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Why did your Ancestor Leave Britain for USA or Canada

During more than 400 years, millions of Britons have emigrated to New England, USA and Canada. So it’s natural that we have many American clients enquiring about their ancestors from England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland.


Emigrants Statue

They left for reasons of push or pull. Most on the Mayflower in 1620 were religious pilgrims. Some went seeking a brave new world. Others had little choice about leaving home. During the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th century, many were driven from the land to make way for sheep. The Great Famine in Ireland from 1845-52 led 1 million people to emigrate from Ireland.

Examples of research that we have undertaken are:

  • Jessie was born in Cheshire in 1859 and emigrated with her family to Connecticut in 1907. Using parish records, wills, directories and maps, we traced her ancestors back to the 17th century in both England and Wales; and found family homes and the pub that her grandfather had run for them to visit.
  • Nancy knew that her grandmother’s family had come from Scotland to Ontario, Canada but little more. We found her ancestors in Argyllshire and Sutherland in the 18th century. Her great grandfather’s family had fled from the Highland Clearances to Helmsdale, where an Emigrants Statue now commemorates the people who “in the face of great adversity, sought freedom, hope and justice beyond these shores.”
  • We have a laugh too! Like the lady from USA whose ancestors were called Pilgrim – but they left England not in the 17th century but from Lincolnshire in the 19th century. They started calling themselves ‘poachers’ after we told them about the traditional song “The Lincolnshire Poacher”!

We are always happy to be contacted by someone from USA or Canada to research their British ancestors.

Image Credit – “Emigrants Statue” from Wayne Roberts author of the excellently written Highland Clearances blog.

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