Many of the progenitors of the Ewings of America came to this country directly from Ireland. They were Scotch, nevertheless.
For one or more generations these branches of our forefathers sojourned in the Province of Ulster, which comprises the northern part and about one-third of Ireland. Most of the ancestors of the Virginia and Maryland families were born in or near Londonderry, the capital of County Londonderry, Ulster, Ireland. Others were born in Coleraine, or near there, the important seaport of Londonderry County; and yet others were borne elsewhere in Ulster. Perhaps a few of our family ancestors were born in Scotland and came to America by way of Ireland. As are other Scotch whose ancestral footprints lead through Ireland, those of our ancestors who descended from the Ireland sojourners are known as Scotch-Irish, though as a rule there was none of the old Irish stock in their veins.
The story of the Scots settlement in Ulster is interesting and indispensable to an understanding of the history of those days, but the story is too long for these pages. We here but can observe that the conflict in Ireland for both civil and religious supremacy plunged from one phase to another until the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. To no phase of the struggle is more to be attributed than to the galling grapple between Protestantism and Romanism. That year James I, already king of Scotland and as James VI, ascended the English throne as the common ruler of the two countries. As James was Catholic in sympathy, the Irish Catholics took heart and defied the laws forbidding worship after their customs. But Parliament in 1605 renewed a law known as the act of supremacy, and also the law requiring attendance on the Protestant church. Naturally the troubles increased. Intrigue and disloyalty to the king and to the English government spread. In 1605 two earls of Ulster, who claimed title to the lands under the English law, were detected in plots which James regarded as seditious. They escaped to France. James at once took advantage of this to declare the Ulster lands escheated to the crown. The people by thousands were ejected from these lands and in most cases forced to flee to the mountains. Many wandered “gypsy-fashion” among the inhospitable hills; and such as could fled the island.
Fire, sword, starvation, “with a ferocity which surpassed that of Alva in the Netherlands, and has seldom been exceeded in the pages of history,” were all used to exterminate the Irish. “Not only the men,” adds Lecky, “but even the women and children who fell into the hands of the English, were deliberately and systematically butchered.” (1 History of Ireland, 5; 1 Hanna, The Scotch-Irish, 485; and other stand authorities. Read the full story as Lecky gives it.)
The bodies of the dead people “lay all over the country unburied,” elucidates Woodburn (The Ulster Scot, 487), following the original authorities. The awful story, surpassed only by that written in blood by the Germans in the great war which William kindled in 1914, is not only history, but it serves to make us prouder of our Cymric Scotch.
Scot and English Protestants were induced to accept the escheated lands. Large numbers came. Those of them who could bring others as tenants and make extensive improvements were known as “undertakers,” because they undertook specific duties. A few of the Irish remained as tenants, but from that event, known as the Ulster Plantation, Ulster became and remains largely Protestant. The Scotch “undertakers” and their tenants from Scotland greatly outnumbered the English. Hannah (sic) says that from 1606 to 1618 between thirty thousand and forty thousand emigrants went from Scotland to Ulster. (1 The Scotch Irish, 504). Those Scotch emigrants were of the best blood, descendants of the original Celtic Lowlanders and border Highlanders–generally Celt interbred with Saxon. They are sometimes maligned by early writers; but the available evidence establishes the fact that they were the best people of that day, alert, virile, brave, aggressive, industrious, shrewd, intellectual, and generally of the Covenanter Presbyterian faith; and, measured by the standards of that day, sanely and cleanly religious. Those colonists did “not leave Scotland until after two of its famous covenants [for the perpetuation of Protestant religion] had been signed” (C. S. Lobinger, The People’s Law, 62). If not in all cases signers of those covenants or oaths to aid in perpetuating the Protestant faith as they held it, they were in full sympathy with the purposes of those obligations, and supported the doctrines they embodied. Macaulay, in his History of England, says those colonists, soon augmented many times, “were proud of their Saxon blood and of their Protestant faith.” Among the first of those emigrants were many whose names their descendants made famous later in America.
Some Ewings, claiming descent from our Scotch clan, were there before the plantation movement began. Papers in the court house in Lifford, the assize town of Donegal County, show that in 1603 a license was issued to David Ewing of Cavan, authorizing him to plant trees, as elsewhere is seen. Aside from its interest genealogically, this suggests a curious condition of government supervision.
The new comers built towns, one of the earliest being Londonderry, destined to become famous, and another Coleraine, fostered industries one of the most profitable of which was the growth of flax; and prosperity rapidly rewarded their labors.
Neither those Scotch nor their immediate descendants intermarried with the old Irish. However, upon what I regard as not satisfactory evidence, except as showing negligible instances, it is said that after a time the Scots “intermarried to some extent with the native Irish, who became Protestants” (Woodburn, The Ulster Scot, 26). As Woodburn points out, Geo. Chalmers (1 Caledonia 358) followed by some others, insists that many of the Scotch who settled in Ireland during any of the plantation period were the descendants of the Scots who had emigrated to Argyllshire in the seventh century. “But this cannot be proved,” Woodburn correctly says; and the best evidence indicates that the Ulster Scotch blood was mainly Anglo-Briton from the northern regions of old Strathclyde, as were the Ulster Ewings from whom we descend. In a somewhat compromise spirit Woodburn says that the conclusion is a safe one that the Ulster Scotch “must have had at least as much Celtic blood as Teutonic.” (The Ulster Scot, 25); but, whatever the degree, the Celt in the Ulster Scot was of the Briton Lowlands and not the Scots or Gaelic of the Highlands. Religious beliefs, racial traits, and, above all, the fact that the Irish had been evicted from their lands (unjustly as measured by the higher standards of our day) kept the two races apart. Very soon, to distinguish them from other Scotch in Scotland, they were called Scotch-Irish, there in Ireland, meaning a Scotchman living in Ireland. The designation to this day follows their descendants, and now generally means those who are descendants of those early Lowland Scotch who settled in Ulster along with the other Protestants who were turned toward Ireland by King James’ “plantation” offer. As suggested by the late Whitelaw Reid, the term Ulster Scot would be less misleading and more descriptive. However, “They are ‘Scotch-Irish,’ i.e., Scotch people living upon or born upon Irish soil, but not mixed with the native people. Their ancestors, many of whom came to Ireland nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, were Scotch. They came in a body, they kept in a body, and they remain in a body, or a class by themselves, largely, to this day. … They stuck together and kept aloof from the native Celtic Irish. They were surrounded by the sharp dividing lines of religious faith and by keen differences of race” (L. A. Morrison, A. M., Among the Scotch-Irish, 38).
