Ulster place-names in Pennsylvania

My sole claim to Irish ancestry is my 3X great-grandmother, Elizabeth McKlveen Stahl. Other family historians cite her birth in Ireland circa 1792 to Scottish-born Henry and Isabel McKlveen. As my husband and I prepare for the IGSI tour of Ireland in September and our add-on visit to Scotland, I’m yet again looking over my research about the McKlveens.

The naturalization record for Elizabeth’s older brother John McKlveen indicates he arrived in New Castle, Delaware, in 1800. No passenger lists are available for the port at New Castle for this period of time. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I assume the entire family came together.

Land records confirm Henry McKlveen was in Pennsylvania in 1804 when he purchased land in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County. Again, absent other records, I presumed the family came to Pennsylvania following other settlers from County Donegal, Ireland.

I’ve now discovered an article online at Academia.edu entitled “From Rostrevor to Raphoe: An Overview of Ulster Place-Names in Pennsylvania, 1720-1800″ written by Peter Gilmore. Gleaned from its 32 pages are several pertinent points quoted below:

We should not expect each instance of an Ulster place-name — and particularly those surviving on modern maps — to correlate exactly to the presence of pioneers from the same-named locale in the north of Ireland. Provincial authorities applied Ulster nomenclature to newly created townships in the middle decades of the 18th century, 1725-1775, labeling spaces on maps often before significant numbers of settlers occupied the actual places.   (from page 2)

Another factor in the diffusion of West-Ulster place-names is the substantial concentration of Ulster migrants in the older counties and their further movement continued westward and northwestward across Pennsylvania… As networks of extended family and friends migrated out of the original core areas, it appears that attachment to certain names — reinforced by Pennsylvania experience — traveled with them.   (from page 17)

No lands were available for purchase in what became Westmoreland County until 1769… In Westmoreland County and Fayette to the south, township names of Ulster origin largely preceded settlement. Much of the Ligonier Valley was known as Donegal when that region…was part of Bedford County. The name was retained when Westmoreland County organized its townships in 1773.  (from pages 20-21)

I now conclude the McKlveens came from Ulster but not necessarily Donegal.

If you have Scots-Irish ancestors who settled in Pennsylvania, you may want to read Gilmore’s entire article: www.academia.edu/4031545/From_Rostrevor_to_Raphoe_An_Overview_of_Ulster_Place-Names_in_Pennsylvania_1700-1820

A long-time McKlveen family researcher has said the McKlveens were ‘Seceder’ Presbyterians. One approach to tracing Scots-Irish immigrants of Presbyterian faith would be to identify their local minister in Pennsylvania. Did they follow him (or others from the congregation) to America? More research for another day.

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