Researching the Scots-Irish of 18th Century Virginia: Pt. 2

The immigration experience of the Presbyterians in colonial Virginia was an oppressive time for the Scotsmen from Northern Ireland. Subject to the penalties imposed on them by the Established Church of England, their presence in Virginia, especially, in Hanover and Louisa County was tenuous. Formed from New Kent County, Virginia, in 1721, Hanover County had a religious majority of members from the Church of England.1 However, by 1717, a migration from Pennsylvania of mainly Scottish, Presbyterians had begun to enter central Virginia. 2  By 1748, Alexander Joyce, who is the subject of this blog post, first appears in Louisa County. 3

Read: Researching the Scots-Irish of 18th Century Virginia, Pt. 1

Living in a modestly well-off neighborhood, Alexander is recorded as being associated with John Hackett, John Thomason, and John Henry. All active members of the Church of England, two were recorded in the Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover County, and two were part of the parish in Louisa County. 4 Alexander Joyce, however, was never recorded in ether parish. It is difficult to prove the Scottish, Presbyterian origins of a settler, especially, when the only evidence is the lack of attendance within the local Anglican parish, but in our case Alexander Joyce’s Scottish roots can be confirmed through y-DNA, and his participation within the Presbyterian community of Lunenburg County, Virginia. 5

The church and state were one entity in 18th century Virginia, and all Protestant dissenters from the Established Church were required to pay tithes to their local parish. 6 If they did not, their tithes were taxed. Those Presbyterians who refused to worship as part of the Church of England, as was also required, met in secret. At the risk of being considered outcasts, men and women like Alexander would meet in “reading houses” in private. 7

Alexander Joyce’s place in polite society in Louisa County is unknown, but, what can be concluded is that his neighbors in Louisa County held different political and religious viewpoints. Part 3 of Researching the Scots-Irish of 18th Century Virginia will further examine this controversial relationship and will focus more in detail on how the Scots-Irish and Presbyterian Church expanded into the Virginia frontier.

The Virginia Genealogist


1. Library of Virginia, Formation of Virginia Counties Chart (Richmond, Virginia : Library of Virginia

2. Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (1944; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland : Genealogical Publishing Co, inc, 2002), 28.

3. Louisa County, Virginia,” Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Book A and B, 1742-1759”, part 2: p. 326, Thomas Hackett to George Clark entry, 15 August 1748; Library of Virginia microfilm 1.

4. C. G. Chamberlayne, The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia, 1706-1786 (1940 ; reprint, Richmond, Virginia : Virginia State Library and Archives, 1989), John Henry, 151-163, 166-167, 169- 170, 172, 176- 178, 179-182, 185- 187, 190-191, 195-197, 200-202, 205, 311, 329, 148; John Thomason, 97, 165, 300, 310, 353-354, 361, 388, 421, 456, 459, 487, 551, 556; Virginia Genealogical Society, Louisa County Road Orders (1742-1748) (Richmond, Virginia : Virginia Genealogical Society, 2003), John Hackett, 5; John Thomason, 5, 23.

5. Lunenburg County, Virginia, “Lunenburg County, Virginia, Deed Book 1 & 2, 1746-1752”, part 1: p. 369-370, Alexander Spalding and John Lidderdale to Alexander Joyce entry, May 10 1748; Library of Virginia microfilm 1; Family Tree DNA, database ( : accessed August 15 2016), “Comparative y-DNA results” for users David Joyce and Daniel Joss” matching 67-markers; National Maritime Museum, “Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927,” database, ( : accessed August 15 2016), entry for Walter Joss, 22 March 1806, Aberdeen, Scotland; citing Master’s Certificate of Service, license no. 41.790.

6. Robert P. Davis, James H. Smylie, Dean K. Thompson, Ernest Trice Thompson, William Newton Todd, Virginia Presbyterians in American Life : Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (Richmond, Virginia : Hanover Presbytery, 1982), 5.

7. Robert P. Davis, James H. Smylie, Dean K. Thompson, Ernest Trice Thompson, William Newton Todd, Virginia Presbyterians in American Life : Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (Richmond, Virginia : Hanover Presbytery, 1982), 19.

