The Irish Potato Famine Begins: September 1845

Lake Nyos Disaster August 21, 1986

In September 1845, Irish farmers noticed the leaves on their potato plants starting to wilt and turn black. When the potatoes were dug up, they initially appeared to be fine, but then rotted within days. A fungus called Phytophthora infestans, accidentally brought from North America, was rapidly spreading. The cool, moist climate of Ireland allowed the spores to thrive. Virtually overnight, entire fields were infected.

Famine still pains the Irish
The Irish potato famine, also known as the Great Hunger, had begun. The 1851 Irish census recorded more than a million deaths between 1845-1849. A Dublin paper, The Freeman’s Journal, recorded individual parish deaths in 1847, including this parish that lost 240 members within months.

Even before the famine, Irish farmers lived in extreme poverty. They were tenant farmers, working land owned by the British. The absentee landlords collected rents, but rarely, if ever, visited their properties. Middlemen, who often managed the farms, sought to increase rents by dividing the farms into smaller parcels. The farms became too small to hire help, leaving many Irish unemployed. In order to survive, farmers had nothing to depend on but a small plot of potatoes to feed their families and livestock.

When the famine hit, farmers fell behind on rent. Some British landlords evicted starving peasants and burned their homes. The blight continued and peaked in 1847 (also known as Black ’47) because suffering was so extreme. Weakened by hunger, many Irish succumbed to starvation or diseases like dysentery, typhus, and infection.

The British response to the deepening crisis was slow. Parliament passed the Soup Kitchen Act which led to nearly 3 million people lining up each day for a bowl of soup, often their only meal of the day. Unable to keep up with demand, many of the soup kitchens went bankrupt and the government shut down the program. It wasn’t until 1997 that Britain apologized for their response to the famine, saying they had “failed their people.”

Desperate to escape the crisis, a flood of emigrants loaded in Canadian timber ships bound for North America. Passage was cheap because the ships were not intended for human cargo, and conditions were horrific. They became known as “coffin ships” because so many died during the voyage.

Starving and desperate, more than 1.5 million Irish sought refuge in the United States. Today many Americans of Irish descent can trace their heritage back to this pivotal time in history.

Do you have Irish immigrants in your family tree? Tell us their story! To learn more about the Irish Potato Famine, search our archives!

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78 thoughts on “The Irish Potato Famine Begins: September 1845

  1. My great grandfather emigrated during the famine. He was 11 years old and came to America by himself. I have yet to find exactly when and where he originally set foot here. He ended up in Vermont and served with both the 9th VT Infantry and 2nd VT Infantry in the Civil War. He married and became father to 11 children.

    1. trv to look on ellis island gov they have a full list of people landing in the usa from all over the world. they just reliese the 1800 lists

  2. My great aunt Estelle (GRANVILLE) HENRY had many cousins on her mother’s side descended from Irish immigrants. Her mother was born Mary Ann COONEY. She was an aunt by marriage to my maternal grandmother, making these my cousins by marriage.Many of those relatives and their descendants lived in the greater Boston area. As I understand it Mary Ann Cooney arrived in Boston from Canada during the potato famine.

    Another person, my maternal grandmother’s grandmother, Mary Ann (FLETCHER) HENRY may have been of Irish descent as well. Irish shows up in my DNA along with Scottish and English ancestry and several others.

  3. All of my ancestors emigrated from Ireland during the famine years. We’ve traced a few back to their original locations, and in one case the ruins of their home in county Kerry the size of my living room, still stood, in use to feed cows in a barnyard. In 1855, William Leahy and Catherine Hurley, both 21, abandoned that house and came to New York.

    1. Hi, Steve, my great grandfather immigrated from Ireland in perhaps the 1860s. His last name was Moriarty which I understand is a name fairly localized to County Kerry. How do you begin to find that connection to the Old Country? Thank you for your story.

      1. My great grandma was Mary Ann Moriarty. She was born in Ireland in 1850 but we have never figured out the location. My 102 year old uncle remembers her as she lived till 1934. She didn’t read or write though so no letters, etc. I have several letters from her husband’s Scotland family. Wish we could determine her birth location.

