The Tracy Family History
Our Ulster Scots

Scottish Highlands photo courtesy of Marc Sexton.

    It is not my purpose to tell the story of Ireland, nor the story of the northern one-quarter of Ireland, which has been known for centuries as Ulster. I wish only to tell the story as it applies to our people.
    In 1607, King James I of England took over Northern Ireland through the normal process. (King James is the one who wrote the bible.) Ireland at that time could not be considered a nation. For centuries it had been a savage land, controlled by an unbelievable number of savage clan chiefs who fought one another like savage dogs. "Murder and robbery were considered the only occupations fit for a gentleman." The common people had no rights.
    You had three entities that were constantly fighting one another with some intervals of rest: England, Scotland, and Ireland. “The Scots never kept their word. The Irish never kept their word. The English always kept their word, sometimes.”
    King James I was the first Scottish King to sit on the English throne in 300 years. He was raise a Presbyterian. However, the religion didn't take.
    Ulster was rather primitive at that time. Most of the land was uncultivated, consisting mostly of forest and wild animals. Wars had wiped out the inhabitants of some areas.
    King James I wanted some form of stability (political, religious, loyalty) in this region so he could maintain control. He decided to plant settlers from England and Scotland. (Plantation: Remember that word as it comes back into American Colonial history as our people establish plantations in Virginia, which are still there today.)
    King James I, being Scottish, of course, really didn't care much for the Scots. Never the less, he figured it was better to import the Presbyterian Scots to Ulster rather than leave the land controlled by the Irish Catholics: Anyone but Catholics!
    Practically speaking, he knew that the Scots were far better at farming, and virtually any other endeavor, than the English. So he gave liberal terms to those Scots who were impoverished, to leave their land of ancestry, travel just a few miles across the sea to this new fertile land. Wisely, he also sent English settlers to Ulster to rule over the Scots. The English settlers would be sent to run things and make sure that the profits from Ulster were sent back to the English rulers on a regular basis.
The Irish who remained loyal to the king received extensive land grants. Other Irish who sold their souls to the English, took an oath of loyalty, and joined the Episcopal Church of England, were allowed to stay. It was a good deal for the Irish. These Irish, under this new arraignment, would join with their traditional enemy, the English, and be protected from their even worse enemies, the other “Savage Irish."
    The Presbyterian Scots outnumbered the Episcopalian English six to one. The English would own the land, usually. The Scots would farm the land, usually.
Ulster would flourish under the Scots. As well as farming they would raise livestock and develop a successful textile industry.
    They're developed a strange relationship between all of the races. The English owned the land and ruled over the land. The Scots having no better choice worked the land. They had few rights. The English controlled the government. The English ruled.
    “Land, the source of wealth and political power was in Protestant hands.” Thus, the Irish Parliament would be controlled by the Protestant property owners. Ironically, those who controlled Ulster, the English landowners, did not live in Ireland.    
   They lived in luxury in England. They had local agents whose sole job was to extract every pound they could in rent in the shortest period of time. (I wonder if this is where the American Corporations got their policy of quarterly profit returns?)
“All colonists were required to be well armed." The Ulster Scot Presbyterians would fight the Irish Catholics from the day they entered this very day.
    As for the Irish: "When the Scots landed in Ulster, they fell upon their knees and prayed to the Lord, then fell on the native Irish and preyed upon them." One-third of Ulster consisted of bogs, forest, and mountains. This useless land was given to the displaced Irish. It didn't matter because the Irish were Catholic. The Irish Catholics had no rights. Many Catholics say that this really bad relationship has lasted to this day.
    As you can see from this story, I am Scotch-Irish. However, my last name is Tracy, a very traditional and proud Irish name.
    Our Peter Wallace Sr. entered this land before the year of 1704. If he was born in 1682, and we believe he was married in Ulster in 1704, then we can conclude that he immigrated as a young man.
    Peter would marry Elizabeth Woods in Ulster. They would have six children, all born in Ulster. Four would marry first cousins who carried the name Woods. There would be much intermarriage of Woods and Wallace first cousins. When I say that I am telling you the history of our Wallace line, I also mean the Woods line, for they are the same.

    I would like to point out that there are tens of thousands of Woods-Wallace descendants today in America. It is a distinguished line and many of our cousins, smarter than me, have researched the ancestry. However, what one historian accepts as fact, another says is unproved. There are many question marks, which get in the way of my story. I hope that someday all of the Woods-Wallace historians and genealogists will get together and agree on just one unproved version.

