Skip Navigation Links

American Connections

This is the story of the Scottish migration to Ulster from the early seventeenth century, and the subsequent migration of the Ulster Scots or Scots Irish to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Having moved once already and broken the link with their ancestral home in Scotland, it was quite practical to move again, where a better future beckoned. So it may be the case that for many Americans today, their ancestral line, is not so much purely Scottish, as Ulster-Scots or Scots Irish. Find out more .

The Ulster American Folk Park, County Tyrone is a great day out and tells the tale of emigration from Ulster to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It offers a ‘living history’ experience. Links to the USA are celebrated with colourful events and festivals throughout the year such as American Independence celebrations and the Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival in September.

American Presidents

The Ulster Scots (Scots Irish) made an enormous contribution to American life with no clearer example than their involvement in American politics. 15 Presidents of the United States have Scots Irish origin – 4 of those, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Chester Alan Arthur and Woodrow Wilson have direct links to Northern Ireland today through their ancestral homesteads.

Andrew Jackson 7th President, 1829-1837

Andrew Jackson’s father was a farmer from County Antrim. In 1765 he emigrated to America with his wife Elizabeth and their two small sons, where he made his way to the Waxhaw region between the North and South Carolina border. Shortly after arriving Jackson senior died leaving his widowed wife pregnant with the future president. The President’s life is portrayed in an exhibition at the Andrew Jackson Cottage and US Rangers Centre in Carrickfergus, a traditional thatched farmhouse built in the 1750’s, and standing near the site of the original Jackson homestead.

Ulysses Simpson Grant, 18th President, 1869 –1877

In 1768 John Simpson, the President’s great grandfather left Dungannon to join the mass exodus of Scots Irish to the American colonies. In 1821 his granddaughter Hannah married Jesse Root Grant, and their son was named Hiram Ulysses Grant. Due to an office error while a student at West-Point, he was given the name Ulysses Simpson, which he kept. Today the Grant Ancestral Homestead is open to the public and houses an exhibition on the life of the two term President.

Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President, 1881-1885
Chester Alan Arthur’s father William was born in 1796 in the village of Cullybackey outside Ballymena. In 1815 he emigrated to America, where in 1829 the future president was born in the parsonage in North Fairfield, Vermont. Arthur Cottage the homestead of the Arthur family preserves the lifestyle of the family in the 1700s, alongside it is an Interpretive Centre relating to the President’s life.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th President, 1913-1921
The Wilson Ancestral Home in County Tyrone is situated at Dergalt near Strabane. The President’s grandfather, James Wilson learned his trade at Gray’s Printing Press, Strabane in the early 19th century, before emigrating to Philadelphia in 1807 and settled in Ohio in 1815. He became editor of the Western Herald and Steubenville Gazette. His son Joseph Ruggles Wilson was born in December 1856 in the Presbyterian Manse in Staunton Virginia. The family later moved to the State of Georgia, where Woodrow Wilson was born.

The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is of equal significance to the Scots Irish story – many of the signatories on the document could claim Scots Irish descent. The impact of these people on their new country was undoubtedly momentous. On July 4th 1776 the original Declaration of Independence was signed by Charles Thomson and John Hancock. The signed Declaration was taken to John Dunlap, a Philadelphia printer who produced 500 typed signed copies. John Dunlap, a native of Strabane, County Tyrone is remembered as the first printer of the Declaration of Independence. Dunlap learned his trade at Gray’s Printing Press in Strabane, now a National Trust property, visitors can discover the full story and see demonstrations of the historic printing press on selected dates.

Did You Know?

Ancestry Links

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland