Traditional Porteous Coat-of-Arms


During the century beginning 1600 there began a massive migration of families from Scotland, initially to England and Ireland – and eventually to the New World and the newly discovered countries of the British Empire.

The reasons for this were many – and changed considerably during the following three hundred years. The historical background was turbulent and Scotland saw many changes which led to emigration of large numbers of both Highland and Lowland families. The timeline gives an idea of the main historical events which affected Scotland, the American colonies and Canada – and the historical background goes into more detail, showing why these led to Scots emigrating in large numbers.

At first, the main motive was that of trade with the newly colonised countries of the New World. Settlements in Virginia and the Carolinas were established early on, and many wealthy Scots and English took advantage of the new opportunities which were offered in the tobacco trade. We know that there were members of the Porteous and Porteus family among them, as they appear very early on in the records of colonial America.

But they did not all emigrate of their own free will – many Scots were forced to leave. Some were exiled as a result of the persecution of Oliver Cromwell and Charles II, transported as indentured servants to live out the rest of their lives in the American colonies.

Continued persecution of the Covenanters in the southwest of Scotland during the eighteenth century resulted in many Scots seeking religious freedom by emigrating to establish new colonies on the eastern coast of America, in places such as Massachusetts, Virginia and South Carolina – and as far north as Nova Scotia.

Later, the social and economic background of eighteenth century Britain meant that many of the inhabitants of the Southern Uplands of Scotland were forced to travel to larger cities for employment, including not only Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but also to the English ports of Newcastle and Liverpool as well as far as London.

Having begun to find new opportunities in these cities, some heads of Porteous families sought their fortunes further afield. Taking advantage of the opening up of new sea routes to the Americas, and the potential wealth to be found, some emigrated to the New England colonies and to the provinces which were eventually to become part of Canada.

Other contributing factors to the migration of many Porteous and Porteus families in later years were the Highland Clearances (see timeline) and the famines in Ireland and Scotland. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, emigration to the British colonies of India, Burma, Cape Colony, Natal, Australia and New Zealand grew dramatically as the opportunities there began to be exploited.

By the close of the nineteenth century, some 4 million Scots had sought to find their fortune in the countries that would later become Canada, settling mainly in the present provinces of Québec and Ontario – as well as many travelling as far afield as Australia and New Zealand to found new branches of the Porteous family.

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