Immigrants and the Population of America

Jeannette Holland Austin
2 min readApr 4, 2022

The first American Census taken in 1790 listed 2,345,844 people of English origin; 188,589 of Scottish origin, and 44,273 of Irish origin. However, the portion of the population which was described as Irish were largely Ulster-Scottish. The true Irishman never emigrated in any considerable numbers until they felt the pressure of the potato famine some fifty years later.

Interestingly, at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War one-third of the entire population of Pennsylvania was of Ulster-Scottish origin. A New England historian (quoted by Whitelaw Reid) counted that between 1730 and 1770 at least half a million souls were transferred from Ulster to the Colonies, which was more than half of the Presbyterian population of Ulster.

The Scottish immigrants trended towards Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Kentucky. One authority fixes the inhabitants of Scottish ancestry in the nine Colonies South of New England at about 385,000, while less than half of the entire population of the Colonies was of English.

That means thar a large number of Scots and the Ulstermen contributed to the Revolutionary struggle in America as well as the public life of the early days of the United States. Out of the twenty-two brigadier generals of George Washington, nine were of Scottish descent. In fact, the rescuer of Kentucky and the whole rich territory northwest of the Ohio from the Indians, was General George Rogers Clark, a Scottish native of Albemarle County, Virginia.

When the Supreme Court of the United States was first organized by Washington three of the four Associate Justices were of the same blood; one a Scot and two Ulster-Scots. When the first Chief Justice, John Jay, left the bench, his successor, John Rutledge, was an Ulster-Scot.

The first cabinet of George Washington contained four members, two of whom were Scotch and the third was an Ulster-Scot. Out of the fifty-six members who composed the Congress that adopted the Declaration of Independence eleven were of Scottish descent. It was in response to the appeal of a Scot, John Witherspoon, that the Declaration was signed; it is preserved in the handwriting of an Ulster-Scot who was Secretary of the Congress; it was first publicly read to the people by an Ulster-Scot, and first printed by a third member of the same vigorous body of early settlers.

Sources: US Census Records; Pennsylvania Immigration Lists; John Jay ; Albemarle County Virginia

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Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.