etal.  Truro, Nova Scotia : Fulton Family Associates, 1979.  Your Virginia genealogy guru of choice, Arlene Eakle.

PS  It is my belief that descendants of Virginia ancestors have a substantial amount of Scottish blood in their veins.  The English get the credit, the Scots did the work.

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One Response to Are your Virginia Ancestors Scots or Scots-Irish?

  1. Kevin Conner says:

    Oh I am of Irish, Scott, German, English, Cherokee, and Powhatan background, and I am a descendant of Virginians, specifically as of late, Central Virginians…. so, I agree about the Scottish blood.

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