ICYMI: The earliest mass migration of the Irish to America

[Editor's note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 March 2014.]

Scotch Irish Pioneers coverIn Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America, his classic study of the eighteenth-century “Scots-Irish” exodus from Ulster to America, Charles Knowles Bolton cites court records, newspapers, correspondence and other primary sources. The book provides specific details about immigrant communities in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, and lists many immigrants and their origins in Ulster.

In a time before microfilms, scanned newspapers, and Internet searches, Bolton culled through early American newspapers to locate the arrival of ships from Ireland bearing passengers for New England. He combed state and local archives, viewed correspondence, and reviewed town records to assemble his data.

Bolton studied and reproduced data from the session book of Aghadowey in Ireland, locating the Irish residences of immigrants and included drawings of the houses. (A copy of the session book in the NEHGS collection may be searched here.) He provided sources for many of his assertions in footnotes, so that readers can look for the original source material. The appendices include a list of ships arriving in Boston area ports from 1714 to  1720, members of the Charitable Irish Society in Boston, and the names of fathers in Presbyterian parish registers from 1730 to 1736.

Illustrated with portraits, maps and views of buildings and landscapes, this enduring study of the earliest mass migration of the Irish to America remains an important source for twenty-first-century researchers.

Adapted from the foreword to the NEHGS edition of Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America.

Marie Daly

About Marie Daly

Marie joined the staff of NEHGS in 1987 as Business Manager, then became Chief Financial Officer in 1998, and was named Director of Library Services in 2002. She received a B.S. from Northeastern University and an MPH from Boston University. In her spare time, Marie traces her Irish ancestors. She is the past president and co-founder of TIARA (the Irish Ancestral Research Association) and has been researching, lecturing, and writing about Irish genealogy since 1976. She is particularly interested in old Irish graveyards and has transcribed the tombstone inscriptions in several Irish cemeteries in the Boston area.View all posts by Marie Daly