Descendants of John Woods

    The progenitor of the Woods family in Ireland was said to have been Sir John Woods. In fact, according to historians, he headed the only Protestant Woods family in Northern Ireland. (To make clear--According to the context of the times, Protestant would be the Episcopal Church of England. I should point out that there were other English, even Scottish families also carrying the name of Woods, not necessarily all related.) It is said he came from Yorkshire, England.
Originally, the Woods were from England. (Woodses, as was the original spelling, is a traditional English name. Somewhere along the line the ‘es’ is dropped.)
    They might have made their way to Scotland then to Ulster.
    Cromwell arrived (invaded) Ireland in 1649, with an army of 20,000 troops. In the English army was a trooper named Woods. (Even though he was in the English army and a Protestant, it is possible he was residing in Scotland at the time of his entering the army.) Upon ending his military stint in 1654 (?), he decides to stay in Ireland, provided with a land grant for his military service. Of course, this land was forfeited by the disloyal Catholics.
    In Ireland, it is not long before our Episcopalian Woods become Presbyterians.
    His wife, Isabel Bruce, is thought to have been a descendant of King Robert Bruce of Scotland. King Robert Bruce and William Wallace were equally famous. The two were contemporaries, born about the same time. So it is possible that we all descend from Scotland's two greatest heroes.
    This particular family, it would seem, actually belongs to the vast bourgeois, (the social class between the very wealthy and the working class; middle class.) except for the allied lines of marriage. However, they were a proud people who believed in fighting...yes, even dying for what they believed to be right.
    We have a problem with tracing our ancestry in Ireland. In 1922 the Republican Army burned the hall of records. The Woods research was done earlier than the burning but can not now be verified.
    What we have from the Irish years comes down from family tradition, generation by generation.
There is very little known about the children of Sir John and Isabel, except that they did seem to have one son, John Woods Jr., and possibly a son, Thomas.

    We come down through an incomplete line to our Elizabeth Woods and her brothers.
From this Cromwellian soldier comes the following family:

Generation No. 1

1. JOHN WOODS, b 1654 in County Merth, Ireland. He married ELIZABETH WORSOP in 1681. She was born November 15, 1656. It is believed that she came from an upper class family.

    The family historian, Ruth Petracek, in her research finds that historically the families of Wood and Woods (with an 's') to be two different lines. However, whenever you are dealing with genealogy there are rarely absolutes.

2. i. ELIZABETH2 WOODS, b. 1681 (1682-1684?), Ulster, Ireland; d. 1745, Rockbridge Co., Virginia.
ii. JAMES WOODS, b. Bet. 1684 - 1690.
iii. WILLIAM WOODS, b. Bet. 1684 - 1690.
iv. ANDREW WOODS, b. Bet. 1684 - 1690.
v. MICHAEL WOODS, b. Bet. 1685.

vi. JOHN WOODS III, b. Bet. 1685.

Generation No. 2

2. ELIZABETH2 WOODS (JOHN1) was born 1681 in Ulster, Ireland, and died 1745 in Rockbridge Co., Virginia. She married PETER WALLACE SR. Bet. 1704 - 1705 in Ulster, Ireland. He was born Bet. 1680 - 1682 in Scotland, Highlands, and died Bet. 1723 - 1724 in Ulster, Ireland.

