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A Brief Family History

In doing some research on the Littles, I found out a few things I'd like to share about their backgroud. While the people in Scotland were discriminated against by the Church of England, which was the church of state, most did not leave their homeland for religious reasons but rather for economic reasons.







Thomas Little's family probably went to Ulster (Northern Ireland) around 1754 because before that there would not have been any reason to go. The area had experienced economic failure due to restrictions put on the linen industry by the English government and by a severe drought. Many at that time went to America, but by 1754, conditions started to improve, leaving room for more to come from Scotland. Scots probably were forced out of their homes because laird (landowners) were begining to improve their lands and enclosing their fields. Enclosed fields meant fewer people could live on the land and the owners made the tenants leave.







Ulster was the place the Scottish people went because it was mostly inhabited by Protestants, and what's more, the English government encouraged them to go. The Irish Catholics had been run off a century before. But living in Ulster was not what they thought it would be. They were not permitted to practice their Presbyterian faith. In 1771 leases on large estates expired and the rents were doubled. Many of these "Scotch-Irish" were evicted at a time when ship owners were roaming the country side and "selling" America to the poor farmers. Nearly all of them came as indentured servants, which was looked on favorably because it gave them time to learn the ways of America. Those who indentured themselves usually received money and supplies when the time of service was up (4-7 years).







Therefore, it was the Anglican church that provided the oppression, but the reasons for coming to America were mainly economic. The people in Ulster, Ireland (which contains County Down where Nancy Little is reported to have been born) were Scotch-Irish, although they considered themselves Irish since many had lived there for a couple of generations. The Scotch-Irish, or Irish Presbyterians as they are sometimes called, were a very different sect of people than the Irish Catholics who immigrated in the nineteenth century. Very few Irish Catholics came to America at the time the Littles did.



Also interesting to note is that the Scotch-Irish from Ulster were active participants in the Revolutionary War; no records indicate Loyalists in this group. They were Indian fighters who pushed into the West to settle it.



They were known as a restless group, unwilling to stay put, which does seem to describe our Littles. Even though they were poor, education was important to them--their ministers were required to be college educated, and the Scotch-Irish were the main source of the push of education in the early days our country. Not all of this family kept their Presbyterian heritage due mostly to a lack of ministers in this country. But I believe many of our line did because they were active in the Presbyterian church in Indiana.





According to THE HISTORY OF THE LITTLE FAMILY, James A. Little, 1905, and other sources, Thomas Little was born in 1740 in Scotland. We believe it to be Dumfries, Scotland. He came to Northern Ireland probably around 1750-54 (my guess). About 1770 Thomas, his wife Mary Campbell and 4 of his 5 children came to America (landing in Savannah, GA according to ship records). His daughter, Mary came a year later. They settled in Rockbridge Co.,VA. Three more children were born in VA. Later they moved on over the mountains to Mercer Co., KY. Still later Thomas, wife Mary, son Alexander, daughter Nancy (mine) and her husband John moved on to Franklin Co., KY. Alexander moved with his family to Washington Co.,IN around 1810. Nancy moved with her family (husband John died in Franklin Co., KY) to IN. I believe she first went to Washington Co., IN around 1814, then with some of her children and spouses staying in Washington Co, and some going with her, she moved to Vigo Co., IN.

Map of the UK. Dumfries is just northwest of the English border.

New information:
I have learned the following from a researcher in Scotland:

"In the OPR for Westerkirk there is only ONE Thomas Little born around that time. 'April 25th, 1742, Thomas, son to John Little in Carlesgill" Billholm is about 3 miles from Carlesgill, these were workers or tenant farmers on the Duke of Buccleugh's estates so it is quite possible that the family moved. Rentals and jobs were often on short term contracts. The Westerkirk M. I. s have the grave of Thomas Little, Tenant in Carlesgill died 1720 aged 75, Margaret Graham, his wife, died 1739 aged 76. This line of Littles appear to be connected to the Lairds of Meikledale. I know it is supposition but in the absence of any other evidence I would suggest that John Little of Carlesgill must be a grandson to the Thomas (died 1720). The absence of later family on the stone suggests that a move took place, and if you take into account the agricultural system practiced at that time, John may well have moved to Billholm."

Copyright 2004 Cindy Thomson. All rights reserved.

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