Derrick Johnstone

Research title: Scottish Emigrants to East Jersey, 1683-1685

Research Summary

Scots Emigrants to East Jersey, 1682-1702: Motivations and Outcomes

Between 1683 and 1685 over 700 Scots emigrated to East Jersey, establishing what has been described as Scotland’s only successful colonial venture. Some were inspired by the visions set out by the Quaker, Robert Barclay of Urie and the Presbyterian, George Scot of Pitlochie, while others were banished as rebel Covenanters or criminals. Emigrants were proprietors, indentured servants, merchants, tradespeople and family members. Some did not complete the journey, such as many aboard the ill-starred ship, the Henry and Francis. A few returned to Scotland, but the majority for whom records exist made new lives for themselves.

This study explores the motivations of the emigrants and the factors shaping their decisions. It takes account of the circumstances behind the emigrant voyages and how they were led, planned and promoted. It adopts a prosopographical approach, assembling biographical data of the emigrants, their close kin and associates, gathered using a genealogical database. This facilitates analysis of their decisions to leave and of how they fared economically and socially. The study explores the role of kinship, commercial networks, faith communities and ethnic affinity in mobilising for emigration and in shaping outcomes. It seeks to join up disparate historiography in North America and Scotland and contribute to the body of knowledge on the early modern Atlantic world.