New Database: Worcester, MA: Scots-Irish Settlers, 1700-1850

Old Map
1878 Map of the city of Worcester, MA. Public Domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We are very happy to announce a brand-new database today, Worcester, MA: Scots-Irish Settlers, 1700-1850.

This database is the result of a study project done by Shirley (Robinson) Pizziferri , and it is organized into 21 volumes by family. The database contains nearly 200 pages of family histories and contains over 12,000 searchable names.

Shirley (Robinson) Pizziferri was living in Rutland in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1976, doing research on her own family when the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester asked her to respond to the many messages they were receiving from people asking about their “roots.” Most of those who eventually became her clients were descendants of a group of Scots-Irish who settled in Worcester in 1718; Shirley quickly became fascinated with their families and their culture. Raising a family, part-time work, and late enrollment in college kept her busy, but recently Shirley decided that someone should put the research on these families together in a comprehensive format.

This study project is not an exhaustive work, but a primer for those with roots in this group of people who intermarried and left a mark on the towns in Worcester County. Shirley has used as her basis a list compiled by historian William Lincoln1 of those who remained in Worcester in the 1730s after many had moved and founded other towns such as Pelham and Colrain. She has supplemented that list with information from Ethel Stanwood Bolton’s Immigrants to New England, 1700-1775,2 vital records, deeds, probates, and other sources.

Each sketch is based, as a starting point, on Ethel Stanwood Bolton’s excellent collection of early New England immigrants, and will be supplemented by family histories, county and state histories, probates, deeds, and vital records from the pertinent towns. Each sketch will cover the first and second generations in America and list the children of the third generation. These sketches are intended as comprehensive sources on which researchers can base further study.

When asked about the Scots-Irish, most genealogists would first think of the Carolinas, or Nova Scotia, where many immigrated in the mid- to late 1700s. However, the Scots were in this country from the beginning, and those Scots who were banished to Ireland in the 1600s began immigrating here in the early 1700s.

J. P. MacLean writes, “Early in the spring of 1718, Rev. William Boyd arrived in Boston as an agent of some hundreds of people of Northern Ireland who had expressed a desire to come to New England should suitable encouragement be offered them. With him he brought a brief memorial to which was attached three hundred and nineteen names, all but thirteen of which were in a fair and vigorous hand. Governor Shute gave such general encouragement and promise of welcome, that on August 4, 1718, five small ships came to anchor at the wharf in Boston, having on board one hundred and twenty Scotch-Irish families, numbering in all about seven hundred and fifty individuals,” primarily of the Presbyterian persuasion. Some were from the Bann Valley in Ireland and others, mainly the ones who went to Worcester, were from the Foyle Valley. Some went north to the Casco Bay area and settled in what is now Portland, Maine. Others stayed for a while in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and its surroundings. Most ended up in Nutfield, New Hampshire, later Londonderry, settled in 1719, with their pastor, George McGregor.

In Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America, Charles Bolton writes that after the settlement at Londonderry [New Hampshire], Rutland and Pelham [Massachusetts], “the New England Scotch Irish spread gradually into other towns, Windham [Vermont], Antrim [New Hampshire], Peterborough [New Hampshire], Coleraine, Blandford and Palmer [Massachusetts] and many more.” The families that traveled west, probably along what was later to become the Boston Post Road, to Worcester, Massachusetts, are the subjects of this project.

Shirley (Robinson) Pizziferri currently lives in Florida but is a New England native. She has served as Executive Secretary of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, as Assistant Editor of the Mayflower Descendant journal, and as Library Chairman and past president of the Martin County, Florida, Genealogical Society. Shirley has been researching her own family tree since 1974 and has contributed articles to the Mayflower Descendant and the Register.

This update is made possible by the efforts of our volunteers; Nancy Borman, Alexandra Kiristy, Margaret Parker, Isabelle Watkins, and Richard Wood. If you have some time and would like to get involved in the database digitization and indexing process please contact Rachel Adams, Database Services Volunteer Coordinator via email at

Please note: This database is available to Individual-level and above NEHGS members only. Consider membership.