Here is why many Americans are a blend of Scots-Irish, Anglo-Irish and English, and why, to find their ancestral roots in Scotland or northern England, first family researchers must trace their families through the generations that lived in Ireland.
Not all Scots-Irish families were the same size, nor did all these families have many members who needed to leave Scotland for something other than being on the wrong side of a major political issue. After losing the battle of Flodden Field in 1513, Scotland was reduced in size and amount of arable land, but the disputed Scottish-English border was settled. Some smaller clans who lived between larger clans were also being squeezed out. What had been formerly claimed by Scotland and was now annexed to the rest of northern England, was not much better in climate and fertility than most of Scotland. The large split border clans and families were experiencing some of the same growth difficulties.
At the same time, of the Scottish clans and Anglo-Scottish families of northern England were experimenting with new and more crops and improving the quality of livestock. Overall, the population of Scotland began to increase. The leaders of larger, more populous clans needed additional land to accommodate this growth.
Meanwhile, the treachery and rebellion of the three Irish earls, in the late 16th and first few years of the 17th century offered opportunities for expansion and growth in Ireland, as thoughtout Europe, law and custom of the time required the defeated to forfeit their lands. This applied equally to the lands of these rebellious earls, as well as he lands of all their feudal subjects who had been forced to follow them.
In broad terms, McDonalds, and their allies and supporters were mostly in Antrim, where they had always held lands even when a large number had moved to Scotland. O’Donnell and McDonnell/McDonald are all one and the same, the last direct lines of the ancient archipelago kingdom of Dalriada that included northeast Ireland and a substantial part of western Scotland as well as the numerous islands between. These families also held land in what is now northern Sligo and Donegal.
Other Scots settled the other Ulster counties: Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Coleraine (later merged with the London owned Londonderry, now called Derry), Fermanagh and Donegal. North English, and Normans had been settling the eastern and southern counties, some as early as the 12th century when the king of Leinster had first begun importing mercenaries. Other than the McDonalds and allies and mercantile lowland coastal Scots families, most of the large plantation settlements of Scots began with James Hamilton, first Lord Claneboy and Sir Hugh Montgomery, Laird of Braidstane, a cadet to the Earl of Eglinton. These two and their extended families were largely Ayrshire families. They settled in County Down and brought a branch of the Campbells with them.
People usually think of the Campbell family as exclusively from Argyll, with the exception of the wayward, often considered black-sheep branch of Breadalbane, and the smaller branch of Cawdor, that once even was more English than Scottish. However, there has long been a large Campbell branch, the house of Loudon, descended from the second son of the Lord of Lochawe, before his line became “Argyll,” in Ayrshire. The house of Loudon eventually attained its own earldom, had cadet houses, and more cadets to those. The bottom rung didn’t even own land, but was granted a relatively poor piece of leased land along the Ayrshire coast, from the Earl of Eglinton, with whom it and the cadet house above had mercifully for both, become intermarried. That piece of coastal leased land was almost all sand and constantly threatened with becoming permanently submerged in the rising Irish Sea. It was no place to raise a growing family and future generations, unless they were planning on evolving flippers or gills. Neither were most other bottom-rung lands of cadets to cadets of any major house of any large clan. When young Hugh Montgomery, himself laird of a rather insignificant piece of property called “Braidstane,” said, “I’m going to try my fortune in Ireland,” his younger Campbell of Skeldon in-laws were only too happy to say, “Can we join you?” They all embarked from Portpatrick and arrived at what they built into the port of Donaghdee between 1605 and 1607.
One of the items on our documents webpage, ‘Intro. Extracts from the Campbell of Skeldon and Caldwell Collection‘ covers families that were among the earliest Scottish settlements in County Down, is and includes the pedigrees of the most of the Campbells of Skeldon in Ireland, and Caldwell families with whom they had become allied more than once by marriage. They had previously become so allied with Montgomery’s.
Embedded in the introduction to this first set of primary source documents is a link to a second document, ‘Montgomery Papers: 1603-1706‘. This volume consists of compiled papers of the Montgomery’s, Campbells, and other related families or families with whom they had a number of transactions. This link can also separately be accessed under our “sources” webpage. It includes mention of some Irish families who had been allowed to remain as they had not been found to have supported the two leading rebellious earls of Ulster.
We have an additional new link under ‘sources’ to ‘The Hamilton Manuscripts‘. ‘The Hamilton Manuscripts,’ covers, in addition to several Hamilton lines, families of Upper Ards in County Down, including Maxwells and some Wallaces, as well as parts of the Campbells of Skeldon.
Combined with the link to the heritage centre site for Down by Ros-Davies, these several items now comprise a nearly complete group of County Down related materials that cover four generations and more of Scots families in County Down, one of the leading counties for eventual migration of Scots-Irish to the U.S. in the 18th century.