  4. Why our Ancestors survival and Success is remarkable in spite of the History that surrounded their lives: (And why we should be grateful for their perseverance)
    Some of my ancestors left Ireland Just before the Famine and in a response to the effects of the Famine on Ireland after the Famine as such (some traveled later than the 1845-1853 period) (We were Lucky; That is, some ancestors were fishermen and had an alternate forms of nourishment)
    (Famines in Ireland): There were many famines in Ireland some of them had caused death in a greater proportion of the overall population possibly (1740 to 1741 time-frame for example). (My belief is as follows) What made the English response to the Sep 1845 Irish famine so incredulous was that after the Union of 1801, England was responsible for the Irish counties relief in much the same way as it was responsible for Lancashire or any of its own local counties in England.
    (Effective Relief): Had it not been for some like The Quakers of Pennsylvania, Queen Elizabeth (She personally gave > 60,000 Pounds (Todays Equivalent) it is said from research done by others) and Other numerous American / World relief efforts reached out to provide for the Irish famine victims.
    (English dismal Response): English debates at the time in their houses of parliament were disgraceful in characterizing the Famine. Articles in newspapers of the time in England had the Irish people portrayed as Horrid Elves and Primordial imps… (England gave American Maze [Feed Corn]- Get Real guys to a country who did not know how to prepare it)
    (Conditions): Those who left just prior to the Famine left an Ireland that was being drained by a Tithe System (Taxes) and Overbearing English Land Ownership (Barely Subsistence levels for my Ancestors at best) Those who left just after the Famine got Jobs in Scotland and England just after the Famine and Later come to America.
    (True Death Toll): In the late 1980’s I looked at the Statistical Records of the Irish Population. From the numbers, I had acquired and the disproportionate quality of the 1841 and 1851 Census. It is my belief that the Irish Famine and the various epidemics that followed caused a total death toll of closer than 1.25-1.5 Million Irish people than the 1.0 Million that the English tout. (The 1851 Irish Census stands out as one of the best Censuses in Europe) So 1851 caught better numbers of those who that were left and the 1841 did not have as good a success at catching all the population) In addition 1841 to 1845 birth rates seem to be higher than the previous decade. All leads to More Irish in Sep 1845 time-frame
    (American Conditions): What they came to in America had its “rough” issues Like the 1844’s Riots against the Irish immigrants and the 1873 Recession / Depression and 1877 Anti Workers riots (Wages were dropped for Workers and Railroaders) [to name a few] in many cities in the US (Scranton, Philadelphia, etc.) and riots and deaths were the response. [Government response was heavy Handed]
    (Underlying Issue in many Cases): There are built in conflicts between those super rich in power trying to stay in power, and those in the working class trying to get a small amount of money to provide for their families. (Those in power find ways to get the masses to work hard in their place so they do not have to do manual labor)
    (Positive Bottom Line): Times were hard for our ancestors and they lived through it and bought Homes, received an Education, and raised good families despite the hard conditions they encountered.

    1. Thanks Joseph for sharing your research. It gives me a different light on my Irish ancestors and the reason they came to America. I’m unable to trace them back to Ireland and England since many are name the same, but it is interesting to learn about the history of their homeland.

        1. I took the Ancestry DNA too. In researching my Family Tree, I’ve met many DNA matches with the same ancestors. I’ve met some with same ancestors and we aren’t a DNA match. That is a wonder!!! We try to help each other with our researches.

    2. Thank you Joseph R. This needs to repeated as much as possible so people can find out there is more to the story than just a famine produced by the potato blight.

      The land still produced other food crops. Only the potato was affected. Everyone knows that. The British Landlords who owned the land also owned all of those other food crops. They collected all of that food and shipped/sold it in Britain and overseas leaving none in Ireland, except the potato. The Landlords generously allowed the Irish farmers to keep any potatoes they could grow on their tiny bit of dirt that surrounded their little houses; all that was left of their farm.
      The farmers and their families faced imprisonment if they kept/stole any of the food from the Landlord’s food crops. Prison also awaited anyone who hunted on the ‘Landlord’s Property’ which amounted to all of Ireland. Crops for livestock also belonged to the Landlord so there was nothing for the farmers to feed their livestock. They had no pastures to feed livestock with either, if the Landlords left them with any. Therefore the farmers lost their livestock as well. The British owned the land and milked it for every penny they could claiming “they had to because shipping its produce for sale was so costly they wouldn’t have been able to afford to sell THEIR produce otherwise which would force them to abandon their Property in Ireland since it wasn’t profitable”. The British Government was left with the choice of supporting the British Landlords or the Irish Farmer. Guess who they chose?

      The British branded the impoverished and poorly fed farmers as slow and backward people in desperate need of British guidance

    3. Joseph,
      One question, if that was relief for those in the potato famine, wouldn’t it have been Queen Victoria giving the equivalent of 60,000 pounds in to day’s money.
      instead of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth didn’t become Queen until in the 1950’s.

