Guide The Irish Emigrants Guide for the United States

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Most of them still made the voyage east with commodities to feed England's industrial revolution, but shipowners began to realise the economic advantages of specialising in steerage passengers. Conditions onboard began to improve -not to a standard that could even remotely be called comfortable today, but improved, all the same.

By iron steamships of over tons were becoming increasingly common, and competition was growing. So much so that steerage fares on steamships were often lower than on sailing ships, and voyage time was considerably quicker at less than two weeks. This reduction of voyage time was a two-fold blessing. As the size of emigrant ships grew, so it became increasingly common for Irish emigrants to travel to Liverpool, across the Irish Sea in Northwest England, to catch their boat to a new life in America.

Irish Immigration to the United States

This huge port could accommodate the larger ships more easily than the small Irish harbours. The reduction of voyage time was a two-fold blessing. New York was the principal entry point to the United States throughout the 19th century and on 3rd August , a Board of Commissioners of Immigration opened the city's first immigrant reception station. Based at Castle Garden, near the Battery at the southern end of Manhatten, it had earlier been a fort, a cultural centre and a theatre. Now it was pressed into service as a place to receive immigrants.

More than 8 million immigrants of all nationalities passed through Castle Garden before it closed on April 18, It is now a museum, and also the ticket office for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Surviving Castle Gardens' records are available on a free online database that also includes a sizeable collection of records dating from for other ports in America.

The Irish Emigrants' Guide To Surviving the Irish Famine Ships - New England Historical Society

The records are mixed together, however, so if you find an entry for one of your ancestors, you will need to verify the port of entry. This can be done either through searching a microfilm of the ship's manifest at NARA or through Ancestry's online collection fee charged.


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See below for links for more information. The map below shows the Irish population of the United States based on statistics from the census. The data reveals that immigration to New York had been the preference for nearly half a million , Irish-born settlers. Of these, , were in New York City. More than a quarter of a million , had settled in Massachusetts, chiefly in Boston, while Illinois also had a sizeable population of , of which 79, were in Chicago. The map to the right shows the Irish population of the United States based on statistics from the census.

After Castle Garden closed in , Irish immigrants to America and all other immigrants were processed through a temporary Barge Office. Then, on 1st January , the Ellis Island reception centre opened.

Interactive map charts changes in Irish migration to and around the US from 1850-present

Annie Moore, a year-old from Co Cork, was the first passenger processed, and more than 12 million followed her over the next 62 years. By this time, attitudes towards the Irish had begun to change. The Civil War was probably the turning point; so many thousands of Irish whole-heartedly participated in the war they made up the majority of no less than 40 Union regiments , and gained a certain respect and acceptance from Americans as a result.

From the rows of rude bunks, hundreds of meagre, begrimed faces were turned upon us; while seated upon the chests, were scores of nshaven men, smoking tea-leaves, and creating a suffocating vapor…In every corner, the females were huddled together, weeping and lamenting; children were asking bread from their mothers, who had none to give; and old men, seated upon the floor, were leaning back against the heads of the water-casks, with closed eyes and fetching their breath with a gasp.

In , a congressional investigator wrote, "The sleeping quarters were always a dismal, damp, dirty, and most unwholesome place.

The Irish emigrant's guide for the United States

The air was heavy, foul and deadening to the spirit and mind. Because of that, fares to Canada were cheaper — and mortality higher. The stench quickly grew overpowering. The unmistakable acid-sweet smell of vomit infused every corner. If you couldn't get to the deck, the only place to retch was in your berth or into the floor. Washing up was out of the question. The only way to do that was on deck with a bucket and some fat-and-lye soap.

The two latrines -- for more than people -- were simple holes that emptied into the bilge water, a horrific concoction of waste and runoff that sloshed in the hold below the steerage compartment. Rags soaked in vinegar were provided for common use as stand-ins for toilet paper.

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