Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book Review - "Carolina Scots"

by Douglas F. Kelly and Caroline Switzer Kelly

This is a nonfiction work that is an historical and genealogical study of over 100 years of emigration. The book begins with a Preface that explains the author's background, knowledge and education on Scottish history and his upbringing in the Carolinas. He states that this is not an exhaustive study of all Scottish settlers that came to the Carolinas and that it mostly concentrates on his family roots and those he knew who came to the Carolinas through the Cape Fear region.

There are several Scottish emigrants who settled in the Carolinas that came through Charleston, South Carolina and down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and a few through Virginia. Those families are not covered in this book.

The book is primarily broken down into two parts. The first consists of a brief history of Scotland that includes an outline of Scotland's geography with an illustrated map of the country. The author explains the difference between the highlands and the lowlands, the culture, and language of those regions. An explanation of the highland clan system is given, clan structure, poetry and music, housing and living conditions of the 1700's with photos and illustrations, social relationships, and schools and churches in community life.

The author then describes changes in farming practices, rent raising, and forced removals by estate holders and managers who widely contributed to the mass migration of Scots from their mother country. The Carolinas became a popular area for Scottish immigrants to target as they received many letters from family and friends describing the Carolina colony as a vast opportunity for commoners to start over and buy cheap land since there was so much of it, and be near other Scots who were already established in Carolina. It helped that North Carolina had a Scottish governor.

Photos of homes built by Carolina Scots are included, along with a brief excerpt on their lifestyle and the business market in the Carolinas. Most Scottish immigrants were Presbyterian and began churches that still exist today. They struggled to find enough educated and qualified ministers. The Argyll Colony petitioned the Presbytery of Inverary and Synod of Argyll for a presbyterian minister in 1739, 1741 and again in 1748.

The Gaelic language was widely spoken in the Sandhills of North Carolina and along the Upper Cape Fear region since the arrival of the Argyll Colony in 1739. As with many immigrant families today, most Scots were bilingual. They spoke Gaelic in the home and at church, but English at school and on the job. Fayetteville, NC had a Gaelic printing press in the early part of the 19th century and several of their publications are preserved in the Presbyterian Historical Foundation in Montreat, NC.

Part Two of this book covers the family history and genealogy of the 1739 Argyll Colony in North Carolina. Three hundred and fifty men, women and children arrived with the first ship of this colony. A list of 52 names are given that have been verified. Some of the surnames include, McNeill, Armstrong, Clark, McAlester, MacLaughlin, McPherson, Buie, McCranie, Campbell, McDuffie, Stewart, McGill, Smith, Smylie, Ward, Colvin, and Cameron.

Each family section has a brief introduction and then it lists the parents and their children, and the following subsequent generations. An exhausted list of sources is given for every chapter and section. This is an excellent book with historical documentation and detail, as well as a wonderful source of genealogical reference for the descendants of those families.

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  1. Doug Kelly was one of my hubby's professors at RTS in CHarlotte. I've always wanted to read this book. I'm from the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA and have a lot of ancestors from northern England. I'm hoping to find some Scots in there too, but I'm finding more Irish/English.
    Congrats on your book too, btw. It looks like it's going to be good.


  2. Pepper, Thanks for visiting my Carolina Scots-Irish Blog. I hope you have great success in discovering your ancestors.

  3. Oh, I love that they had a Clark in there! Thanks for doing this blog, Jen!