Great Famine Irish Ancestors
Some 70 million people worldwide - including about 40 million Americans - claim Irish ancestry. When you consider the North Atlantic island that spawned such an exodus measures only about 200 by 300 miles, the mind begins to boggle. Toss in stumbling blocks such as common surnames among descendants(Brady and Murphy, to name two of "mine") along with the paucity of records, and would-be ancestry tracers are apt to throw up their hands and say "Forget it. I don't need this!" Let us mention too that hundreds of thousands of our "ould ones" left Ireland during the late 1840s. That was the period known as the Great Famine, the years of the near-total failure of the potato crop on which so many of the Irish depended. During the Great Famine the Island of Saints and Scholars lost nearly 2 million of her 9 million people to starvation, disease and emigration. Most were Catholic and poor. The emigrants fled to England, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. In Grosse Isle near Quebec lies the largest Famine cemetery outside of Ireland, where 6,000 disease-ridden Irish from the "Famine ships" lay buried, along with the health care workers and clergy who tried to save them.
But the great percentage of those "getting out of Dodge" flooded the East Coast ports of America. By 1852, New York City alone was more than a quarter Irish. And Ellis Island with its excellent records was still almost half a century in the future. At home in Ireland, the British government then governing the island did not begin civil record-keeping of the "Popish people" until 1864.
That is the situation facing the prospective amateur genealogist of "Irish extraction." Is tracing your Irish ancestors an impossible task? Not really. I am living proof that it can be done. I am 100 percent Irish (as I know now), three and four generations down in America. All four of my father's grandparents and all eight of my mother's great-grandparents were born in Ireland. In America today, their descendants live in New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Utah, Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington State. There are more to find out about; as we know, genealogy detective work is never done. But most of the work is done! Next: How did I manage to do it?
on 2011-06-13 21:28:53
Anne Brady is a 100 percent descendant of Irish immigrants. Her father's four grandparents and mother's eight great-grandparents originated in the Emerald Isle. She has had many years of experience in tracking those elusive "Ould Ones."