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Scotch-Irish Ancestry: My Family Roots

Updated on July 16, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

The Thistle & The Shamrock

This should have a shamrock with it to symbolize the Irish while the thistle is the Scottish symbol.
This should have a shamrock with it to symbolize the Irish while the thistle is the Scottish symbol. | Source

What Does the Term Scotch-Irish Mean in Genealogy?

When tracing your family tree, some terms like Scotch-Irish can confuse the novice genealogist.

My mother had heard many times that her family, the McGhees, were Scotch-Irish. It wasn't until she started tracing her genealogy that she realized what that meant. Originally she assumed it meant there were Scots and Irish names on the family tree. As the generations blend in the American melting pot, she thought the blend of Scottish and Irish ancestors made her Scotch-Irish.

In reality, the term defines a particular migration of Scots into Ireland and from there on to America. Here's more about this heritage that had quite an influence on America. It is estimated that 27 million Americans are descendants of the Scotch-Irish or Scots-Irish immigration.

Where is Ulster?

The northern province of Ireland (called Ulster) includes the following counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan.

Map of Ireland Showing the Counties

Map showing the counties of Ireland. Look towards the top of the map to see the areas where the Scots-Irish were.
Map showing the counties of Ireland. Look towards the top of the map to see the areas where the Scots-Irish were. | Source

Scot-Irish/Ulster-Scot in American History

Learn about the Impact of Scotch-Irish Immigration on America - Video from YouTube

I found this video very informative and I hope you'll take a few minutes to view it. It is less than 4 minutes in length.

One of My Scots-Irish Ancestors - David Kennedy's Gravestone


Names on My Family Tree

McGhee and Kennedy are my Scots-Irish ancestors. Other names on the tree like Buckland, Ashlock, Bates, Tower, Bixby, Martin, Vining and Joy are from England.
McGhee and Kennedy are my Scots-Irish ancestors. Other names on the tree like Buckland, Ashlock, Bates, Tower, Bixby, Martin, Vining and Joy are from England. | Source

What I Found about My McGhee Family History

While working on this lens, I started to poke around on the internet sites looking for McGhee genealogy information. My mom had researched it back to her great-great grandfather, William Newton McGhee, who fought in the Civil War. I was thrilled to find on GenForum some information connecting that ancestor to his parents and grandparents.

I now know the name of my great-great-great-great grandfather who was born in 1765 in Virginia. Here's what I found:

WILLIAM MCGHEE was born 1765 in Virginia. He died probably in 1840 in Washington Co., Tennessee.

He married CHARLOTTE GILLIAM on December 12, 1791 in Albemarle County, Virginia. She was born about 1765.

After her death, he married LEAH ANN BROYLES on September 26, 1793 in Washington, Tennessee. Leah Ann was the daughter of NICHOLAS BROYLES and DOROTHEA CHRISTLER. She was born May 20, 1775 in Culpepper Co., Virginia and died about 1861 in Perry Co., Arkansas.

A son from the second marriage is the line I follow. This information was posted by Theresa Hazlerig.

More Resources from Amazon - Research Your Family History

Here are a few more resources I have located which may help you in your search for your roots. Most of these have excellent reviews on Amazon by other family history buffs.

  • From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina

My McGhee Family Came Through North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and finally to Kansas

A 1950s gathering of my McGhee relatives.
A 1950s gathering of my McGhee relatives. | Source

Places in the U.S. Where My Scot-Irish Ancestors Settled

show route and directions
A markernorth carolina -
North Carolina, USA
get directions

B markertennessee -
Tennessee, USA
get directions

C markerarkansas -
Arkansas, USA
get directions

D markerKansas -
Kansas, USA
get directions

An Excellent Video History of the Scotch-Irish


This Is the Kind of Log Cabin They Would Have Lived In

This log house in in Indiana.
This log house in in Indiana. | Source
A log house in Kentucky.
A log house in Kentucky. | Source

Many of Them Settled in North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Do You Have Some Scotch-Irish in Your Background?

