Traditional Porteous Coat-of-Arms



These preliminary results of the analysis of Porteous and Porteus emigrants are a summary of the database of over 220 emigrants which has been compiled from various sources. Some entries on the database are return migrants, and for the purpose of this statistical summary they have been omitted.

The figures in the analysis – which is enclosed – are divided into periods of twentyfive years, and show (as might be expected) a massive movement of PORTEOUS and PORTEUS families – as is the case with other Scottish lowland and Irish families in the same period. This mirrors closely what we know about the general migration of individuals and families to the newly-independent US, the provinces of Canada – and later to the former British colonial posssessions and dependencies.

As might be expected, 84% of the total recorded Porteous and Porteus emigrants emigrated during the years 1800–1925, when general migration was at its peak.

Specifically, looking at the period as a whole, over 70% of emigrants headed for the New World (Canada and the US) with nearly 25% going to the British colonies. These figures are slightly higher for the period 1800–1924, with 72.5% going to the US and Canada.

The first emigrants were in the 1600s and, although we only know of four so far, these included Robert PORTEOUS (known as PORCYUS) and his brothers, traders in Krosno, Poland before 1623; John PORTEUS, probably the first emigrant from Scotland to Devenish, Enniskellin, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland during the plantation of Ireland about 1630 and possibly the progenitor of the Irish PORTEUS families; and Edward PORTEUS from Newbattle, Scotland, who was the first to settle in the New World - where he flourished as a tobacco planter in Violet Banks, Petsworth, Gloucester County, Virginia. His family was eventually to return, and was the grandfather of Rt Rev Beilby PORTEUS, Bishop of London (1731–1809).

One of the other first settlers to the newly-founded colonies in New England was Robert PORTIS, a tobacconist who migrated before 1645 from Scotland to Dorchester, Massachusetts. He must have been amongst the first few thousand permanent settlers of the Massachusetts Bay colony. Many who left at this time were Puritans or other Protestants who emigrated as religious refugees.

It was not until 1750 that the main wave of emigration to the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada and the settlements on the eastern seaboard of America began to occur. We have records of twelve who ventured there in the fifty years before 1800. Some of these may have been transported (although we have no actual records of this) but, more likely, some may have emigrated as a result of the Act of Proscription and the Clearances – which affected the Lowlands as well as the Highlands. Those who came from Ireland may have been a part of the considerable emigration of small farmers and craftsmen from Ulster at this time.

It is known that there were also other Porteous traders, plantation owners and craftsmen who had emigrated and settled in the New World, although details of their origins or dates of emigration are unclear at this time.

The first migrants to Canada about whom we have information were James PORTEOUS about 1755 from Scotland to Kent County, New Brunswick and Andrew PORTEOUS from Carmacoup House, Lanarkshire, Scotland to Montreal, Quebec c 1762.

Migration to Australia and New Zealand peaked in the years 1850–1924, the first recorded emigrants having been John J PORTEOUS in 1800 (from Stranraer, Scotland to Waitapeka, New Zealand) and George PORTEOUS in about 1833 (from Leith, Scotland to Australia). Emigrants to other British colonies included William Bevill PORTEOUS, who migrated to Cape Colony, South Africa c 1830, having returned to Scotland from St Helena Island.

Other destinations are accounted for by and missionaries travelling to China and India in the early-1900s – and emigrants to the developing land of Argentina, where Scottish traders and entrepreneurs had been settling since 1825.

Of the migrants to the Americas between 1775 and 1900, no fewer than 34 (26% of the total during that period) were from Northern Ireland – PORTEUS family members, mostly from the area around Enniskillen and Drumadown in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland - the majority had probably migrated as a result of the opportunities afforded by the newly-independent United States, and roughly a third left in the years immediately following the Irish Potato Famine of 1846–51.

Many of the Irish emigrants went to the townships of Canada or to the US, including Indiana (the progenitors of the PORTTEUS branch) and Pickford Township, Michigan (the PORTICE branch) as well as to New York, California and Ohio. Others emigrated to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia.

It is interesting to note that, during the eighteenth century only one Porteous emigrant came from England, increasing to six during the nineteenth and peaking at 23 (45% of the total) during the twentieth century. This is consistent with an initially gradual southwards movement of Scottish Lowland families during the mid-nineteenth century, increasing dramatically in the period after the Scottish Clearances and the coming of industrialisation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Further research will obviously help to supplement and amplify our knowledge about Porteous and Porteus emigration during the last four hundred years, and any new information - or corrections, amendments or additions to the database of emigrants from Porteous family historians or researchers will be gratefully received.

The information here has gathered from various sources, of which The Porteous Story by Barry Porteous has proved invaluable, as has Porteous Australia by Roger Porteous (both published by The Porteous Associates).

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