Are you an American of Scottish descent? If so, do you know where your ancestors landed when they immigrated to the United States? What port of entry? Do you know what ship they came over on? How about where they left from? Do you know which port it was in Britain?
Neither do I. No idea. Family lore does not seem to record these details. So, I decided to make this documentary film, to discover where our ancestors left from, what it was like there, and why they left. The working title is, “The Great Scottish Migration.” The focus is on immigration from southern Scotland, the county of Renfrewshire, which lies to the south of the Clyde River. I am looking at ship building on the Clyde, and the ships that sailed from there in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Why did so many people live in southern Scotland, and what was their life like at the time? I will be shooting footage for the documentary at locations around the Clyde River and Renfrewshire, Scotland. I am interviewing Americans of Scottish descent and historians from both countries for the project.
In the 1700’s a lot was happening on both sides of the Atlantic. The industrial revolution, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the trade of slaves, cotton, sugar and tobacco. Goods arrived in Scotland on the Clyde river, in the shoreline town of Greenock, or further upstream at Port Glasgow, which was built to be the port for the city of Glasgow. Glasgow is even further upstream, and was unreachable by large ships. Ships left the Clyde river too, carrying Scots, either willingly or unwillingly. Although ships left from ports all around Scotland, the majority left from Greenock.
Migrants did not need a passport in those days. They would leave Britain on a wooden sailing ship, called a “packet ship” and travel in great discomfort for many weeks. The American Revolutionary War slowed migration from Britain around 1775. In the mid 1800’s ships started using steam. Travel across the Atlantic on a “Steamer” was much faster. Migration to the US continued.
Are you of Scottish descent? Would you like to participate in a short interview for The Great Scottish Migration documentary? If so, call Ellen at 703-328-8046.