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18 June 2014
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Legacies - To America

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Immigration and Emigration
ship leaving port
Hillbillies in the White House

Out of the frying pan into the fire

Presbyterian preachers glanced uneasily at the horse thieves, tenant farmers made small talk with the penniless adventurers, and the lords tried to ignore them all. This was the scene on many ships that made the short crossing between a volatile Scotland, and the north of Ireland, in the early part of the 17th Century.

The 1610 plantation of Ulster, where thousands of Scottish "planters", were given land confiscated from the native Irish by King James I, allowed thousands of settlers, from all occupations, a new start in Ulster.

After a prosperous beginning by the planters, one hundred years of intermittent war, religious persecution and drought followed. The ravaged Ulster Scots needed a new dream.

Attraction of America

The "Great Migration" of Scots-Irish to America took place from 1717 to 1776, and during that time up to 200,000 made the trip to the New World. The Scots-Irish tended to emigrate as family units, while the Catholic Irish went as individuals, usually in early adulthood.

The most enticing attraction of America was land. The availability of large tracts of land in the American colonies was advertised in Ulster. The Belfast Newsletter, begun in 1737 and now the oldest surviving newspaper in the world, regularly carried notices of available land:

"David Waugh, being just arrived from America, takes the opportunity of acquainting his countrymen that he can accommodate any of them that incline to go over with their families, with farms of as good land as ever they enjoyed or saw in Ireland and perhaps better. ..Settlers shall have deeds of said land forever free for the first five years and after. pay only one shilling sterling the acre yearly"

Stronger still was the example of friends and relatives who had made the move and whose letters home encouraged the intending emigrant to make the journey:

"I now live upon the waters of Juniata, province of Pennsylvania ...about one hundred and fifty miles from Baltimore and I follow farming now. Land can be purchased here for twenty shillings a Acer which is then free paying only the tax. I have given a small account of the country to you and if you thought it answered you to come I would be fond to see you here ..."

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