Friday, September 20, 2013

Discovery of a Group Migration of Convenanters

Ideally when setting out for a day of research you have one or two questions about a particular person to focus on and drive your research for the day. Maybe you will come across an item that will lead you to an unexpected source to investigate about that person. Generally it doesn't require that you bring a binder full of ancestors, or your genealogical software with all your kith and kin mapped out. For me, this is mostly true...unless it involves the adjacent Marshall and Lincoln counties in Tennessee.

A few weeks ago I went down to the local library in Lincoln County, Tennessee which you can read about here. For this research I have to bring my "cheat sheets." These are just pedigree charts with a few notations on them. Some of these notations include what dates/locations I have proof for, what I suspect or have a question about, brief military information, and possible connections. These are my working notes in short hand, if you will. I would never show anybody these, they are for my eyes only. I need these notes for researching in this area. This is a very rural community and I have a lot of ancestors here that criss crossed over county lines, married, and conducted business with each other. So while I may focus on one person, all of my other kin can't help showing up in the records that I'm looking at. I need my cheat sheets to keep track of them all.

So there I was sitting in the library looking at a couple of sources, making notes, checking my cheat sheets occasionally and I notice something. There were a lot of people that came from South Carolina to Lincoln County, Tennessee. Why? Why would all these people come here of all places? I mention this observation to the library volunteer. To which she says, "Oh, maybe they were Covenanters."

I don't know what a Covenanter is. She didn't really either, other than they had something to do with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Hhmmm. So when I get home I Google it. I click on the Wikipedia site and discover that it has to do with a Scottish Presbyterian movement that started in the 1500's. In a nutshell, they were groups of people, or covenants, that were committed to upholding the ideals of the Presbyterian religion. After 150+ years of all sorts of political trouble, they flee to Ireland. Then around 1717 a group of Covenanters decide to leave Ireland and migrate to North America, settling in the Philadelphia area with one group forming the Reformed Presbyterian Church . Not surprisingly, Covenanters would become avid supporters for independence from Great Britain. They would also volunteer in large numbers to participate in the Revolutionary War. Later, around 1800, this group would oppose slavery and outlaw slave-holding for the people within the congregation.

This is all great, but what does it have to do with my people coming from somewhere in South Carolina? I Google some more and find Reverend William Martin. He came to Rocky Creek, Chester County, South Carolina with a huge congregation during 1772 in 5 ships. Over time it seems little groups would splinter off and migrate elsewhere in the U.S. One of these little groups would migrate to Lincoln County, Tennessee.

After I learn this I look back at my cheat sheets. There are several people who were born in Ireland and died in Chester County, SC, a couple more who were born there, and one with this note "Rocky Creek?, SC." All of these people were members of the same church. This was a group migration from Rocky Creek, Chester County, South Carolina that followed the preacher. I sit back to let this sink in.

These people knew each other in South Carolina. I look at the dates in my notes. Gasp! They probably knew each other in Ireland! This is immediately followed by the next thought of; I wonder if they knew each other in Scotland?? Whoa. I've just gone from researching this group in two counties of one state, to two states and three countries. It's a good day.

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