Life in Scotland
Move to Canada
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Life in Scotland
The decision to emigrate
It is hard to know what motivated this family to leave the relative security of a familiar world for the hardships and dangers of an uncharted wilderness, but it is likely that economics was the overriding factor. Life had always been difficult in the Scottish Highlands, but it had become more difficult in recent years due to the Highland Clearances. Beginning around 1785, many clan chiefs and other landowners began creating profitable sheep runs by clearing Highlanders from fertile areas and forcing them to eke out a living on small plots of poor land. What would have otherwise been an explosive social problem was largely defused by voluntary emigration. Scots were leaving Scotland in droves. They had been migrating to British North America in small numbers for many years, and would continue to do so in ever increasing numbers for decades to come.
There is still the question of why Peter and Catherine chose to emigrate at this particular time. The answer is that in 1815 the British government offered, for a limited time only, free passage and free land to families that met certain qualifications. The Peter McDougall family met those qualifications and they chose to take advantage of the government offer.
The Peter McDougall family did not travel to the New World alone. It was common for emigrants to travel with related familiesbrothers, cousins, etc.but that does not appear to have been the case here. Instead, the Peter McDougall family was part of a group of emigrating families that shared a common religious conviction. They traveledand eventually built a new communitywith several families that belonged to two small Baptist churches. So, it appears that religion was also a factor in their decision to emigrate, though how great a factor it is difficult to say.
Perthshire and Loch Tay
The emigration records show the Peter McDougall family as coming from Fearnan, a small village on the banks of Loch Tay in Perthshire, Scotland. A photo of Fearnan, taken from across Loch Tay is shown to the right.
The maps below, show where Scotland is located, where Perthshire is located
within Scotland, and where Fearnan is located in the Loch Tay area.
The Church of Scotland in the nearby village of Fortingall was established over 420 years ago. It is there that Peter and his siblingsand presumably many earlier generations of McDougallswere baptized, and it is there where Peter and Catherine were married.
It seems that the village of Fortingall is most well known for three things:
McDougalls in Perthshire
It was surprising to learn that our McDougall ancestors came from Perthshire rather than from the western coast of Scotland near the Firth of Lorne, with which the McDougall clan is normally associated and where McDougalls were so strong in number. But there is an explanation. According to , many McDougall families migrated from their traditional lands to this part of Scotland in the 14 th Century, after it had been largely depopulated, as noted earlier, by the Black Death (i.e., bubonic plague).
...in 1368 King David Bruce granted Glenlyon to John MacDougall and his wife [the king's niece]. In 1372 the grant was confirmed to MacDougall himself, presumably on the death of his wife. MacDougall is believed to be the famous Iain Dubh nan Lann of Glenlyon tradition. If so, he was one of the most famous warriors of his time and many stories are told of his prowess...
The Peter McDougall family
The Church of Scotland records at Fortingall document the marriage of Peter McDougall's parents, Donald McDougall and Katherine Anderson, in 1759. They also document the christening of Peter, his three brothers, and his four sisters between 1760 and 1783. These birth dates assume that the christening took place shortly after birth. Click here to see a list of family members.
The Fortingall church records also document the marriage of Peter McDougall to Catherine Campbell in 1807 and the christening of their first child, Catherine, in 1809. The records do not show christening dates for their two sons, John and Alexander, who were born in 1813 and 1814, respectively. It is possible that the parents converted to the Baptist faith sometime between 1809 and 1813, and consequently chose not to have their later children baptized in the Church of Scotland. We know that the Baptist Church had a strong evangelical movement during that period, and we know that Peter and Catherine were active members in the Baptist Church at the time of their emigration to Canada.
The Baptist Church in Scotland
According to , the Baptist faith was first introduced to Scotland in 1651, when the Cromwell government stationed a garrison of English soldiers in Perth. For the next couple of centuries, a handful of Baptist churches survived, but primarily in the larger towns. In the early 1800's, however, there was a wave of itinerant evangelism that established several churches in rural areas, including Lawers (1808) and Killin (1808). And it is from those two Tayside churches that Peter and Catherine's emigration party was drawn.
It is difficult to know for sure what role religious conviction played in the decision of Peter and Catherine to emigrate, but according to ,
Most emigration from Perthshire to Glengarry County occurred in the five years after 1815 The clansmen left Scotland because of religious differences with their landlords and because of the pressure put on agricultural resources by a rapidly growing population and the amalgamation of tenant farms into sheep farms.
Unlike so many Scottish emigrants, Peter and Catherine chose to travel and settle not with members of their extended familyat least as far as I can tellbut with members of their church. Considering how much pioneer families have to rely on one another for aid and comfort, this was a significant decision.
British emigration scheme
Great Britain had lost control of most of its North American territories only a few years ago when the United States gained its independence, and now they had just finished fighting yet another war with their former colonies. The war experience caused much concern in the British government, because it seemed only a matter of time before Canada too would be demanding independence. Sparsely populated Canada was gradually being settled, but most of the settlers were independence-minded Americans. The solution that the British government came up with was to populate the land instead with loyal British subjects. And so, a subsidized emigration scheme was hatched. The scheme is described in  as follows.
"Once the war [of 1812] was over, the British government set in motion an imaginative scheme of emigration which is usually remembered as the especial project of Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The experience of the war had shown that the loyalty of many of the Americans who had settled in Upper Canada could not be depended upon. The need for additional loyal subjects in the thinly populated province with its long frontier so dangerously exposed to the United States was pressingwhy, therefore, not bring them in from Britain? The British government accordingly formed a plan by which a select group of emigrants was to be given free passage to Canada in the transport ships which wouldconvenientlybe going to Canada in any case in 1815 to bring back soldiers from the recent war.