PETER WALLACE SR marries ELIZABETH WOODS: What their lives were like living in Ulster--
    As I told you before, as to his birth, we have a date of 1680 and another of 1682. Also, another source says he was born in the Highlands. Family tradition says we are Highlanders. (Not all of our people agree with this.) The date of death in 1724 is approximate. It is possible that he died a year before.
    The Lowlands are the fertile farm lands. Ulster is fertile farm land. It makes sense that the Lowlanders made up the majority of the immigrants to Ulster because this was their profession.
    Nevertheless, when you are starving to death, it matters not if you are a Lowlander, or Highlander. You go where your best chances are of staying alive, to Ulster.The Presbyterians were confined to Ulster. They had no political standing, thus they were open to persecution.
    Peter Wallace Sr. and Elizabeth Woods married in 1704/05. In the year of 1704, the English government, in concert with the Episcopal Church of England, reintroduced the "Test Act” which invalidated all marriages outside of the Church of England. This means that all Presbyterian and Catholic marriages, from the beginning of time to the end of time, were invalid.
    Under the “Test Act” Presbyterians were not allowed to be married by their own ministers. Those who disobeyed the law were prosecuted in Episcopal courts. We can then assume they were thrown in jail. The children were then declared bastards. A man could be prosecuted for sleeping with his own wife. Presbyterian services could only be held at night with the sermons required to have prior approval.
    The Presbyterians were allowed to hold public positions only of low level. But to hold such a position required taking the communion of the English Church. The Scots were not allowed to hold high government positions or military rank; except those who sold their souls to the English.
    There was more to the “Act.” Presbyterian churches were closed. A Presbyterian could be thrown in jail for teaching school. Some ministers were thrown in jail for preaching in public.
    Education was restricted. You could not own a horse worth more than 5 pounds. They could not buy, lease, or inherit land. However, if the eldest son converted to the Church of England then he could inherit, and all inheritance went to him.
    In 1715, there was a Jacobite Rebellion. (The Jacobites were always rebelling.) The English, being pragmatic, allowed the Presbyterians, contrary to law, to join the English army. Our people fought loyally for the king, then when it was all over, they were threatened with prosecution for disobeying the very law. (Strangely, the Scots in Ulster were loyal to the English monarchs, thinking that the true villains were the king’s advisers.) “...the Presbyterians of Ulster...while uniformly loyal (to the king) they received no favors in return.”
The Presbyterian Scots may have gotten what they thought was a good land deal by moving to Ulster. But as you can see there were strings attached.
    The Scots leased the land, developed the fields, raised livestock and, in the beginning (from1607), made the previously undeveloped earth prosperous.
    As time went on the English landlords would raise the rents, and raise the rents, and raise the rents again until the Scots were forced off the land. When the leases expired the land was put up to the highest bidder. When the landlords found that they could make more money using the farmland for the sheep industry, and other livestock, they stopped the farming and used the land for grazing. This deprived the Scots of the simplest crops necessary to stay alive.
    Landlords were pressured not to allow Presbyterian church buildings on their property. Homes and farms were not leased to Presbyterian tenants.
    When the Scot families were forced off the land, the landlords would bring in two Irish families to live in the same house, doubling the labor force. To the greedy English this seemed like a good deal: double the work force for half the price. The Irish were so desperate that they would accept any terms. However, the Irish were not "fond of the plow." The once prosperous farms deteriorated under the Irish tenants.
    There were “Test Acts” and then “Toleration Acts," where the Presbyterians were actually tolerated, not persecuted as much. It then became a whole different ball game. It could really become crazy. At times the Catholics would be the most persecuted, then it would come time to persecute the Presbyterians and not worry so much about the Catholics. The Episcopal Church could get so busy persecuting the Presbyterians that they would leave the Catholics alone. During these interludes, Catholic priests could go about their business as usually, building churches, running schools, and everything else that Catholics do. Catholic lawyers could even practice in court.
    The Church of England forced the Presbyterian Scots to pay tithes to the English church. Sometimes the tithes would be more than the rent.
    The greatest enemies were the landowners who were mostly English. However, there were also the Irish and Scottish landowners who had sold their souls.
    The lives of our Ulster Scots depended on how the English Monarchy, Church and Parliament felt on any given day.
Over the generations the Scots lived in Ulster it was a constant ebb and flow. What history I have given you is the generic version. The persecutions, or times of toleration, could change from one day to the next. You could have a Protestant monarch one day and Catholic the following day.
    The point I want to make is that the story of Ulster I have told is true at times, but not all times. Again, ebbing and flowing over many generations, different administrators and different monarchs produced different policies at different times.
However, at no times was it pleasant for our people living in Ulster.

NOTE: If the Episcopal Church of England is not the true church than there is no problem. If, however, the Episcopal Church of England is the true church, then we are all in a lot of trouble!

1. William Wallace, b. 1706
2. Samuel Wallace, b. 1708
3. Andrew Wallace, b. 1711
4. Adam Wallace, b. 1713
5. Susannah Wallace, b. 1716
6. Peter Wallace Jr., b. 1719, Ulster, Ireland; d. 1786, Rockbridge,
Virginia.; married Martha Woods, 1744, in Virginia; b. 1720, in Ireland; d. 1790, in Virginia. He married Martha Woods, daughter of Michael Woods and Lady Mary Campbell, his first cousin. (Historians refer to her as Lady Mary Campbell. This would denote noble birth.) I descend from Peter Wallace Jr.

    In the previous story I have told you how our people lived in Ulster during the good times. As for the bad times: As in Scotland, there would be times of famine. In 1716, the sheep herds were hit by a rot. Then a severe frost came all over Europe and destroyed the food supplies. In 1718, there was "a slow confluent small-pox, fevers and other afflictions." Between the years of 1714 and 1718, there was insufficient rainfall. To add to the misery, in 1718, the rents were raised 200-300%. In 1725, grains sold for twice to three times normal. In winter, the people subsisted entirely upon potatoes and when these ran out, as in Scotland before, families were forced onto the roads to beg for food.
    In 1716, an Archbishop wrote, "Upon the whole I do not see how Ireland can on the p'sent foot pay greater taxes than it does without starving the inhabitants and leaving them entirely without meat or clothes. They have already given their bread, their flesh, their butter, their shoes, their stocking, their beds, their house furniture and house to pay their landlords and taxes. I do not see how any more can be got from them, except we take away their potatoes and butter milk, or flay them and sell their skins."
    Between 1700 and 1770, the country was wretched and broken hearted. Agriculture was miserable, there was a chronic scarcity and even starvation, little commerce, no manufacturing. “There was nothing left to induce men to stay in Ulster.”
How our Ulster Scots survived, I do not know. But survive they did, otherwise I would not be here to write this story…and pity the poor Irish.
    For years it was up and down. The greater the persecutions the greater the immigrations. “...each emigrant carrying away a sense of intolerable wrong.”
    Our people started looking to the colonies. "The scarcity and dreariness of provision still increases in the North. Many have eaten the oats they should have sowed their land with…The humour of going to America still continues."
    In the 1720's, there were crop failures, which forced mass immigration to the colonies. Famine was the major cause of immigration in the 1720's. In 1723/1724 Peter Wallace Sr. died. With that event, our people decided once again to "get out of there." It was off to America.

