Scottish Emigration to America

Ellis Island image

Large scale emigration from Scotland to America began in the 1700s after the Battle of Culloden where the Clan structures were broken up and as a result of the Highland Clearances. The Scots went in search of a better life and settled in the thirteen colonies, mainly around South Carolina and Virginia.

Trade links were established between Glasgow and Viriginia where Virgininan tobacco was traded with Scottish manufactured goods, ideas and immigrants.

Scots who had emigrated to Ireland in the 1600s to colonise Ulster and then onto American became know as the Scots Irish.

Along came the War of Independance, nineteen out of the fifty-six delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence were Scottish or Scots Irish. Most Scots had allegiances to the old Clans or commercialties with Scotland and therefore supported the Crown. However, some Highland communities of Upstate New York and North Carolina were centres of Loyalist resistance. Some Loyalist Highlanders were defeated at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776. Scots-Irish Patriots defeated Scottish American Loyalists in the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. After that many Scottish American Loyalists emigrated to Canada.

In the years to follow, many Scots entered America in search of a new life via Ellis Island. It has been estimated that nearly half of all Americans today can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island.

Famous Scots in America

Nine out of the thirteen first governors of the United States were either Scottish or of Scottish descent. Between one third and one half of the American generals in the Revolution as either of Scottish birth or ancestry and it was estimated around 30-50% soldiers had Scottish Ancestry. George Washington, the most famous revolutionary, the father of the country and commander in chief of the American army was descended from Scotland on his mother's side.

Yet in the 1790 census only abour 6% claimed to be of Scottish Descent, most preferring to distance themselves from Britain.

From a genealogy viewpoint, we can search passenger ship lists post 1820 to see when your ancestor left for America. We can tell you the ports of entry and exit and the ship name.

Other main countries Scots emigrated to were Canada, Australia and New Zealand.