      1. My bad, I meant Queen Victoria but wrote Elizabeth. Please excuse my mistake, old age shinning through…

    4. England did not give America maize. Corn is a New World plant. America gave Europe corn. The Americans learned to prepare it (nixtamalization) from the indigenous peoples of Mexico. There were outbreaks of famine (pellagra) throughout Europe because they did not know how to prepare it.

      1. England once gave American corn to the Irish who were starving. The idea that this was animal food, or that it was unfit to eat, may come from modern Europe, many of whom still have little or no experience with American corn other than as animal fodder, even though the people of North and South America have been eating it for centuries. The grain it replaced should not have been the only source of niacin, anyway. The people lacked any sort of fresh meat, dairy, or vegetables, and had a deficient diet to begin with. The corn did not cause the disease, is the important part. Some people who ate corn as a staple had learned to make it richer in niacin. Others, as in much of North America, ate corn as part of a more varied diet.

    5. Nearly every reference to corn made by a British or European author uses the word corn ( as in a discussion of the Corn Laws ) to mean any kind of grain–wheat, barley, oats. American corn would be called maize or American corn.. Most foreigners are still not familiar with American corn. They used it for animal feed after WWII, in particular, when it was sent to them for famine relief. Many foreigners won’t believe you if you tell them that people eat corn in America, because their only experience with it has been as animal feed. The British did give American corn to the Irish once, but it wouldn’t have been enough to resolve the famine, or even to feed each of the hungry with one ear of corn.

      1. Ireland was almost completely dependent on the potato for food. No other nation came close. Many Irish had potatoes to eat, or nothing. The potatoes were also the same or similar, genetically, so all were susceptible to the same blight.