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Tags: Diaspora History, Genealogy, United States

Comment by Mike McCormack on January 22, 2017 at 12:59pm

  There have been many articles written about the Scots-Irish.  A recent piece from the Delaware Archives refers to American Patriot Thomas McKean as Scots-Irish.  McKean never used that term as both his parents were Irish-born (McKean and Finney).  Sadly, some people still refer to Scots-Irish as if it were a separate and distinct people.  Most historians recognize that term as a myth prompted by bigotry.  It is a purely American term originated by some descendants of Protestant Irish who came in the 1700s, to distinguish themselves from the poor, diseased and largely unschooled Catholic Irish who came in the 1800s fleeing the Great Hunger.

   In 1611, the Plantation of Ulster entailed the peopling of large sections by colonists from Scotland who professed loyalty to the Crown.  It mattered little that these Scots were descended from the Irish Dal Riada colony which had settled Scotland to begin with.  After the plantation, Sir William Petty, English economist, was given the task of surveying Ulster for Oliver Cromwell.  He estimated that the 1659 population of Ulster contained 63,350 Irish and 40,571  English, Scots and others, yet John Fiske in his 1897 book, Old Virginia, states that at least half a million Scotch-Irish came to America from Ulster from 1730 to 70!  Where he got that from is anybody’s guess.

  In A Hidden Phase of American History by historian Michael J. O’Brien published in 1921, the author notes So feverish have been the efforts to discredit the plain ‘Irish’ and to deny them the slightest credit for what they have contributed to America in the pioneer days, that we find historians describing as ‘Scotch-Irish,’ persons bearing names like Sullivan, Murphy, McGuire and numerous others.  Those Scotch-Irish who boast of patriotism in the Revolution should acquaint themselves with the expressed opinions of Washington and other officers of the revolutionary forces, for the record of the Scottish in the American Revolution shows them to have been mostly loyal to the Crown.  Mr. O’Brien also quotes from the diaries of two Moravian ministers who journeyed from Virginia to Georgia in 1743 and 44.  In their travels they mention meeting many Irish people and visiting many Irish settlements, but not once is any reference made to a ‘Scots-Irishman’.  He further notes that in all written documents of the colonial period we find that immigrants from Ireland, be they Protestant or Catholic, are referred to as Irishmen.

  It should be noted that in the History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick (1771) and the Hibernian Society (1790) written in 1892 by John Campbell, the practice of using the term ‘Scotch Irish’ is noted as the fashion at the present time.  However, referring to the founders of the society, the author notes that most of them were what would now be considered Scotch-Irish and yet they organized an Irish society, not a Scottish one; they met on St. Patrick’s Day, not on St. Andrew’s Day.  And although originally composed of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, with but three Catholics among their number, they chose one of these Catholics, General Stephen Moylan, who was certainly not Scotch-Irish, to be their first President (of the Friendly Sons).  In an obvious jab at those who use the questionable term, Mr. Campbell also noted, The writer of this can claim as Scottish a name and ancestry as any man living, but with the settlement of the Scots in Ireland, they broadened out their views, imbibed the spirit of the Irish people and became as Irish as the descendants of the original settlers of the land of St. Patrick.  There is enough glory and patriotism among both Scot and Irish, without attempting to introduce a spirit of antagonism between them.  To which we add a humble, AMEN!
May I suggest that any future references sent to you which include the term Scotch-Irish be reviewed with the above in mind.  Further let me say that our Celtic cousins are Scots, not Scotch – Scotch is their whiskey (which we also gave them).

Comment by David Joyce on January 22, 2017 at 1:37pm
Hello Mike,

You are absolutely right :). The goal of the post was to show the struggles they went through in Virginia. In hindsight, I should have mentioned their origins were Scottish. It was primary intended as a genealogical story of the Joyce subject mentioned.
Comment by Beth Golden on January 23, 2017 at 4:06am

Thank you Mike for your extensive comment! My 2nd great grandfather and great grand uncle (David Little and Joseph Martin) both born into Presbyterian families in County Down were early and active members of the Knights of Hibernia in Oakland, Garrett County, Maryland. I always thought what a great ecumenical group this was there in the 1860's and now know that the KOH began that way. Wonderful! Always enjoy learning more.

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on February 3, 2017 at 7:40pm

John Fiske was a strong proponent of Anglo-Saxonism during the growing Imperialist period, centering on the idea that this particular blood line was divinely commissioned to save all others from themselves. He tagged this idea to another popular idea of the time called Social Darwinism. The followers of this idea believed that those at the top of the social food chain where there because of genetics and destined for leadership of industry and the world. His belief in this superiority colors his writings and must be taken into account when read today.  Slainte     


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