The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #143842   Message #3322392
Posted By: GUEST,Lighter
13-Mar-12 - 04:36 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads in 18th c. America?
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads in 18th c. America?
John, perhaps you have access to new information, but otherwise I'm very skeptical of the immigration figures you cite.

Some years ago, I came across what I believe was the original research "establishing" the immigration patterns of the Scotch-Irish to the South. It was done around 1915, in the heyday of the belief that ethnicity was a powerful determinant of group and individual character. The Scotch-Irish were thought to be especially strong, vigorous, visionary, and ready for physical challenges: the ideal "race" to clear forests, fight Indians, and dream of westward expansion. It would have been satisfying to myany patriotic researchers to show that they had contributed disproportionately to the development of the United States.

However, American immigration records of the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries give few indications of cultural identity within the UK (English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Scotch-Irish). About all that can be recovered with any degree of reliability are personal names and ports of embarkation.

In an obvious effort to bulk up Scotch-Irish immigration to America, the investigator (I wish I could remember his name) counted all UK immigrants, regardless of port of embarkation, *who had Scotch-Irish surnames.* And he included, as Scotch-Irish, names known in Ulster that were *also* distributed elsewhere in the British Isles!

And voila! A preponderance of Scotch-Irish immigrants to tame the wild frontier!

The idea that the Scotch-Irish made up the great majority of early settlers in Appalachia is evidently a myth. The truth seems to be that they were the largest white, non-English minority.

Which isn't to say they didn't have Child ballads. But the earliest printed reference to one in America that I can recall seeing is "The Mermaid," from around 1850.