The Sillimans from County Antrim, But Where Before That?
The gentlemen from the Ulster Society prepared to answer questions posed by those attending a Scotch Irish workshop at the Denver Public Library.
Eagerly I stepped forward when my turn came. I showed the man copies taken from a book and other documents and asked how I might determine the origin of the name.
“Well”, he said, rather irritated, “in the first place THAT’s not a Scotch Irish name. Next…”
The name I sought information about is Silliman, known to be the surname of a family from County Antrim, Ireland, who settled in a Scotch Irish community in the Delaware Valley of
Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. Later generations served in the Revolutionary War; still later families moved west—to western Pennsylvania, and onward from there. At least one settled in eastern Colorado, many others in Iowa and the Dakotas.
One source, written by a Silliman who was president of a college in the Phillipines(!) identified 3 branches. A member of one group was the first president of Yale; a second group settled in New Jersey (I believe these both trace their lineage to northern Italy).
My branch is the one that branched out from Bethel Township Pennsylvania, who included an ancestor who, with her young son, carried supplies to Washington’s troops. That son went on to serve in the war along with his brothers and cousins.
But where did the name “Silliman” come from? Were they also from Northern Italy?
And since this line is on my father’s side, how can I accurately trace the origin if mitochondrial DNA only traces the mother’s line?
These Pennsylvania Sillimans were Presbyterians, the most conservative, God fearing, believers in the separation of Church and State that you can imagine!
I wish someone could tell me how to find out where they came from before they became known as “Scotch Irish” Presbyterians.