Some of the first to leave were Henderson immigrants came from the Highlands of Scotland, specifically the regions of Caithness and Glencoe. Later, a great many Henderson’s left from the Scottish Lowlands, the midland region and the border counties between Scotland and England. Henderson’s emigrated to North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The initial waves of immigrants often included a stopover of several decades in Northern Ireland, as part of an English exportation of citizens program called the Ulster Plantations–in most of the 17th century.
Many of these early Henderson immigrants ended up in America, and became part of an important ethnic group in America known as the Scots-Irish.
The trip across the Atlantic for our Henderson ancestors was a fearsome ordeal. The journey took one to two months, sometimes longer. The ships that carried them were crowded and cleanliness, hygiene, and decent living quarters were luxuries not afforded the common people. Hunger, thirst, boredom, anxiety, fear, sickness and, all too often, death were frequent occurrences. Children were especially vulnerable to shipboard sicknesses. To add to these miseries, scarcely a day went by without a fight or a robbery among the crew and passengers.
So why did they come? The answer lies in the politics of England and the economy of Scotland and Ireland. During the early 17th century, Scotland and Northern Ireland were plagued with weak and unfavorable economic conditions. Rents escalated throughout the century resulting in dispossessions from the land. Wages were low, unemployment high, and commodities scarce. The laws of primogeniture provided that the eldest son would receive, under normal circumstances, the entire estate of his father. Many a younger son, sometimes called the superfluous son, found himself with little material property and upon viewing his country’s desperate economic situation, looked for a means to better his economic and social position. Many of these superfluous sons sacrificed home and family for a better life in America.
For some of our Henderson ancestors, the trip to America gave them religious opportunity to worship God as they desired. Throughout the 17th century, members of various religious reform movements including the Puritans, the Presbyterians, Baptists, Huguenots and Quakers arrived in the colonies seeking conditions where they might find freedom of worship. Our Scots-Irish and Lowland Hendersons were Presbyterian while our Highland Hendersons were a mixture; some Catholic, some Anglican (Church of Scotland), and some Covenanter Presbyterians.