      2. As a gift newspaper sent me a link to this page and I added a small section from it as a reply.
        Clipped from 
        1. The Freeman’s Journal, 
        2. 27 Apr 1847, Tue, 
        3. Page 4
        From the parish of Oranmore and Ballymacourty, county Gahvay, per the Rev. Timothy Newell, R.C.C. “22dof April, 1847. Number of deaths from 1st of October, 1846 to 1st April, 847 ? 240. “Number of same known to bo occasioned by the famine ? About 200 individuals, men, women, and children, have perished from the effeots of want in this parish. ” Number of deaths same period last year ? 20. ” The Reverend Gentleman says’ Several instances have occurred in this parish of almost all the members of families being carried ofl’ from the effeots of famine. I have known some families where five members perished, othera in which three, many in which two. I regret to have to state that fever is now unfortunately superadded to famine and dysentery here, and numbers are Buffering from it. The evil 1b likely to te very much extended and aggravated from the want of alooal fever hospital. 1 know instances of all the members of families being laid siok in lever, and no one to attend them. The food supplied by relief committees Buits not the condition of the Bibk j so the poor wretches are in an awful state of want and misery. I fear that this infection (if it spread; will be the most dreadful ingredient in the viol of God’s wrath that is being poured out upon the poor. The new relief act has not as yetcome.into operation here, and the gentry do not seem over solicitous to work it ; whilst, on the other hand, the labour rate aot iB bo far et aside, that very few, comparatively, of the destitute population are deriving any alleviation of their want from it. The land is tolerably well tilled (with the exception of what iB held by the one or two-acre tenants, who had no seed to sow and were not able to procure it. Potatoes have been sown to a greater extent than people expeotsd ; but I am Borry to Bay that the starving poor have in many instances pioked up the seed under the pressure of their hunger. Emigration haB taken plaos to a great extent from this parish, and moBtly of those classes of persons who were the most thriving, industrious, and well behaved in general. As if the cup of misery of the poor were not suffioienly oharged with ” gall and vinegar,” Bome landlords here are serving their tenants with notices of ejeotment.BO that lest famineshould not kill its victims, extermination by landlords will be added. ” ‘ Want of space does not allow me to say more, and I beg therefore to subscribe myself yours, ” ‘ Timothy Neweii, B.C.C ” From the parish of Toomavara. county Tipperary, per Rev. J. Meagher, P.P. “23d April, 1847. “Total number of deaths from 1st October, 1846, to 1st April 1847 ? 50. ” Number of same known to be occcasioned by the famine ? 30. ” Number of deaths during same period last year ? 20. ” The rev. gentleman says ‘ No resident landlords, no sub-goriction from landlords : the people perishing since the public works ceased i cruel and murdering delay in putting the relief system into operation, in consequence of the inexplicable ana eumbrous queries and crotchets, with books to be filled up- This oriBis, between the putting people off the works, and delaying the relief ’till finance committees and inspectors are satisfied, is the most alarming that has occurred yet ; much land unfilled for want of seed, no landlord assisting emigration was great. ” From the Parish of Glare Abbey and fKillone, County Clare, per Hev. Mr. O’ Gorman, P. P. “22d April, 1847. “Number of deaths from 1st Ootober, 1846, to 1st April, 1847? 72. ” Number of same known to be occasioned by famine ? 36. ” Number of deaths during same period last year ? 1 2. ” The reverend gentleman Bays ‘ John M’Namara, of Clare Village, died under heartrending oiroumBtanoes. He was confined to his bed for the last two months rather from debility than any siokness ; every member of his family (eight) were also confined, or rather stretched on damp straw. They had consequently little communication with the neighbours, who ‘apprehended contagion. Having no person employed in the public works they had no means of procuring any food unless what was supplied occasionally by one individual, but not in sufficient quantities to sustain them. The poor man died ; hia wife and two children were lying in the same bed with the oorpse Mntil the neighbours, who knew nothing of it for ten hours, oame in and removed them. I brought Mr. O’Brien, M.P., to visit the scene ; it was literally a ‘ Skibbereen case.” Mr. O’Brien did everything to relieve the family under the circumstances.” ” We have no arrangements to Btay the famine ; on the contrary, all the people, with the exception of a fractional part, are diBemployed. The rations given in outdoor relief is only 1 Jd. for every adult. “You maybe prepared to hear of a hundred cas’ea similar to John M’Namara’s in the course of a few months in the parish of Clare Abbey and Killone. “The symptoms of mortality and emaoiating hunger are more alarming now, and during the paBt week, than ever ; but the most murderous rule of all is this, that any man known to have constant employment, even though ‘the wages may be the ordinary one of Sd per day, will get no relief lor any member of Ula family, no matter what may be the number. The law makes provision for this description of persons, it entitles them to cheap food. But the relief inspeotor, when remonstrated with, -says that they can get only cooked food, and when re-quted to supply this cooked food, he replies that he has ‘ no bailer ready ; a poor man in Ballynalligan became insane from “want, and attempted the life of Mb wife ; one fourth of our people are doomed to die of want this year, thousands in every parish Bee nothing hut certain death by starvation haunting them at every step. ” From the Parish of donnish and Inniscaltra, Cov.nty Galway, per Rev H. B. Hnleatt, Vicar, and Rev. P. O’Brien, P.P., Clonrush and Iniscaltra. “24tU ADril. 1847. “Number of deaths from 1st Ootober, 1816, to 1st April, 3847 ? 5. ” Number of Game occasioned by the famine? 8G. Number of deathB 6ame periods last year? 23. ” The rev. gentlemen say’ Fathers and sons are interred in the Bame graves at the Bame time ; Borne so exhausted, and dying while a hit of stirabout was preparing for them ; some falling on the public works, carried to their huts by the people, and dying immediately after ; nothing effectual to stay the pro. gress of famine but the 1 oth Vie cap. 7, if fairly carried into operation. ” A great deal of land unfilled in the possession of persons who have nothing to put in the soil. “‘The prospeots for the coming year are extremely gloomy, numbers having a little capital are fleeing from this slaughter house. “‘Some of our parishioners who died were protracting a miserable existence on half d’et ; the rest, carried off by a quick process, became victims in a few days.’ ,l From Parish of Menheer, county Kerry, per Rev. John Llong, P.P. Population, 2,500. ” 23d April, 1847. “Death from 1st October, 1846, to let April, 1847 ? 180. ” Exclusive of children, of whose deaths there was no return kept, but 1 would venture to say there could not he less than 40. “Number of same known to be occasioned by famine? 106. ” Adults, exclusive of children, and I would say from their tender age that a higher proportion of them died by famine, ” Number of deaths same period last year ? 