• David Joyce

How to Research the Scots-Irish of Augusta County, Virginia: Using Presbyterian Baptismal Records

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

The settling of the frontier, known for its hardships, played an important role in the history of the colony. As pioneers constructed cabins in the untamed wilds, they bought their Christian denominations with them. One of these groups, the Scots-Irish, were instrumental in establishing the Presbyterian denomination in Virginia. One of these areas, Augusta County, became known for its Scots-Irish communities. Fortunately, for genealogical researchers, this history allows us to easily research their genealogy. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the Baptismal records of Rev. John Craig, and how it can be useful.

When studying the Scots-Irish of colonial Virginia, it is often the case that you run into genealogical brick walls. Depending on the geographical location, it may be easer or harder to achieve this goal. For Augusta County, however, there is plenty of documentation. From court records and deeds, the names of these pioneers are already chronicled. There is one source of information that is often forgotten about, but it, nevertheless, is crucial for this task. When the Rev. John Craig, a Presbyterian minister from Augusta, recorded the names of those who were baptized, he was building a foundation for future genealogists.

Born in 1709 in County Antrim, Ireland,1 he was raised within a Presbyterian household. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1733,2 he immigrated to Pennsylvania. Eventually, he was licensed to preach in Augusta County in 1740. It is in this year that he begins maintaining a baptismal record. Documenting Scots-Irish migrants that passed through the area, one can search for their ancestors. Unlike deeds and court records, these listed in his baptisms shows a cultural link to the Presbyterian denomination.

Besides educating researchers on those lived nearby, this documentation also provides clues on traveling immigrants. An example is John Caldwell, a Scots-Irish immigrant, who led a migration to southern Virginia. Documented at “John Caldwell’s at Buck Mountain” near Augusta County around 1741, 3 John Caldwell and his congregation are next recorded in Brunswick County in 1745.4 With this reference, further evidence is supplied that proves that Caldwell’s congregation was originally associated with the Scots-Irish in central Virginia.

The examination of the migrations of eighteenth-century Virginia, although rewarding, can be challenging. When approaching this subject, it is a certainty that one will come across the Scots-Irish. Expanding into Augusta County, Hanover County, Brunswick County, Virginia and beyond, they were crucial to the development of the colony. Although, not all of these areas provide enough documentation, a few, like Augusta, do offer this opportunity. By reviewing the baptismal records of the Rev. John Craig, one can simplify and enhance their research. Although, largely forgotten, this information is essential to the study of colonial Virginia.


1. Katharine L. Brown," John Craig (1709–1774)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2006 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Craig_John_1709-1774 : accessed 19 May 2019).2.

2. Brown, ," John Craig (1709–1774)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 2.

3. John Craig, List of baptisms by Rev. John Craig, Augusta County, Virginia, 1740-1749 (Staunton, Virginia : L. B. Hatke, 1979), Title page 2; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/genealogy-glh08036025/ : accessed 4 May 2019).

4. Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Brunswick County, Virginia, Deed book Volume 2: 1744-1755 (Lawrenceville, Virginia : Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr.,1998), 46.

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