    Peter's widow, Elizabeth, her six children, along with her brothers, Michael, William, James and Andrew (Woods) and their families boarded ship. Michael Woods family alone had eleven children. Michael's wife, Mary, was of the might Campbell clan of Argyle. Nothing is known of Lady Mary (Campbell) Wood's brothers; James, Gilbert, and Alexander. It is possible they too were on board. It is also possible that other family members, whose relationship is unknown, were also on board. Remember, our people always moved as families, members of clans, and communities.
    We all know from school why everyone immigrated to America. It was to escape oppression. However, one must understand the people and their purposes in life in the context of the times. For generations, these people knew nothing but oppression. They did not know any difference. To them oppression was normal. Some did indeed flee oppression so they could have freedom of religion and political thought. However, most simply immigrated to get cheap, fertile land and for the chance of a better life.
    With this in mind, every Ulster-Scot family had members who immigrated. In time one-third of the entire population would immigrate. The Scots were always an immigrating people, mostly traveling to the continent. They would go as members of clans, keeping among themselves, establishing they're own Scottish communities, dealing with and trusting only other members of their clan. They would even import their Scottish wives. Until King James I, they never immigrated to England. They were not welcome there.
    When necessary, they could integrate themselves quite well into new societies and countries. The following story tells just how well. In frontier Canada the Governor General, a Scot, made a tour of the wilderness. He came to a Hudson Bay Company fort, managed by a Scot. (All Hudson Bay managers were Scots.) He told the manager that he wanted to meet a typical Indian. The manager looked over the band of Indians at the fort. Picking out the fiercest brave he said, "Would ye come over here Macdonald."

    There were three main reasons for the immigrations: The increase of rents; The Church of England clergy using “vigorous methods in payment of their tithes;” The success of ship’s agents.
    This takes some explanation. The ship’s captains were paid for every passenger they could place on board: The more passengers, the more money for the captain. The ship’s captains would send their agents into the countryside to hustle up business. The agents were not above exaggerating the benefits of the new world. They promised plenty of fertile, cheap land, freedom of religion, protection from excessive government, no tithe or taxes, even free land. The friendly Indians were awaiting them with open arms.
    Such was our Presbyterian exodus that in the year of 1728, in the month of July alone: “...that the following were awaiting sailing to the colonies: 3 ships at Larne, 5 at Derry, 2 at Coleraine, 3 at Belfast, 4 at Sligo.”

The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

    The Scots had done their job well. They had developed a primitive land for the English. Now the English wanted the Presbyterian Scots out of Ireland.

Recommended books

    Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America, by Charles Knowles Bolton, published in 1910. It has good information on Ulster and the Colonial Scots.

    Another book on the history of Ulster is The Scotch-Irish in Northern Ireland and in the Americas, by Maude Glasgow. Just like the history of Scotland, the truth is in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine the story as told by a Presbyterian, Episcopalian or Catholic. With a name like Glasgow, you can guess whose side she is on.

    At this point I would like to introduce you to the Reverend Neander M. Woods and his massive works The Woods-McAfee Memorial, published in 1905. It is 503 pages with an extensive index. At this time, 2003, the book is a rare item and not available on the Interlibrary Loan System except in microfilm. If you have ever tried to research using microfilm then forget it. It is impossible to work with.
    Fortunately, it is available in reprint through Higginson Book Company, 148 Washington St., PO Box 778, Salem, Mass 01970. The type is light but easily readable.

    The modern day published family historian is Ruth Petracek. She has spent considerable time and money doing research on our ancestry. She has published several books with genealogy, and often times fascinating information. Her books are homespun. They certainly do the job, and well.
    Unfortunately, all of her books were limited editions, just for the cousins, and have not been available for over 20 years. Ruth Passed away in 2003. A lot of the information in this chapter is based on Ruth's work.

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