Scottish Emigration to the USA

For nearly 400 years there has been a stream of emigrants leaving Glasgow and other ports in the west of Scotland for destinations overseas. In the early seventeenth century the majority were headed for the Plantation of Ulster, while a few were sailing to the continent and a handful to Nova Scotia. As transatlantic trade developed, the economic links led to settlement overseas, particularly along the American coast and in the West Indies.

The Union of England and Scotland in 1707 removed all restrictions on Scottish trade with the English colonies and soon Glasgow virtually monopolised the Tobacco Trade with the Chesapeake, this too led to further settlement in America Within a generation Glasgow and Greenock became two of the most prominent ports in British intercontinental trade, soon becoming the main exit ports for Scots migrants. There are three significant areas of settlement where Highland communities were established: Jamaica, North Carolina and Prince Edward Island (PEI). The first distinct emigration, mainly Presbyterian, from Scotland was to South Carolina in 1682 where the settlement of the Stuartstown and Ashley River area survived for twenty years. Such early experiences as this - and later in New Jersey - were used as a basis for future ventures as at Darien ( Panama). Notable personages from Argyll and Ayrshire were involved in these early days - leaders included Lord Neil Campbell and Ewan Cameron of Locheil.

Other establishments, of the 1720s and 1730s, were in the Savannah area of Georgia and around Cape Fear in North Carolina. The rate of emigration was to increase rapidly in the mid eighteenth century due to changes in land tenure in Western Scotland and the Highlands. Families moving to small plantations and farms was a significant feature, too, of emigration to North Carolina;

The pioneering spirit is clearly seen in the fact that so many Scotch Irish went to areas where land was available either free or very cheap. The land itself tended to be in the remoter parts, in need of clearance and often required defense against the native Indians. Thus they took land 40 - 50 miles inland from Philadelphia, PA and similarly in Maryland. An Ulster settlement was established at Donegal, PA and spread from there into the Cumberland Valley and then to Virginia and Carolina.; the Shenandoah Valley and Appalachian Mountains.. The ancestors of these settlers moved on to Arkansas and Missouri, and with fresh immigrants via New Orleans moved into Mississippi to join those immigrants coming down the Ohio Valley. Even then, still seeking space, they migrated to Texas and the Mid west - Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. Today over 100,000 descendants of these early American Orr`s are scattered across all states of the USA. (Table and map of distribution based on telephone book count ).


Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material