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The White Sails: British Colonisation of the Americas.

Are you researching your surname history, celtic origins and heritage?

Then you are likely to have heard of ‘The White Sails’. But where did this term originate, and why is it of importance to those of Irish or Scottish descent?

When the Crowns of England and Scotland were united under James VI of Scotland (subsequently James I of England) in 1603 the Scottish Border Clans were dispersed to England, Northern Scotland and Ireland. As the years passed, subsequent generations sought a better life and wanted to escape the prevailing poverty.

They looked to the New World to provide a better life, but the passage was both expensive and highly dangerous. They sailed aboard the ‘White Sails’, an armada of timber sailing ships such as the Hector (1773), the Rambler (1806), and the Dove (1801), which plied the stormy Atlantic.

Harsh Conditions on The White Sails

Passengers would have endured harsh conditions, usually travelling in the steerage berths. Typically, the ships lost between 30% and 40% of their original passengers. Ships that were meant to carry around one hundred passengers, were rammed with four or five times that amount.

Some people called them, less romantically, the ‘coffin ships’ because conditions on board were almost unimaginably harsh and many passengers died en-route.

Irish sept histories and Scottish clan histories contain a wealth of information about this famous armada, which carried with it diseases such as Cholera, Small Pox, Dysentry and Typhoid.

First Settlements in North America

These first immigrants on the white sails became the backbone of the first settlements in North America. Many formed wagon trains westward moving to the west coast or the prairies. The Canadian wilderness attracted some of the migrants and the first European colonists to come to Canada were of French origin, arriving in the seventeenth century.

Almost 70% of the immigrants landing in the United States arrived through the port of New York. From there they followed opportunities in the North America heartland.

Do you have a story to share about how your family arrived in America? We would love to hear it. Find out more about the coat of arms and history of your own surname by clicking here. We have a wide range of gifts to celebrate all occasions that are sure to impress!  Visit our shop for inspiration.

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