Tuesday, February 7, 2017

County Donegal and the Morrison family

Donegal County in Northern Ireland and Morrison

I have been working a bit on the Morrison family lines that we find in Cabell and Wayne Counties in WV.  I have recently found a participant to do DNA testing who is a part of these family lines.  He has matched with the H2 Morrison family members that I have been chatting with for the past few years.  When I got the news that he was an H2 match, you probably heard my WOO HOO from WV while you sat at your computer.  I am very excited.  My 4-gr-grandmother on Mom's side was Elizabeth Hensley.  All of the old time researchers in our area assume that Elizabeth was a Morrison .....including Ruth Sammons Nassar.   I have found very few wrong assumptions among Ruth's  research writings.  My gut feeling is that this is a correct assumption....but I just can't prove it.  I will add my ideas on proving Elizabeth's connection as I have time.  But today I want to jot down some ideas that I was thinking about while I drove to knitting today.

The first is that the folklore in the WV Morrison family group is that James and Rachel Morrison came from County Donegal  in Northern Ireland.  All of this statement is iffy.  First there is no reason to believe that James and Rachel Morrison were the original immigrants.  And second the TN Morrison group who are DNA matches have folklore saying that four Morrison brothers arrived on these shores from Scotland.  All of these groups of people are almost certainly from the same original immigrants!

But nonetheless, Here are my thoughts on Donegal.  First of all.  The Morrisons of Scotland are said to have lived on:

There is little in the way of historical information on the origins of Clan Morrison. It is generally accepted that the hereditary judges, or brieves, of the Isle of Lewis were chiefs of the clan until that office disappeared in the early 1600's. The seat of the brieves was at Habost in Ness, near the Butt of Lewis. One tradition is that this line of brieves were descended from a Morrison heiress of the original line and a Macdonald of Ardnamurchan who married her in the 1300's. The Morrisons of Harris claim to be of the original line.

The Isle of Lewis is marked with the big red marker below.



Donegal is the pink area on the map of Ireland in the below map:



I have to point out that while Donegal County is in the northern part of the Island of Ireland, it is NOT a part of Northern Ireland.  Does that mean that it was not settled by the British during the period of the Scotch-Irish?

The next crazy thoughts that I have are about my mother's Family Finder matches.  I wrote a blog post several years ago about a man who contacted me about one of my mother's matches.  This man asked me if we had McDonald connections.  You can read it here:

http://marshamoses.blogspot.com/2013/11/family-finder-matches-for-sara-ann.html

It looks as if the Morrison Clan and the McDonald Clan shared home lands. 

Next I asked on the Scotch-Irish list for input on understanding County Donegal in the context of the Scotch-Irish.  John Polk was kind enough to send me the below with permission to add it to my post:

Donegal may not be part of what is now Northern Ireland but it is one of the nine counties of Ulster and was very much part of the Ulster Plantation beginning in 1609. I just checked the Donegal Hearth Rolls for 1665 and found 8 Morisons (sic) listed at that time. 

Ulster Scots came to America and became what we call Scotch-Irish from Donegal just as from the other counties of Ulster. In fact the first recognizable Scotch-Irish community in America came mainly from the Area of Lifford in Donegal, following the lead of Rev. Francis Makemie (of Ramelton), to Somerset County Maryland in 1683. To see my article on this topic from The Journal of Scotch-Irish studies please go to  http://www.mdgenweb.org/somerset/history/scotch-irish.htm 

The main wave of Scotch-Irish to America began about 1715 and continued unabated up to the Revolutionary War, particularly into Pennsylvania and on down the Appalachians into Virginia and the Carolinas.  If you want to see a list of names, the mother lode of Scotch-Irish settlers in Pennsylvania in the mid-18th century is here - http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-88WarrantRegisters/r17-88AllCountiesInterface.htm  Just pick a county, particularly Chester, Lancaster, Cumberland, York, and start looking at the names on all the warrants that were issued at that time. I am sure you will find some Morrisons.

I expect there is at least a 90% chance that your ancestors were Scotch-Irish if they came through MD, PA, VA and/or WV in the 1700's. They emigrated for economic and religious reasons. Their situation was very different in Ulster than it was in Scotland and greatly incentivized them to get out and head for the colonies if they could get there. Once they got started they kept encouraging the ones back home to follow on and move on to the next unsettled area of the frontier. And so they kept hopscotching one over the other to follow the great road southward. My own ancestors ended up as among the first settlers of what is now Charlotte NC. That is where President Polk was born, or at least very nearby, in a log cabin just like Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Jackson very nearby, a few years earlier. These people didn't want any part of British rule and were the backbone of the American Revolution. In May 1775 the citizens of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) declared their independence, a year before the colonies as a whole.

The situation in Scotland in the 1700s was wholly different and more comfortable than it was in Ulster in both religious and economic terms. They had far less reason to emigrate although there were still many supporters of the Stewarts and Bonnie Prince Charlie who wanted to rebel against British rule. That met a sorry end at Culloden in 1746 after which a lot them were exiled to very parts of the empire. A large contingent of them settled in the coastal areas of North and South Carolina, but they had nothing to do with their Scotch-Irish cousins in the piedmont and Appalachian areas.


There is a really good book about them which I highly recommend as a general background - "The Scotch-Irish, A Social History" by James G. Leyburn. Perhaps you already have it. 


No comments:

Post a Comment