Research Aids for Ulster-Scots
Research into the Ulster-Scots, also called Scots Irish, has never been a piece of cake. It may become a bit easier now with the help of several websites.
The Ulster-Scots Community Network (USCN), an umbrella organization composed of over 400 member groups, was formed to highlight the significant contribution of the Ulster-Scots peoples to the development of life in Northern Ireland, the border counties of the Republic of Ireland, and areas worldwide into which they dispersed. The Network has published a number of books about Scotland, Ulster, their residents and their descendants around the world. The books are digitized and available online free of charge.
The books are found at the "USCN Publications" link at the top of the page at http://ulster-scots.com/. When you click on a book link the text is presented as an Adobe file easily read on any computer. Many of the publications look interesting but a distinct drawback to using them is the lack of a table of contents or an index. None of the books I looked at had either aid to help find a person or place on which research is focused.
Another interesting site for research is Ulster Ancestry, Inc. at http://www.ulsterancestry.com/. An informative article on the background of the Ulster Scots is found under the tab labeled "The Ulster Scots." Research into these special ancestors is a challenge as vital records were not kept until the mid-1800s. Tax records here that may reflect your ancestors include The Tithe Applotment Books from 1824-1835, Griffith's Valuation of Ireland from 1848-1864, and Annual Revision Books 1864-1930.
To hire a researcher you need to know in which of the seven counties your ancestor resided. A four hour record search is $120, with prices for longer searches going up incrementally. The problem is finding clues to determine the county from which your Ulster ancestors emigrated; thus far, I've had no luck finding the origins of mine.
Ireland's land division was first into counties, then by Parish and finally by "Townland." There are approximately 62,000 townlands in Ireland with from five to thirty townlands being grouped together to form a Parish. The archives of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has collected numerous family pedigrees, family notes, wills, land records, deeds, leases, and most important, both Catholic and Protestant Parish Church records of birth and marriage, but knowing the county of origin is necessary to make good use of them.
A number of free genealogy pages include ships' passenger lists from the 1800s giving names, ages, counties and some occupations but the lists are not indexed in total and name only a handful of the thousands who came to America from Ulster. The Scots Irish played an important role in settlement of the American frontier as they were a tough breed, not afraid of hard work and adverse living conditions.
The General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI) is scheduled to debut a new website soon with an index to ALL the vital records registered with them from 1845 through 1864. A basic search will be free, but the enhanced index search will cost 1 credit (£0.40) and viewing an actual record will cost 5 credits (£2.00). For those not visiting the GRONI offices but searching from home, only "historic" records will be available, meaning: births – over 100 years, marriages – over 75 years, deaths – over 50 years.
It appears the search element of the current fee for an actual certificate will be removed as a certified paper certificate will drop from £15 to £8 (if ordered on-line quoting its unique reference number). Proposed legislation covering the changes is found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nidsr/2014/9780337992551. The earliest the new fee structure, and presumably the new system, is expected to go live is March 10, 2014.