Anthony Rogers – A Tory from the Kingdom of the original Tories?

Last week, while celebrating Independence Day, I decided to poke around the American Revolution, learning more about the War and my ancestors’ varied roles in it. I started out by looking some more for the origins of my Loyalist ancestor, Anthony Rogers, and I quickly went off on a very interesting tangent that took me somewhere new to me – Medieval Ireland.

I have always used the term “Loyalist” in searches for Anthony Rogers, because that is the label favored by Loyalists. I have always heard him described as a Loyalist, and that is how I think of him. It is a nice word. But, it finally occurred to me to use the term that was used derisively by the Patriots, “Tory.” I could not believe what I found!

Off the northern coast of Ireland, in County Donegal, there is an island about 3 miles long called Tory Island, and it is inhabited by less than 200 people, a significant portion of whom are named Rogers! [1] No, I am not kidding, dreaming, or hallucinating. The island is largely populated by the remnants of an ancient Donegal clan, whose Gaelic name, Ruarí [2] or MacRuardhri, [3] or O’Ruardhri, [4] or Roarty [5] has been Anglicized to “Rogers,” and sometimes “Rodgers.” But wait! It gets even better. The name “Anthony Rogers” is currently popular there, having been preceded by “Anton Rogers.” [6] The current King of Tory Island is a man named Patsy Dan
Rodgers, or Patsaí Dan Mac Ruaidhrí. [7]

Could my ancestor, Anthony Rogers, be related to these Celts named Rogers who still
primarily speak Gaelic? Could this American Tory’s forefathers have come to America from the place that historian Robin Fox believes to be the genesis of the political term, “Tory?” [8] I dont’t know. But I believe it unlikely that he is related to a number of other New England Rogerses that I have explored: Thomas Rogers of the Mayflower; the New London Descendants of St. John Rogers the martyr; James Rogers who founded Rogers Rangers; the British scholar John Rogers of Boston whose son became president of Harvard University. “Rogers” is one of the most
popular surnames in the British Isles, but if my ancestor is part of the Donegal clan whose name was Anglicized to “Rogers,” then he is not even distantly connected to the other New World Brits named Rogers.

Fox’s meticulous genealogies in the excerpt from his book only go back to 1830, and my ancestor Anthony Rogers was born in the 1730s in the New World. If he is from this people with one leg in the past, it may be difficult to find answers. But for now, I am busying myself searching for any records of 16th, 17th, or early 18th century immigrants from Ireland, especially with any of the Gaelic variations of the Rogers name, and I am trying to educate myself a little bit about the political and social forces at work in Donegal at the time, to determine whether, why, and
how, someone from “the Celtic fringe,” as Fox calls it, might travel, or be sent, to the British colonies in the New World. I have found nothing so far, but that could just be due to my ignorance about where to look.

Before I leave this topic, I want to share Robin Fox’s beautiful words about the name of the island:

tory text 1
tory text 2
tory text 3
tory text 4
tory text 5

[1] The Tory Islanders: A People on the Celtic Fringe, 1978, by Robin Fox,

[2] ibid.


[4] The Book of Irish Families, Great & Small, by Michael C. o’Laughlin,


[6] Fox book. See genealogy charts.


[8] Fox book. Prologue.

[9] ibid.



Tory Island cottage and its inhabitants, c. 1892


Map showing the Irish-speaking areas which have been the object of major studies by scholars over the past century or so.