Emigration From Scotland


Compiled By: James H. Culbert
Last Updated: 12 May 2008

There were a multitude of reasons for emigration from Scotland.  These included the results of war, religious persecution, and a strong desire to seek better opportunities elsewhere.  With regards to the influence of war, as a result of the Battle of Dunbar, for example, about 1652 Oliver CROMWELL sent a large number of Scots prisoners to New England in America. nwi

The Plantation of Ulster in Ireland was formed early in the 1600s, and an estimated 100,000 Scots emigrated to Ireland during that time. sil  Also in the 1600s, Scots were required to take an oath of alleginace to their ruler.  For various reasons, including religion, some refused.  Many, known as Presbyterian Covenanters who refused to take the oath, were put in town dungeons where they died of neglect.

Beginning in the late 1600s, the Scots Covenanters faced increased persecution, and many went into hiding in the countryside.  Some were accused, rightly or wrongly did not matter, of carrying arms or spying against the King's soldiers.  Many were executed on false accusations without any trial whatsoever.  Others of some means were forced to host or supply a group of soldiers for a long period of time during the occupation of their towns.  During these occupations, it was common for the soldiers to ransack and pillage the town.  Others, accused of various crimes or having participated in an uprising, were sentenced to transportation to the plantations of America.  By 1683, the army was fully empowered to fine and imprison persons found to be against the Episcopal Church, or accused of favoring the Covenanters, according to the law. hk

One of the more fortunate men was George SCOTT, Laird of Pittochie, who was given a promise of liberty and a gift of about 100 prisoners, provided that he transport them to eastern New Jersey and land them before Sept 1686. nwi1  The ship Henry & Francis was chartered from New Castle, and 125 people, including SCOTT, departed for America. nwi1  Thirty-one died on the voyage, including SCOTT, and his son-in-law assumed his role. nwi1  Upon arrival in New Jersey, they were not welcomed on the coast, but further inland (thought to be Woodbridge) they were made very welcome. nwi1  The following Spring JOHNSTONE had them all cited before a legal tribunal of the province because they had not voluntarily gone to the ship nor bargained in any way for their passage.  Thus, they were not in accordance with the laws of the province, and were scattered throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. nwi1  Thereafter, from time to time, other Covenanters were banished from Scotland to New Jersey, Delaware, and South Carolina until the latter part of the 1600s, when this religious persecution ended. nwi1 cr

In the early 1700s, the English Parliament limited the export of woolen cloth from Ireland to England in order to encourage this market by English merchants.  This development had the effect of impoverishing the Scotch Irish in Ulster, who lost their primary market.  Starting about 1717, and continuing until the onset of the Revolutionary War in America, thousands of Scots Irish Ulster men and their families emigrated from Ireland to America.  Religious restrictions in Ulster also played a role in their emigration.  Although these emigrants travelled to various cities in America, a majority came to Pennsylvania because the policies of William Penn were recognized to be fairer than those of other colonies.


cr Commissioner's Reports, Boston Records, Vol. 29, Doc. 100, at the Massachusetts Historical Association, Boston, has records of various sailings from Scotland to Boston between 1716 and 1766.

hk Archibald M'Kay, 1864, The History of Kilmarnock, Second Edition.

nwi New World Immigrants, Vol. 1 has a small (16 page) account of this event and where these prisoners ended up.  Further research on these immigrants can be pursued by consulting New England History General Register, I 378 and Suffolk Deeds, I 5-6.  These sources provide immigrant names arranged in alphabetical order, but misspellings are common.

nwi1 New World Immigrants, Vol. 1, pp. 421-423 has a short account of these events, with a passenger list, from the work of Miss S. Helen Fields, Covenanters and the Work of the Rev. John Cuthbertson, Washington, D.C.

sil David Dobson, 1999, Scots-Irish Links, 1575-1725, Clearfield Press, printed for the Clearfield Company by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, Parts I-II, ISBN: 0-8063-4686-8, Part I.


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