40. ” Adults, besides children. I mean by adults all those who receive the rites of the church in the last sickness. ” The reverend gentleman observes: ‘Of the number who died by the’ famine a whole family, consisting of eight, died almost unknown to the people, as they lived in a remote part of the pariBh. Eight died by the ditches, and four of them were buried without cofiinB three in one day. The present state of the parish is awful, and it is my firm conviction the arrangements now on foot will raiher aggravate than stay the famine, inaBmuoh as that twenty per cent of the limited number on the publio workB are, it is said, to be knocked off on the 24th Instant, and the entire on the first of May ; and I am afraid nay I am certain, from passing events that even the more destitute will not get any relief adequate to that whioh (though miserably poor and scanty) they could purchase for their hire were they continued on the publio work? while by the outdoor relief bill many cottiers having small plots of ground and many small farmers equally destitute, will be precluded from any relief under the new arrangements, so that there is no prospect before them but irremediable despair. As to the extent of land tilled and feeing tilled, those farmers who were able to keep their Beed corn have already tilled, and are tilling more corn than ever they did before ; but the cottiers and small farmers have neither seed nor provisions, and consequently their lands will remain unfilled. There are none aa yet emigrated, Jrom this pariBh, but numbers of the small farmers have given up their holdings either to their landlords or others for some peouniary assistance to take them out of the country, and are preparing themselves. I should mention, of the number who died of hunger I administered the last rites to eight of them in my own house, seven of whom died shortly after. Perhaps I ought also acquaint you that before the famine my parishioners were honest, exemplary, and religious. I am sorry to Bay now that theft and robbery and nightiy burglary are commencing to appear among them, and of oourse the dismissal of the poor from the publio works will increase these dreadful crimes. The outdoor relief cannot be in operation in this parish for five weeks.’ “Parish of Clanheen, county of Tipperary, per Rev. Wm. Morris, P.P., Bomsoleigh. “April 26th, 1847. “Number of deaths from Ootober Ut, 1846, to 1st of April, 1847 ? 100. … I Adults seep uu rogisiry oi onuaren. “I oannot say how many died from aotual famine. I would be inclined to say sot one j but I am quite oertain diseases whioh led to death had, in most oa6es, their origin in insufficient and unwholesome food and exposure to the cold and rain during the winter on the publio works.- ” Number of deaths for the same period last year? 25. ” The reverend gentleman observes’ Fever and dysentery are on the increase with us. The people wretchedly poor, and from the necessity that exists of converting all that can be earned into food all the other oomforts of families are neglected. People not able to come toohapelon Sunday to consequence of their olothea being worn out and no means of renewing them. Under the labouraot and the temporary relief act the people will be Baved from starvation during the summer, but there are a great many requisites neoessary lor the poor besides food. Ihe land in general is cultivated in this parish. A good deal of oorn put down. Very little potato planting. A greater number leaving for America than been remembered for many years.” ” From St. Mary’s, Athlone, county Westmeath, per the Rev. K. Kilroe, P.P. . “Total number of deaths from 1st Ootober, 1846, to lstApril, 1847? 122. ” Number of same known to be occasioned by famine ? 25, ” Total number of deaths same neriod last vear ? 56. ” The reverend gentleman observes From theoircumstancc of the workhouBe being in this parish, the number of deaths recorded is considerably less than we should otherwise have to report. Many from this parish, when in the lowest state of ex-haustion from famine or disease, were admitted and there died in a few days. The number that died in that establishment, which at no time contained more than 800, amounts to 405 from let Ootober, 1846, to lBt April, 1847. ‘”It frequently ocourred that persons dropped down dead on the streets, or on tha roadB, returning from the publio works, as the people emphatically express it, ‘dropped from their stanA-ing, or stanhing.’ Fever and diorhoea are making frightful ravages i labourers employed on the publio workshave been nearly all dismissed ; they are in a starving Btate. we try to relieve them from the remnant of our former contributions. There ia no hope of the relief aot (so complex is its maohinery) ooming into operation for three weeks to come. The land is generally tilled and cropped the exceptions are but few. Several have emigrated, vie., small farmers, and the sons and daughters of personB in middling oircumstances.’ “‘ From Liselton, Listowel, county Kerry,per Rev, James Walsh, P.P. . , “Total number of deathofrom ietof October, 1846, to 1st of April, 1847 ? 120. “No. of same known to be occasioned iy famine? Would say 80. ” Total No. of deaths same period last year ? 25, ” The reverend gentleman says’ OS the day before yesterday we had three bodies interred without coffins ; all died of perfeot starvation. There are about 74 acres of land at present tilled, some more in progress, and a great portion left idle for want of seed. “From the Parish of Mullakeran, , County Cavan, per Rev, Phillip O’Reilly, P.P. ” Total number of deaths from 1st October, 1846, to lstApril, 1847? 225., “Number of same known to be occasioned by famine? 164. ” Total number of deaths for the same period last year ? 42. ” The rev. gentleman says ‘ The husbaid, wife, and three ohildren, all dying at the Bame time when I visited them all dead : the mother in another case iust breathine her last, ‘and her ohild three months old died while attempting to take nour-! isnment trom the breast of the mother ; many oases equally revolting : the pariah extensive,; population dense, destitution commensurate, no local subscriptions, no gentry, the- small farmers on the public works oonid not sow their lands ; a total negleot on the part of the cottiers in cropping their , gardens! their prospects for the ensuing year truly melancholy; .few isolated cases of emieration. ” From the Parish of Lorha and Dorrow, Barony of luower Urmond, and County Upperary, per the Rev. CorneUus O’Brien, P.P. ” Total number of deaths from lat Ootober, 1846, to let April, 1847 ? 143. ” Number of same known to be occasioned by famine ? l DO. ” Total number of deaths same period prior year ? About 40. ” The Bev, Mr. O’Brien observes’ On yesterday, my asBiBt. ant, Eev. Mr. Cleary, on visiting a townland, and hearing of a man being ill, and having been shown the house, he called at the door, and a little child, after some time, opened the door. He then asked Where thefather was? He is sick, .bit.’ He asked, ‘ where is your mother ?’ She is Bick, Bir.’ ‘ Where are your brothers ?’ ‘ They are all dead, Bir, and one ia now dead in the corner ‘ This unhappy family consisted of seven on last week; now they are only three ; and attne’tiine I write, per. haps not two. The land ia partially tilled. If the Publio Works be stopped the 1 at May, this parish will be another Sklb. bereen. A great number have emigrated. It has been said Lord John Russell is no friend to emigration ; but we can dony that ; since his legislation ia causing them hourly to emi. grate to a land, from whose boundaries no traveller has yet returned, “lorha, Sunday Morning, April 25. ” Sib I will feel most happy in supplying the association with the information required, monthly, ” Exouse this, as I write in great haste. “Youra, &o.) “C. b’BKIEif.” ” Killeedy, County Limerick, per Henry Fitzgibbon, P.P. ” Sin I have kept no registry of ttfe deaths in my parish.

