What is Scots-Irish or Scotch-Irish? It generally refers to the group of about 200,000 immigrants that made their way to America in the 1700s from the Ulster province of Ireland. They were Protestants who settled in large numbers in Pennsylvania and then migrated either south into Virginia and the Carolinas or westward into Ohio, Indiana and beyond.
The Scots-Irish were originally English and Scottish, and if you are descended from this group you may see English and Irish show up in your DNA. Many of my ancestors started out in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and migrated down to to Virginia. My Wallaces, Donalds and Cashes for sure, and most likely my Gillespies and myriad of other ancestors as well. That 38% of Irish I see in my DNA and 4% Great Britain, I suspect comes in part from my Ulster ancestors.
But where did they come from? In the early 1600s, as the English nobility was taking over the lands that this group lived on in Scotland, they relocated to the Ulster area in Ireland. In fact, you may see them referred to as Ulster Scots, the terms Scotch-Irish or Scots-Irish coming into use later. Looking for a better life and a chance to practice their religion as they saw fit, they immigrated to America.
So were they English? Scottish? Irish? And how does that show up in a DNA breakdown. Well it all depends. Who did they marry and have children with along the way? Which pieces of DNA were passed down to you over the last 200 to 300 years? It will be different for everybody, even your siblings.
So are they Irish? Well, sure. Though there will be those who debate that. But if you are, this gives you an idea of when and where you ancestor came to America. And on Saint Patrick’s day, we are all at least a little Irish!
About Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.