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    • profile image

      Hookedongeneology 21 months ago

      How do i find out if i am scots-irish living in ireland or just irish?

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 3 years ago

      Yes! And I'm an ancestor of Robert The Bruce, Charlemange, William Wallace, and many Kings and Queens of Scotland. I'm also related to the English Royals. Where was my invitation to that fancy wedding? Wonderful lens!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 3 years ago from So Cal

      Ancestry DNA says I'm 38% Irish and 48% Europe West. I think that qualifies me as Scotch-Irish. I am looking at the other side of the family I have ignored and find Ireland was the place to be. This has been helpful because I haven't spent much time looking at the Irish side.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Perhaps our ancestors knew each other back in the old country.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wonderful Lens! I am a descendant of Scotch-Irish who immigrated from Antrim, Ireland. That is as far as our research gone and I'd love to find more generations or more information about my distant grand parents.

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 4 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      I have several of the books you recommended (you have good taste!) Another excellent resource is Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. The folkways covered are Puritans, Royalist Cavaliers, Quakers and Scots-Irish. It's a wonderful cultural history!

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 4 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      @JohnTannahill: John, I'm wondering if you're related to the Tannahills here in the southeast Kansas area?

    • GenWatcher LM profile image

      GenWatcher LM 5 years ago

      Yep. When I was young, I knew that some of ancestors had come over from Ireland about 1720, so I assumed that they were Irish. They were actually Scots, and had only spent two generations in Ireland, having left Scotland during the Reformation.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @JohnTannahill: Fascinating. My ancestors left well before the famine for America. I want to explore this topic further.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      No, I have Ulster Scots ancestry though. These are people from the northern counties of Ireland who are culturally closer to Scottish than Irish - typically Protestant Presbyterians. There are some famous examples like Van Morrison. Like all parts of Ireland they were affected by the famine and my ancestors left at that time or shortly after and settled in Scotland (Glasgow.) Many traveled further though.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I believe I do but I didn't know what the term meant either. Very interesting. I need to come back and check out the resources again.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      As far as I know, tracing my family history back, we are English with no "foreign" blood, but I have so far only been able to trace back to the 1700's. Of course "Payne" is of Norman (French) origin, so originally we came over from Normandy - I guess... Our family has so many branches in the UK, that is is hard to trace back any distance with ease. I love family history research. Nicely done, blessed.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 5 years ago from Washington KS

      Oh yes, we all have a wee bit of the Irish in us, and I'm no exception.

      I'm what Mom used to call a "Duke's mixture" -- Scot-Irish-English-German-Cherokee.

      Loved the lens.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I'm Scot-Irish too :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I'm Scottish on my father's side (Clan Gunn) and Irish on my mom's. Not technically Scotch-Irish, as you've outlined here. I enjoy learning more about it. Thanks!

    • ajtyne profile image

      AJ 6 years ago from North Carolina

      I will have to look into this much more carefully! My grandmother used to tell us we were "part English, part Cherokee, part German and part Scotch-Irish. Well, I always thought that meant a mixture of Scottish and Irish. When I was in my teens, people started laughing at me for saying Scotch-Irish, telling me it was Scottish Irish or Scot Irish. So now I find out my grandmother was right, and Scotch-Irish is its own "special" signification. Thanks for letting me know! (Tyne is a pen name, that is based on my Nigerian married name, so it is no clue).

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 6 years ago from McLaughlin

      My husband's family is Scotch-Irish! Fun lens!

    • Nancy S Oram profile image

      Nancy Oram 6 years ago

      Yes, I do! Great lens!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Nay, I do not -- but my "hubby" does -- and I've tried to get him to want to travel there to research his roots.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 7 years ago

      I'm a Border Reiver, one of the so called 'reiving or outlaw' clans from the Scottish English borders, with family names like Arnstrong, Graham, Nixon, Bell, Johnston, Kerr, Charlton, Robson, and a few more, all of whose names can be found on the famous Cursing Stone in Carlisle Cumbria UK. I am a Riley on my mothers side so possibly a smidgen of Irish too!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      Not I, but I wanted to tell you how terrific this page is!