  5. My G. Grandfather Joseph Stokes b. 1836 in Dublin immigrated to New Orleans in 1850 at age 14 with his family. He married Ellen Barry b.1836 in New York. Her father immigrated from Ireland. The came to New Orleans to live where she married Joseph Stokes in 1856. I am having a difficult time locating their ancestors in Ireland or their immigration to America.

      1. Thanks Ena, I couldn’t find Michael Barry, Ellen Barry Stokes father by putting Cork as birth place. He and Hannah Nevill were married 1826 in Tipton Staffordshire England where Hannah was born in 1811. They must have immigrated to New York prior to Ellen’s birth in 1836. They moved to Mobile Alabama then to New Orleans. The info on their moves were in Ellen’s Obit. She married Joseph Stokes in New Orleans,moved to Florida where my Grandfather John Stokes was born. They moved to Crowley Louisiana where Joseph and Ellen passed away.

        Joseph Stokes was born in Ireland. He immigrated to New Orleans with his father Joseph Stokes also born in Ireland. I have not found their information in Ireland yet.

        Thanks for your suggestion and your help.

  6. We have Irish and English ancestry. The Irish side were William George Fleming (1820 – 1879) and Mary Ann Wharton (1837 -) early 1800’s, who had 11 children and emigrated to South Africa in 1879 where he died in that year. James George Fleming (1857 – ), the oldest child, my grandmother’s father, farmed in Lake Chrissie, Tvl, married three times, his first wife Ann producing the three, two girls Vera, Mona (1898 – 1990) and a boy Claude, she died in childbirth, his second wife died years later and then he married a Phipson, which is English, then my Gran also married a Phipson from Birmingham from whom three children were born, also 2 girls and a boy Rowan (1928 – 2011), my father.

  7. I was reading baptismal records for a parish in Monaghan, Ireland. The priest noted in records that only eleven infants were baptized in this particular parish in the year of 1849 because of the famine.

  8. My 3x great grandfather, Samuel Kennedy arrived in America from Northern Ireland (Ballymoney) and settled in Mauch Chunk, PA in the late 1840’s. He brought his wife, Jennie (or Jean) Hyndmann Kennedy and his children, James, Jane, and Samuel. His son Edward, had already emigrated earlier.

    1. We were born and raised close to Mauch Chunk, now Jim Thorpe…in the city of Hazleton. My maiden name is McCauley.
      As far as I can tell, my grandfather came in the late 1800’s from Ireland. But, I cannot find his name on any ship manifest coming into the USA. He might have come into Canada. Or, left from Northern Ireland. But, he was adopted as a child, so I don’t know if his birth name was Edward McCauley, or if the McCauley family adopted him.

  9. Both sets of great grandparents on my fathers side came from Ireland during and just after the famine. The McGann’s from Tipperary after marrying and givin birth to my great grandmother in Leeds England 1848.

    The Maddens from Mayo about 1860. The McGanns settled in Cleveland after Boston. The Maddens in San Francisco after New York.

  10. It is wonderful that you have found your correct ancestors in Ireland and England. I have 2 sets, the Stokes and Barry’s the immigrated both ending in New Orleans, Louisiana where one of their son’s Joseph Stokes married Ellen Barry, my G. Grandparents both passing away in Crowley Louisiana. Tracking their ancestors has given me a dead end. I have DNA matches that have not found them either. You give us confidence that we will since you are able to track yours. Thank you.

  11. My paternal g.grandfather Henry Fleming came to New York with his brother James, sister Ellen, father James and mother Clorinda Fletcher Fleming in 1850. They worked at a poor farm in N.Y. before going to Ontario, Canada. The parents produced 10 children. Some of the family including my g.granfather went to Huron County, Michigan.

    1. My great grandmother was born in Huron county in 1853., Her name was Mary Donnelly.,Battle,Creek.
      She married an O’REILLY and moved to Ontario

  12. My ancestor David McKenzie b. 1816 came to Vermont from Northern Ireland in the Potato Famine; town records in Waitsfield, Vermont show an entry granting, “relief for the poor McKenzies.”
    His wife was Roseann Ferris. We have been unable to find where exactly he was born.

    1. There are over twenty trees (when I stopped counting) with a David McKenzie on Ancestry. The problem is they are all Personal, not Public.
      You’d have to contact each “owner” of the tree to see if you have common descendants.
      Good Luck!

  13. We might find someone with mutual ancestors leaving a reply. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Shirley, you have done a great job tracking yours from Ireland.

  14. My Great Great Grandfather John Gleeson emigrated to England before the famine. Sometime between 1818 and 1838. He came from County Kerry and was a stone mason. He married in London , 21 May 1838 to Mary Connelly who came from County Limmerick. This is all I have been able to trace and can find no records in Ireland yet, but I’m always hopeful something will turn up.

  15. My grt,grt grandfather Andrew came from ?? N. Ireland 1825, on the ship “General Putnam” at the age of 8 with parents & 6 siblings. They were the Kerr family. They departed from Londonderry and arrived in N.Y. I found Him again in 1844 when he married in New Brunswick, Canada and followed him through Canadian census with his family of 10 children (one daughter being my grt grandma) frm 1851 to 1891. He owned a farm. In my many years of research I have never found his exact origin, nor what happened in the years between his arrival in N.Y. and marriage in Canada. He died in 1895 and is buried @ Resagosis, New Brunswick, Canada. I am hoping someone matches my DNA and can help solve the mystery of the missing years.

  16. Collette, this is the problem many of us are having. We know the names of ancestors that immigrated from Ireland, but there are so many with the same names it is hard to know which are our real ancestors. It is also difficult to track them to their original country. Again so many with same names born in close to the same time. All of them with different children and wives.

    Fining a DNA matches with the same ancestors gives you another set of eyes for research.

    Good luck on your search.

  17. My great grandmother came to Kentucky in 1850 or 51. The census indicate that she is from Ireland then another shows England. Family records show she married in London in 1850 and came to Kentucky where their first child was born. Can’ Find any record of the marriage. Her name was O Connell. She married a Germany named Mentzel. My DNA has 33% Irish and about same English.

  18. My ancestor, George Pollock and family left Kileeven, Monoghan, Ulster for Cambustnethan, Lanarkshire to become coal miners during the famine. About 15 to 20 years later they immigrated to North Lawrence, Stark County, Ohio to work in the coal mines there. They were Presbyterian so they probably had a Scottish heritage at some point.

  19. I was alway told that my grandfather was Irish. His last name is Blanton. When searching the name I find it hard to get very far. Does anyone have any connections with the John Robert Blanton Family in Texas?