Presbyterians from the strenuous Covenanter days, we find our family name upon the congregational “registers of births, marriages, baptisms and burials,” left by the oldest Presbyterian churches of Ireland. Not all, no doubt, got into these registers; but enough did to make those old registers valuable aids to Ewing genealogy. There is the old register of Derry (Londonderry) Cathedral Congregation, published as volume eleven of the parish registers publications by the Doublin Parish Register Society. Unfortunately several of its pages are missing. In the Preface it is said:
The register contains some curiosities in the way of spelling, and the contrast between these and what is often good handwriting shews how little importance was then attached to orthography. [Orthography used today–study of spelling]
This observation is true of other registers.
(There is some contrast today between the spelling shew in Ireland and show in America!)
Therefore, when we find out family name spelled once Yeowen, and now and then Ewin, though as a rule Ewing, as for instance in the Burt register, we feel rather surprised at the pertinacity of the Ewing spelling.
In the Derry Cathedral congregation register we find that Frances, daughter of William Ewin, merchant, was born in Londonderry December 1, 1653. William Ewin was a witness to a marriage in 1654, not long after the register was begun. July 17, 1655, William Ewing witnessed a marriage. After “bancs” (banns) were published three several Lord’s days before the Londonderry Congregation, Elizabeth Ewing being present, she was married. Frances, daughter of William Ewin, was born December 8, 1653; William Ewing, son of William Ewing, was baptized May 27, 1655; Alexander, son of William Ewing, was born October 3, 1656; Patrick, son of William Ewing, was born November 11, 1657; and so on, Joshua, Nathaniel, Rachel, all the family names are there and are repeated from generation to generation. For instance:
John, son of Alexander Ewing and Margaret, was buried 1682. Elizabeth, daughter of John Ewine and Katherine, his wife, was buried May 1683.
Katherine, wife of John Ewine, was buried October, 1684.
Martha, daughter of John Ewing and Janet, his wife, was buried September 30, 1691.
Sarah, daughter of John Ewing and Jenitt, his wife, was buried October 17, 1693.
John, son of Elizabeth Ewing, widow, was buried July, 1695.
James, son of John Ewing and Jenitt, was buried April 1697.
William Ewine and Agnes Anderson were married October, 1683.
William, son of John Porter and Margaret, his wife, was buried November, 1683.
William Ewine and Agnes Anderson were married November, 1683.
Jane, the wife of William Ewing, “Serjent,” was “bird” July 13, 1701.
Mary, daughter of Humphrey Ewing, is mentioned.
“Mr. Samuel Ewing was ‘bired’ August 3, 1771.”
James, son of Joshua Ewin and wife, May, was buried October, 1703.
John, son of John Ewin and wife, Jenatt, was buried March, 1700.
Robert, son of Alexander Ewing, was born 1654.
Nathaniel Ewing was born 1684. Nathaniel, son of Samuel Ewing and Katherine, was buried December, 1691.
William, son of John and Mary Eweings, was christened in St. Peter and St. Kevin, Dublin, August 7, 1758.
Maryanne, daughter of Richard and May Ewing, was born 1745. James Ewing in 1700 was buried at St. Catherines, Dublin.
George Ewing was one of the church officials in Parish of St. Andrew, Dublin, 1733-’34, as disclosed by the publications of the Dublin Parish Register Society. Pat. Ewing was a church warder in Dublin in 1734.
Ewing, Alexander, Elizabeth, Frances, Humphrey, Isabell, James, Janett, John, Joseph, Joshua, Katharine, Margaret, Martha, Nathaniel, Patrick, Robert, Samuel, Sara, Thomas are all found in these old registers.
John Ewing and Isabell Nelson married November 18, 1658.
Isabell, daughter of John Ewing, was baptized January, 1658.
“John Ewing, Isabell Ewing and Katherine Hackett, gossips,” says the laconic record of March 25, 1664.
The Burt congregation, near Londonderry, has an old register containing births, marriages, baptisms, and burials from 1677 to 1716. So far it has not been published. It is invaluable, and all the more so because early records, both church and state, are incomplete and not plentiful, Irish authorities tell me. J. W. Kernohan, Honorable Secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, had the Ewing entries found n the old Burt register transcribed for me, and I give them below as he sent them. Spelling, capitalization, etc., were faithfully copied. At the time there was no one in that section, he told me, who made a profession of genealogical research, and I was fortunate to get Mr. Kernohan’s intelligent cooperation. Of this old register he wrote: “It is one of the few manuscript books of so early a date. … There are very few printed books that would help you.”
Many of the persons mentioned did not live in Burt, but near there, as the register in many cases gives the place of residence, thus, for instance: Ffawn (Fahan); Elah (Elagh); Elaghmore, &c. That old record has the following: