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Scotland - Ulster-Scots Team

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Scotland Project > Topical Teams > Ulster Scots Team

Welcome to the Ulster Scots Team. This team works in collaboration with the corresponding team in the Ireland Project. The Ulster Scots Team focuses on ancestors who migrated back and forth between Scotland and Ireland across the Irish Sea.

Ulster-Scots Team

Leader: Amy Gilpin

Team Leader for Ulster Scots and Scots-Irish: TBC

Team Members: Barry Smith | Elaine Goodner | Nancy Sitzlar| Beth Golden | Margaret Allison | Virginia (Kline) Norris Ph.D.

The members of the Ireland Project portion of this team can be found here

The Ulster Scots

With the distance between Galloway and Ireland only 30 Kilometres it is clear that there was significant travel between the two nations from the earliest days of Scotland's history. Indeed the very name, Scotland, is regarded as having its roots in the Roman Scoti, used to describe "raiders", mainly Irish.

However this category considers the migration, of generally Protestant families, that commenced in the early 17th Century. Many of these families will become the early settler families of the American colonies and founding citizens of the States of the United States of America.


The migration started in the last years of the reign of Elizabeth, Queen of England. Elizabeth had, for some time, fought against the, predominantly, Catholic population and had adopted a "scorched earth" policy in her dealings with rebellion. In 1594, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, allied himself with Spain and proclaimed himself the King of Ulster, the result was seven years of warfare, known as Nine Years' War (Ireland). Elizabeth wanted this Rebellion crushed and her orders resulted in the largest conflict fought by England in the Elizabethan era. At its height in 1601 there were more than 18,000 soldiers were fighting in the English army in Ireland, many of these were also Scottish fighting against Catholicism. O'Neill was defeated and the Spanish Army returned to Spain.

Elizabeth had died just days before the end of the Rebellion and war, once again, erupted. This time led by Conn mac Neale mac Bryan Feartagh O'Neal. Clearly a relative of the O'Neill although it is not clear which. Conn was captured, imprisoned and sentenced, without trial, to hang. Conn was rescued, for a "suitable fee" from his fate by Sir Hugh Montgomery, 4th Laird of Braidstane (Ayrshire), a notable soldier that had fought under Prince Maurice of Orange, in the Netherlands. Montgomery arranged for a relative, Thomas Montgomery of Blackston, who was owner of a sloop which sometimes traded with Carrickfergus. Part of the arrangement required Montgomery to arrange for a Pardon from James VI., now King and for this Montgomery engaged another Scot, James Hamilton, who had settled in Dublin some years before as a schoolmaster. Hamilton had been employed by James VI. as a political agent in Ireland working with the local chieftains. The result of this was that Conn's lands were divided amongst the three.


On the 16th April 1605, by letters-patent were issued under the Great Seal (the King's Seal), "on the humble petition of Conn M'Neale M'Bryan Feartagh O'Neale, and of Hugh Montgomery, Esq., and of James Hamilton, Esq.," granting to the said James Hamilton all the lands in the Upper Clannaboye and the Great Ards which had been possessed by Con or by his father, Bryan Feartagh O'Neale, in his lifetime. Hamilton became bound to "plant" the lands with English and Scottish colonists, and to grant them only to those of English and Scottish blood, "and not to any of the mere Irish (excepting the said Conn O'Neale and his heirs)." Thus the first migration into Ulster commenced.


Then, starting in 1609, Scots began arriving into state-sponsored settlements as part of the Plantation of Ulster. This scheme was intended to confiscate all the lands of the Gaelic Irish nobility in Ulster and to settle the province with Protestant Scottish and English colonists. Under this scheme, a substantial number of Scots were settled, mostly in the south and west of Ulster.


See Also


Comments: 5

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This has been added. Thanks Alan!
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
My ancestor Nathan Hunter and his son James Hunter were born in the area of Randalstown, County Antrim, Ireland after 1750. But, it is believed the Nathan's father was William Hunter with family connections in Clackmannanshire and Ayrshire. I would love to discover more details and understanding of this migration. Both Nathan and James Hunter plus other family ended up in South Carolina, US.
posted by Fletcher Trice
Hi Fletcher

A quick search here finds plenty of Hunter entries, which might give you a place to start.

posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
We are fairly certain that our oldest US ancestor, James Buchanan, first lived in the US on the tract of land established by Benjamin Borden in what was Augusta County, then Rockbridge County, Virginia. Most of the people who first lived on that tract were Ulster Scots. Would love to connect with others having this same connection.
posted on Scotland - Ulster Scots Team (merged) by B. McIntyre