In colonial times, the Irish population in America was second in number only to the English. Many early Irish immigrants were of Scottish or English descent and came from the northern province of Ulster. Pushed out of Ireland by religious conflicts, lack of political autonomy and dire economic conditions, these immigrants, who were often called "Scotch-Irish," were pulled to America by the promise of land ownership and greater religious freedom.
Many Scotch-Irish immigrants were educated, skilled workers. Even those who financed their emigration by becoming indentured servants were well equipped to lead successful, independent lives when their period of servitude ended.
The Scotch-Irish settled predominantly in the middle colonies, especially in Pennsylvania where the city of Philadelphia was a major port of debarkation. Over subsequent decades, the Scotch-Irish migrated south following the Great Philadelphia Road, the main route used for settling the interior southern colonies. Traveling down Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, then south into the North Carolina Piedmont region, they reached South Carolina by the 1760s.
Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan traced their roots to these early Americans.