One-third of all US
Presidents had their ancestral origins in the northern province of Ireland
During his two visits to
Ulster, President Bill Clinton spoke proudly of his ancestral links
with the province and of the remarkable fact that a third of all US
Presidents had their roots in Ulster.
President Clinton, whose
connection is through his Blythe and Ayer ancestors, is one of at least 14
Chief Executives who are descended from the 250,000 immigrants from the
north of Ireland who had already settled along the American frontier by
Most of these early
migrants were Ulster Scots, those people of Scottish origin who spent a
century or more in the northern counties of Ireland before moving to the
New World. These pioneering people and their descendants, known in the USA
as the 'Scotch-Irish', have often been called "the first true Americans".
They have had a huge and disproportionate impact on American education,
politics, commerce, the military, journalism, literature, the arts and
While many of the
Presidents have typically Ulster-Scots surnames - Jackson, Johnson,
McKinley, Wilson - others, such as Bush, Roosevelt and Cleveland, have
maternal links with the homeland which are less obvious.
7th President 1829-37. He was born in the predominantly Ulster-Scots
Waxshaws area of South Carolina two years after his parents left
Boneybefore, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim. A heritage centre in the
village pays tribute to the legacy of 'Old Hickory', the People's
James Knox Polk
11th President 1845-49. His ancestors were among the first Ulster-Scots
settlers, emigrating from Coleraine in 1680 to become a powerful political
family in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina. He moved to Tennessee and
became its Governor before winning the Presidency.
15th President 1857-61. Born in a log-cabin (which has been relocated to
his old school in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania), 'Old Buck' cherished his
origins: "My Ulster blood is a priceless heritage". The Buchanans were
originally from Deroran, near Omagh in County Tyrone where the ancestral
home still stands.
17th President 1865-69. His grandfather left Mounthill, near Larne in
County Antrim around 1750 and settled in North Carolina. Andrew worked
there as a tailor and ran a successful business in Greenville, Tennessee,
before being elected Vice-President. He became President following Abraham
Ulysses Simpson Grant
18th President 1869-77. The home of his maternal great-grandfather, John
Simpson, at Dergenagh, County Tyrone, is the location for an exhibition on
the eventful life of the victorious Civil War commander who served two
terms as President. Grant visited his ancestral homeland in 1878.
Chester Alan Arthur
21st President 1881-85. His election was the start of a quarter-century in
which the White House was occupied by men of Ulster-Scots origins. His
family left Dreen, near Cullybackey, County Antrim, in 1815. There is now
an interpretive centre, alongside the Arthur Ancestral Home, devoted to
his life and times.
22nd and 24th President 1885-89 and 1893-97. Born in New Jersey, he was
the maternal grandson of merchant Abner Neal, who emigrated from County
Antrim in the 1790s. He is the only President to have served two terms
with a break between.
23rd President 1889-93. His mother, Elizabeth Irwin, had Ulster-Scots
roots through her two great-grandfathers, James Irwin and William
McDowell. Harrison was born in Ohio and served as a Brigadier General in
the Union Army before embarking on a career in Indiana politics which led
to the White House.
25th President 1897-1901. Born in Ohio, the descendant of a farmer from
Conagher, near Ballymoney, County Antrim, he was proud of his ancestry and
addressed one of the national Scotch-Irish Congresses held in the late
19th Century. His second term as President was cut short by an assassin's
26th President 1901-04. His mother, Martha Bulloch, had Ulster
Scots ancestors who emigrated from Larne, County Antrim, in May 1729.
Teddy Roosevelt's oft-repeated praise of his "bold and hardy race" is
evidence of the pride he had in his Scotch-Irish connections.
28th President 1913-21. Of Ulster-Scot descent on both sides of the
family, his roots were very strong and dear to him. He was grandson of a
printer from Dergalt, near Strabane, County Tyrone, whose former home is
open to visitors. Throughout his career he reflected on the influence of
his ancestral values on his constant quest for knowledge and fulfilment.
Richard Milhous Nixon
37th President 1969-74. The Nixon ancestors left Ulster in the mid-18th
Century; the Quaker Milhous family ties were with Counties Antrim and
George Herbert Walker
Bush 41st President 1989-94: His Ulster Scots links are through
William Gault and Jonathan Weir, his great-great-great-great grandfathers
who both settled in Blount County, Tennessee, around the Revolutionary War
period. President Bush was made aware of this ancestry during a visit to
Knoxville, where Gault is buried in nearby Baker's Creek United
Presbyterian Church cemetery.
George W. Bush 43rd
President, 2000 - present: See George Herbert Walker Bush
Other occupants of the
White House said to have some family ties with the north of Ireland
include Presidents Adams, Monroe, Truman, Eisenhower and Carter.