Module Three: Records of Immigration
Why Did They Emigrate?
In this module you will learn about
the factors that contributed to Irish migration, and the
records that may show the year of immigration.
was it that made Maggie leave Ireland, forsake her
siblings and parents and flee to New York in the 1800s, we
never knew. We yearned to know, because she was the
first in a long line of leavers. the matriarch of a
clan of men and women who made mysterious and dramatic
exits. But her reason for leaving must have been too
awful, too painful, because Maggie was said to be a
born storyteller, and that story was one she would
never tell." (Moehringer, J.R.; The Tender Bar)
Why did they
leave? The most common reason for emigration for native
Irish was the potato famine of the mid-1800s.
"If you have Irish ancestry, the chances are that they were
immigrants after 1845. In that year a potato blight in
Ireland caused that food staple to rot in the ground, and
thousands chose America over starvation. Many of those who
left were so weak that they did not survive the trip; in
1847 alone, 15,000 Irish died aboard ship. Nevertheless,
over two million Irish, mostly Catholics from central and
southern Ireland came in thirty years. In all, nearly 4.4
million Irish have come (abd are stil coming) to this
country as immigrants. They clustered together in eastern
cities, and along the industrially developing shores of the
Great Lakes. Although most had bee farmers at one time,
because the land had betrayed them they turned their backs
on it, preferring to trust their stomachs to wages instead
of crops. Many took tough construction jobs for 30 cents a
day, and few early canals or railroads were built without
their labor." (Westin, Finding Your Roots)
If your ancestor came to America in the 1700s they may have
"Millions of Americans are descended from the 250,000
Scotch-Irish immigrants who came to America between 1717 and
1775. These people were actually transplanted Lowland Scots
who, in one of many English schemes to subdue the Irish, had
been urged to emigrate to Ulster in Northern Ireland a
century earlier by James I. It was thought that the
hard-nosed Presbyterian Scotsmen could better control the
Irish than England's standing army, but by 1717 the
Scotch-Irish were in trouble themselves. A depression in the
flax industry, higher rents, severe frosts, a sheep disease,
and a smallpox epidemic scourged Ulster. They emigrated in
waves to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Piedmont
country of North Carolina, to New Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania. By the
time the Declaration of Independence was written, one out of
every ten Americans was Scotch-Irish." (Westin, Finding
What's the Difference between
Emigration and Immigration?
"Migration is the term to describe the movement of people
from one country to another. Immigration is when someone
moves to a country. So someone could immigrate to England.
Emigration is when someone moves from a country. So someone
could emigrate from England." (www.answers.com)
For an overview of Irish immigration/emigration records,
Emigration and Immigration.
Finding the Year of
Finding the year of immigration in U.S. records can lead
to clues about when your ancestor left Ireland. The best
sources for finding this information are:
- The 1900 and 1910 U.S.
federal censuses - On these censuses, individuals
who were not born in the U.S. were asked the year of
- Naturalization records.
- City directories - City
directories are found in large cities. They were
like telephone books without telephone numbers. Many
times in these books the head of household was asked
how long they had been in the country.
- Death certificates and
obituaries - Some of these records indicate the
length of time the deceased person had been in the
Where Do I Find Ship's
Ship's passenger list are usually found at the port of
arrival. The names of other passengers may give clues
about family relationships.
Most Irish immigrants came through the port of New York,
although there are other possible ports of arrival. The
information found of the passenger lists may indlude
name, age, occupation, destination, birthplace (usually
listed as Ireland), date of departure, and date of
Where do you find these lists? Ancestry.com has the
largest collection on the web. You can also check:
Olive Tree Genealogy - This is a busy-looking
website, but has good links to many major
collections, including New York, Philadelphia,
Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans. There are also
links to smaller ports and Canadian ports.
- Ellis Island
(New York) has a very interesting website for
arrivals from 1897.
- Castle Garden
was Ellis Island's predecessor, from 1820 until
Ellis Island opened. You can search their database.
Read more about ship's
passenger lists on the FamilySearch wiki.
Module Three Assignments
Assignment One: Think
about why your family may have emigrated from Ireland. This
about the natural, social, and political factors that may
have impacted their decision to leave and where they chose
Assignment Two: Remember
Where's Jeffrey? Use FamilySearch to find Jeffrey's son,
Thomas in the 1900 federal census in Chicago, and determine
his date of immigration. He was born in about 1850, and was
married to Mary. Thomas was born in Ireland, and his wife
was born in New York. Find the date of his immigration.
Assignment Three: Now
try to find the date of immigration for one of your