The English crown began confiscating land in Ireland in the 16th century and colonizing those lands with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands. These plantations were established in many locations in Ireland, but primarily in the provinces of Munster and Ulster. The process began under Henry VIII and was accelerated under James I, Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. These colonies were called "plantations."
The final official plantations took place under Cromwell's Protectorate during the 1650s, when thousands of his veteran soldiers were settled in Ireland. There was, however, significant migration into Ireland from Great Britain and continental Europe after the final plantations were established.
|Irish counties subject to plantations, or colonization; map courtesy|
The plantations, not surprisingly, changed the demography of Ireland, creating large communities with a British and Protestant identity. The physical and economic nature changed as well, with new concepts of ownership, trade and credit being introduced. These changes led to the creation of a Protestant ruling class, which secured the authority of the Crown government in Ireland during the 1600s and beyond.
The present day partition of Ireland is largely the result of the plantation settlement patterns, with the large Protestant population around Ulster preferring to remain part of the United Kingdom. For a family historian or genealogist the violence engendered in Ireland, resulted in the loss of many valuable records. One such example was 30 June 1922. The Public Records Office of Ireland at the historic Four Courts in Dublin was severely damaged by fire during the Irish Civil War.
While we do not know exactly when or why Robert Muir's ancestors migrated from Scotland to Ireland, we may surmise they did as part of the Irish plantation effort of the British crown.