Did people from the Scottish Highlands move to France in the 18th or 19th centuries?

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Stephen L Smith

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Our family has been doing a family tree on my Grandma Smith's side of the family and we discovered that one of my Great-great Grandfathers was born in France in the mid 19th century. His surname was MacEwen. I was surprised to discover he was born in France because I assume the name MacEwen originates in the Scottish Highlands.

I was wondering if anyone has information of people from the Scottish Highlands moving to France in the 18th or 19th centuries? I did wonder if one of the immediate ancestors of my Great-great Grandfather moved from Scotland to France?
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
In the 18th to early 19th century, there was a massive movement of people out of the Scottish Highlands for a variety of reasons, not least the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellions and the fact that the large landowners could make more money raising sheep that with subsistence tenants and so cleared many of the people off their land. It was also a brutally hard place to survive as a crofter. Most of those who left Scotland went to the colonies (or former colonies) for obvious reasons, but it's not impossible that some could have ended up in France. It wasn't a common destination, though.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
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The upper crust of Stuart supporters had a lot of interactions with France. If England is your enemy, France is a natural ally. That's part of the background you see in, e.g., Sir Walter Scott's Waverley.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
The upper crust of Stuart supporters had a lot of interactions with France. If England is your enemy, France is a natural ally. That's part of the background you see in, e.g., Sir Walter Scott's Waverley.
That's certainly true in the early to mid 18th century (though Walter Scott is a romantic novelist rather than a sober historian). Probably less so in post-revolutionary and Napoleonic France. An article available through JSTOR, "The Culture of Migration: Scots as Europeans 1500-1800" lists earlier Scots mercenaries (especially in the 15th and 16th centuries) in several European countries, including France, and later waves of students and merchants, especially to Holland and Poland, but doesn't suggest any major emigration from Scotland to France in particular during this time frame.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
That's certainly true in the early to mid 18th century (though Walter Scott is a romantic novelist rather than a sober historian). Probably less so in post-revolutionary and Napoleonic France. An article available through JSTOR, "The Culture of Migration: Scots as Europeans 1500-1800" lists earlier Scots mercenaries (especially in the 15th and 16th centuries) in several European countries, including France, and later waves of students and merchants, especially to Holland and Poland, but doesn't suggest any major emigration from Scotland to France in particular during this time frame.
An upper class family wouldn't have needed to emigrate in order to spend significant amounts of time abroad. I'm not aware of evidence for major emigration, as you say, but just pointing out that such a wave isn't the only way to explain the birth of his ancestor in France.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
@Stephen L Smith,

It would be helpful to know 1) a more exact date if you have it, 2) this ancestor's mother's name, if you have it, 3) the town or region in France where your ancestor was born, if you have it, and 4) the location of the birth of this MacEwen ancestor's own son, if you have it.

I can think of a few possible scenarios with the information you have given, but I would need a little more information to pinpoint anything. My best guesses for now are that this ancestor's father was a soldier or a merchant, or he with his family were en route to someplace else and stopped in France, perhaps after a storm forced them into port.
 
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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
The upper crust of Stuart supporters had a lot of interactions with France. If England is your enemy, France is a natural ally. That's part of the background you see in, e.g., Sir Walter Scott's Waverley.
The mid-19th century is too late to have anything at all to do with Jacobitism. That cause died with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

EDIT: Following the Vienna Congress in 1815, the United Kingdom and France were allies, not enemies.
 
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py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
The mid-19th century is too late to have anything at all to do with Jacobitism. That cause died with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

EDIT: Following the Vienna Congress in 1815, the United Kingdom and France were allies, not enemies.

The OP asked about the 18th century as well as the 19th.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
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It would be helpful to know 1) a more exact date if you have it, 2) this ancestor's mother's name, if you have it, 3) the town or region in France where your ancestor was born, if you have it, and 4) the location of the birth of this MacEwen ancestor's own son, if you have it.
Hello Tom,

The only details I have are from his New Zealand death certificate. Firstly I got the name wrong - it is McEwan :) His name is Joseph McEwan. His parents were Mary and Joseph McEwan. He was born about 1844 (I do not have the precise date but I do know his age and date of death in New Zealand). His mothers maiden name was Johnston. I note with interest all these names were British, not French.

He was born in Boulogne, France and married in Forfar, France. His first wife's maiden name was Alexander. She died, and he married my Great-great Grandfather in New Zealand. My Great-great Grandfather was born in England.

As a matter of historic interest, when my Great-great Grandparents married in NZ, they married in the NZ coal mining town of Brunnerton. My Great-Grandmother was born in 1895. In 1896 there was a terrible mine explosion at the mine. 65 men were killed and my Great-great Grandmother washed the bodies and prepared them for burial. To date it remains one of NZ's worst mining disasters.
 

PhilA

Puritan Board Sophomore
Stephen

I think you will find Forfar is in Scotland. The 1871 census records Joseph and Ann Mcewan living in Barlatch Street, Coupar Angus. Joseph recorded as born in France. Ann born in Forfar where they were married 23 April 1866. Hope this helps.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for this info, Mr. Smith.
He was born in Boulogne, France and married in Forfar, France. His first wife's maiden name was Alexander.
Do you mean Forfar, Scotland? If so, that means your ancestor's family made a temporary stay in France, where the younger Joseph was born (as you say, ca. 1844), before returning to Scotland, where, presumably, he grew up and got married. That kind of moving about, with wife an kids in tow, would be somewhat unusual for the period. As far as I am aware, there was no large-scale emigration from Scotland to the continent in the 1840s. And besides, they were evidently not settled in France, since Jr. turned up back in Scotland.

It is hard to guess at the circumstances. But Boulogne is (and was) a major port city, so it is possible the elder MacEwan was employed in trade. Only a guess.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
My apologies for not being clear. Your post didn't mention any dates, so I meant to say that that time frame (with Jacobites, etc.) was too early for the ancestor in question.
The OP asked about the 18th century as well as the 19th.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
I think you will find Forfar is in Scotland. The 1871 census records Joseph and Ann Mcewan living in Barlatch Street, Coupar Angus. Joseph recorded as born in France. Ann born in Forfar where they were married 23 April 1866. Hope this helps.

Do you mean Forfar, Scotland? If so, that means your ancestor's family made a temporary stay in France, where the younger Joseph was born (as you say, ca. 1844), before returning to Scotland, where, presumably, he grew up and got married. That kind of moving about, with wife an kids in tow, would be somewhat unusual for the period. As far as I am aware, there was no large-scale emigration from Scotland to the continent in the 1840s. And besides, they were evidently not settled in France, since Jr. turned up back in Scotland.

It is hard to guess at the circumstances. But Boulogne is (and was) a major port city, so it is possible the elder MacEwan was employed in trade. Only a guess.
Thanks Phil and Tom for the fascinating insights. I'll look into this myself sometime.
 
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