How "the Covenanters"? Affect Genealogy

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

1763 Proclamation Map.

In tracing the immigrants, we discover that certain groups of Scottish persons were Presbyterians. During the 17th century, “the Covenanters”, as they were called, were a vital part of the protestant history which erupted in Europe. Their point of reference was the Covenant between God and the Israelites in the Old Testament. The National Covenant dated in 1638 was a pledge to maintain chosen forms of worship. After the signing, the Scottish Assembly abolished Episcopacy and in 1639-1640 fought to maintain their religious liberty. During December of 1646 they fought in the English Civil War wherein Charles I first surrendered and later agreed to the Solemn League and Covenant which attained military assistance from the Scots. They also fought for King Charles II, who signed the covenant in June 1650. In both campaigns, however, the Scots were defeated by the English.

By the mid-1700s the Scottish population were drifting towards Antrim, Ireland (later known as Scotch-Irish) and commencing the vast immigration to America. The nearest port city was Belfast.

Learning the European history of the Scots and Irish peoples is essential in order to discern where to search next. Because of the religious wars, few records survived in those regions. But the trail of immigration presents a rather clear picture. The popular port cities during this period were Philadelphia, Wilmiington and Charleston. Upon arrival, the ultimate destination was the mountain range which spanned Virginia and North Carolina. Emigrants sought free land and opportunity. You might be surprised to learn that those families who ultimately ended up in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and later Kentucky and Tennessee, found themselves in the midst of battles with the Indians, massacres, looting, and even kidnapped daughters. These circumstances drove certain families back East, and by 1780 (when the Revolutionary War commenced its Southern Campaign), there was opportunity for land grants in the East. Typically, a soldier signed up for 3 months. If he served for that term, he was entitled to 287-1/2 acres of land. In examining the number of acreage received, the genealogist can determine “how long” the soldier served. For example, one of my ancestors received a total of 1150 acres in Washington County. That means that he served 4 terms (of 3 months each); actually to the end of the war. The records of Washington County did not survive; there is no tombstone or evidence of his homeplace in Davisboro, Georgia, but the proof is in the pudding!

There was an enticement for free land. The bounty grants during the War of 1812 offered between 1818-1858 was 160 acres of land, but one must serve the full five years. The name of the game was always “fertile land” upon which to build a home and livelihood. That is why we search land lotteries, land and bounty grants. Lots of the militia fought in both wars; during 1812 naval defenses were erected along shore-lines. Yet, the war with the Indians were also afoot, from Georgia to Alabama, and the militia was used extensively. If you wish to learn where your ancestor was during these battles, members of Georgia Pioneers search online Be sure and write down every family name as these guys will turn up latter on your family group sheets! It also a good idea to search for muster rolls, as small details such as “wounded” or “killed” can help locate other family members.

New Additions: Tennessee: Knox County Settlements and Administrators 1792-1824. Note: More Tennessee records are being added weekly! It is a slow process.

Where to Find Muster Rolls

Georgia Military Records (members only)

Become a Member of Georgia Pioneers