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The political establishment in Ireland, though sometimes vexing for our ancestors, had generally insisted on minimal documentation of their lives from birth, marriage, ownership, through to death. In the 'New World' such obligations were few and far between. The early Scotch-Irish in America had little need for documenting their lives. Most vital records are found in Protestant church records or local town records in Massachusetts and other parts of New England. Many of the original Presbyterian churches have lost their original records, and in most places those churches now exist within a different denomination or not at all. Fortunately, the Scotch-Irish can still be found in the early court records of this time. The early 1718 emigrants were very active in purchasing land, establishing businesses, and abusing the Puritan style rules of the old New England religious establishment. The legal system was 'English', and so English courts had been established in the colonies for some time. Many times the activities of the Scotch-Irish led them before the court as defendants pursued by the Protestant elites. A plotment map of Nutfield 1719 by courtesy of John Doak [www.doak.ws]
Open PDF version of Petition
  However, many records can also be found of the 1718 emigrants purchasing deeds, demanding payments from their English neighbours, and pleading their rights for land or church. Gaining access to, and utilizing, those courts was an Englishman’s right. With their English citizenship intact, the 1718 emigrants understood the value of the legal system. Early 1900s historians pointedly remark about the knowledge of law that allowed the proprietors of Londonderry, New Hampshire to secure their lands in 1719. The leaders of the New Hampshire group purposely requested a plot of land set aside from their English neighbours. Even though this land was granted and gifted as 'unappropriated lands, in the Eastern parts' [C.K. Bolton p.241] in November, 1719 by the Massachusetts General Court, the town leaders diligently pursued the rightful ownership of their lands, and purchased the original deed signed by four Indian leaders on May 17, 1629. When English speculators tried to take back the Londonderry lands in the 1720’s, this early deed was proven to be valid and authentic[Parker p.321]. The likelihood that the Scotch-Irish will be found in the legal records of their time is a great resource for Internet research.

Graveyard, Londonderry, New Hampshire by courtesy of Janice Castleman [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~janicekmc/nbcem.html]In New England, the governmental style was based on local government. This 'commonwealth' concept places the responsibility for recordkeeping solely in the hands of the local authorities. The local town maintained records, and legal occurrences on their town books. The town records, such as those in Londonderry, sometimes include vital records, land purchases, law breakers, and tax lists. These records are great sources for the 1718 emigrants. Unfortunately, proving your ancestor is the James Anderson mentioned in those books can be difficult. The majority of 1718 research is based not on factual primary documentation, but on secondary, proximal, amassing of documentation for a specific individual. When the state and federal governments took over record keeping roles in the early 1800’s, many local towns had either lost their records or refused to turn over those records to the government. To this day, original records in the state of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and many other northeastern American locations can be found locked up in a little backroom inside the two-room office of the local town clerk. Finding those records require patience, diligence, and a little luck. The lack of 'interest' shown by county and state authorities in old, out-of-date records has led to the needless loss of much of America’s early documentary history. However, the recent explosion of genealogy as a legitimate activity and source of interest among Americans has led many states to begin saving, filing, and even documenting those “old papers” on websites. The state of Maine is one of the best examples with the establishment of the State Archives website: http://www.state.me.us/sos/arc This archive has links to the York County Court of Common Pleas from 1696-1760. Names of the 1718 emigrants are located throughout the index. Massachusetts has also seen the value of online archiving, as seen at: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcidx.htm Unfortunately, the state websites are often merely generic and do little to help pinpoint ancestors. Even searching these sites can be a cumbersome task. Fortunately, many genealogical societies both large and small are working on finding and documenting those old records, and vastly improving their relevance and ease of access to the modern day researcher. Learning your ancestor’s location in America is critical to being able to document of their lives.

 

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