The Ulster Origins of the Presidential Scots-Irish
Did you know 17 of the 44 American Presidents are of Scots-Irish ancestry! Inspired by our recent work with the Ulster Historical Foundation on the Scots-Irish Discovery Tour, check out the Ulster origins of five remarkable leaders
Ireland has always enjoyed a unique relationship with the United States but Northern Ireland may the deepest connection of all for Scots-Irish Americans. While some share more direct links with Ulster than others, the Ulster-Scots certainly left their mark when they took to the seas and immigrated to the New World.
Between the 1680’s and 1815 at least 100,000 Ulster-Scots settled in North America and the significance of the Scots-Irish impact can be traced to none other than the leaders of the free world. Amazingly, 17 of the 44 American Presidents claim Scots-Irish ancestry! Curious ahead of our Scots-Irish Discovery Tour, we take a look at five presidents and their Ulster origins…
In 1765, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson left their home in at Boneybefore near Carrickfergus in Co. Antrim. The Jacksons, who had just moved to Ulster from Scotland in the 17th century, sailed from the port of Larne in search of a better life in North Carolina – and that’s perhaps what happened…
In 1767, Elizabeth give birth to the seventh American President and founder of the Democratic Party in the United States in a frontier log cabin in North Carolina. Andrew Jackson rose to national prominence as Major General in the War of 1812 and went on to be considered by historians as one of the foremost American Presidents.
Ulysses Simpson Grant
John Simpson left Co. Tyrone for America in 1760 and two generations later, Hannah Simpson was born. Hannah meet Jesse Grant, a partner in a tannery in Point Pleasant Ohio. The two married at the age of 27 and a year later, their first son, Hiram Ulysses Grant, was born.
Jesse arranged for his son to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point who went on to earn a lieutenant’s commission and took a new name — Ulysses S. Grant. So when Ulysses resigned from the military in 1854 and went on to be the 18th American President, he travelled to Ulster to receive the freedom of Londonderry and he also stopped off at the Simpson family homestead in Co. Tyrone.
The twenty-sixth American President who wrote admiringly of the courage and exploits of the Scots-Irish on the American frontier, is believed to have Presbyterian ancestors on his maternal side from Larne, Co Antrim. Folklore in East Antrim link him to the Irvines of Carneac near Larne and the Bullochs from the same area.
Born 1858 in New York City, the 26th President Roosevelt, Roosevelt was a distinguished US cavalry officer in the Spanish-American War and New York Governor and politician before becoming President in 1901. He described the Scots-Irish as “a stern, verile, bold and hardy people who formed the kernel of that American stock who were the pioneers of our people in the march westwards”.
The 41st President can thank his an ancestor on his mother’s side for inheriting his Scots-Irish heritage. William Gault, thought to be born and bred in Co. Antrim, left Ulster and with his wife Margaret were first settlers of Tennessee, living in Blount County in 1796, the year Tennessee became a state.
George Bush, who was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1924, was made aware of this ancestry during a visit to Knoxville, where Gault is buried in nearby Baker’s Creek United Presbyterian Church cemetery.
William Jefferson Clinton
42nd President Bill Clinton claims to be five times removed from Lucas Cassidy to acquire his Scots-Irish ancestry. Lucas Cassidy, of Presbyterian stock, left Co. Fermanagh for America around 1750. Nearly 200 years later, William Jefferson Clinton is born in Hope, Hempstead County, Arkansas and enters the presidential office in 1993.
During his time in presidency, Bill Clinton devoted his time to Ireland and Northern Ireland like no other. Clinton’s extraordinary role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland was cemented, quite literally, in Co. Fermanagh when the Clinton Center was opened in 2002.