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Scots-Irish roots talk

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, area residents who claim Scots Irish or Irish heritage can learn about new resources for historical research into their roots. “Discovering your Irish and Scots Irish Roots” is a highly illustrated and authoritative talk by Dr. Brian Trainor and Fintan Mullan of the Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The scholars also will offer individual consultations for those who want to discover their ancestors or extend their research.


The talk is offered by the Augusta County Historical Society, on Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center for History and Art, 20 S. New Street, Staunton. Admission costs $5, and is free to ACHS members. Individual consultations cost $20 and must be reserved in advance by calling ACHS at 540-248-4151.

Mullan and Trainor will discuss new resources on Ulster, the northernmost province of the island of Ireland and the area from which many Scots Irish folk emigrated to the Shenandoah. They’ll present a new app and other downloadable resources that make research more interesting and rewarding. The Ulster Historical Foundation itself has 20 million birth, death and marriage records online, as well as “a wealth of other sources” that are available to download free for ipads, iphones and other devices. The speakers also will provide handouts and information packs.

Dr. Brian Trainor, formerly Director of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, retired recently as Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, but continues to lecture extensively. He holds a Doctorate of Letters from the University of Ulster.

Fintan Mullan has been Executive Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation since 2001. He also is a director of the Irish Family History Foundation, a member of the Northern Ireland

Publications Resource, and a director of the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Queen’s University, Belfast.

The Ulster Historical Foundation is a long-established, highly reputable research and publishing agency. It offers extensive information on the sources available for tracing Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors, particularly in the historical province of Ulster. The foundation also is a major publisher of historical, educational and genealogical source books. Check online at

A combination of historical factors ensured that the early settlers of Augusta County were very largely Scots Irish folk. Most important, they were Presbyterians, Scots by heritage, who lived in the province of Ulster, Northern Ireland. At a time when Scotland was ruled from London by English monarchs, they had hoped by distance to avoid persecution as dissenters, those who refused to worship in the state church–the Anglican (or English catholic) church. But persecution was increasing.

The settlers of the Virginia colony also were required to worship in the state church. But English law was even more difficult to enforce in the distant colony than in Ireland. Moreover, the settlers of eastern Virginia, expanding ever-closer to the Blue Ridge, were terrified of the native Americans  beyond the mountains. As Augusta began to be explored and then settled in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, dissenters were tolerated as a buffer against the natives and their allies, the French.

At the same time, new settlers arriving at Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania ports, and older settlers in Pennsylvania and Maryland, were looking beyond their more heavily-settled area for land, especially in northern and western Virginia. The first settlers in our area were Ulster Scots, or Scots Irish, as we call them: John Lewis and others. Shortly, Col. William Beverley of Essex County in eastern Virginia was awarded Beverley Manor, the first land grant beyond the Blue Ridge. His 118,491 acres included much of today’s Augusta County.

Like other grantees, Beverley was required to build a house and to recruit settlers, who would, of course, become taxpayers. To this end, Beverley formed a partnership with James Patton, an Ulster Scots ship captain and cousin of John Lewis. Patton was in the business of shipping eastern Virginia tobacco; he would recruit settlers in Ulster for Beverley Manor. Although he brought his first shipload up the Potomac, Patton thereafter ran a shuttle ship between Northern Ireland and the port of Philadelphia. From there, the immigrants travelled down the Warrior’s Path, an Indian trail that ran from the area all the way to the New River Valley in Virginia.

And we are the rest of the story.

For more information contact the Augusta County Historical Society at or call 540-248-4151.

augusta free press
augusta free press