    1. I have a connection to Blantons in Kentucky. Maybe John Robert’s mother was from Ireland?

  20. On my father’s side, my great-great grandfather James Barrington O’Hara left Sligo, Ireland during the famine in 1848 aboard the ship “British Queen,” and landed and settled in New York City. He was a leatherworker, and made saddles for the Union troops in the Civil War. His wife was also an Irish immigrant, Jane Phillips, I am not sure if they married in Ireland or in New York. On my mother’s side, my great-great grandfather John McCabe, left Ireland during the famine and settled in Lancashire, England, where he married an English woman and became a bread baker. The rest of the family all worked in Lancashire’s cotton mills, and during the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861 to 1865 (caused by the effects of the US Civil War’s elimination of cotton imports from the South), they all wound up immigrating to Philadelphia to work in the cotton and woolen mills there. In those times, if you were not rich you were really at the mercy of the effects of world economic crises.

  21. My Grandmother b1904 in Hemsworth, England was a Fitzpatrick, her family seem to have left Mayo quite early on in the famine, her Grandmother Ellen Brannen marrying Grandfather James Fitzpatrick in Kidderminster, Worcestershire in 1847.
    I think it’s a mistake to portray the famine as the English treating the Irish badly as a case in isolation. The life for working class poor people in those days was brutal and Dickensian whether you were English,Welsh,Scots or Irish.
    60 years later my own Fitzpatrick’s were among those ejected from their homes during ‘The Kinsley Evictions’ of 1905 . I’m not comparing the terrible inexcusable effects of the deaths in the famine to evictions, but just to point out that the Govt stood by in the later case and did nothing to help, only charity and trades union organisation helped the people .
    The Members of the Govt of the 1845 period should and will be forever tainted.

  22. Get your history straight, genocide not famin. The english sold all available food. Never to be forgoten!

    1. Sorry Peter but you have missed the point . People in high places at the time treated their own working classes with equal disdain.

      1. No, Andy, not “equal disdain”. Genocide is the correct word to describe Govt behaviour during the Irish famine of the 1840’s (just look at the numbers of poor Irish who died or emigrated)

  23. My gg grandparents arrived in NZ approx 1864/66 John Sweeney + his wife Mary Sweeney (née Kiely) Maybe via. Gold fields Victoria. They settled on the West Coast NZ becoming coal miners.

  24. Cogger Family 1847 – My ggg grandparents came over from County Mayo, Ireland in 1847 on a coffin ship. They had 4 children and 3 sadly died on the way from cholera. The story told by an ancestor was that my ggg grandfather hid the children so they would not have an ocean burial. I can not image the conditions they had to endure on that ship, nor fathom the heartache of losing 3 children and waiting for a burial on land. They arrived at Partridge Island, New Brunswick, Canada, a quarantine station for anyone coming in and where many Irish died from typhus and other diseases they brought from the ships.

    To commemorate the living and the dead immigrants that came through Partridge Island, a man, George McArthur put up a 40 foot tall Celtic cross in 1927 and his body is buried at its base.

    If your ancestors came into New Brunswick from the time of the famine or you would like to know when any ancestor arrived, check the 1901 Census for New Brunswick, as it does have a column for year of immigration.

  25. For those of you who hit the information brick wall here is a place to go searching and it’s free:

    Once you get use to traveling around that site, put just the last name of the ancestor in, and bunches of records will show up. The site will show you how many of that name lived in different counties. Between DNA testing and putting as many people on your tree that you know is family, brick walls coming tumbling down. Obits help a lot.

  26. Thanks Rosemary for the website for Irish ancestors. It is a very good one. However, I could not find either my g. Grandfathers Joseph Stokes or Michael Barry. I’ll keep looking. Thanks for your help on research.

  27. My connection to Ireland is by George Maris who came to America in the 1700’s. I have several Irish in my family. My DNA says 7 percent. Paper trail indicates more.

  28. My great grandfather John Phillips was born in Drinagh, Co. Roscommon in 1854 at the tail end of the famine to a large and very poor family. By 16 he was living in Warrington England. He married and had 7 children all the while saving to come to the states. By 1886 he had come to New England, settling in Providence RI where an uncle and cousins had settled during our civil war. The following year after working in mills here, he sent for his wife and children. Two of his brothers followed, and a sister, staying in Ireland kept the family in the home. Later her husband would buy the land from “Mr. Dillon” the British land baron. Today the land is still in my cousins family. The house my great grandfather was born in still stands, albeit larger due to renovations over the years, but still less than 1000 sq. ft.

  29. Another place for research is Also free.

    Start your tree there also, and if there are family members who have the same matches, it places them on your tree.

    It’s amazing. I went into the tree and aunts and uncles were on it. I didn’t add them. I find it challenging to put people on but once on, you don’t know what you’ll see the next time.

  30. Thanks Rosemary. Familysearch.or, I’ve gone to many times, but havenot started a Family Tree there. I wonder if we can copy our family trees from Ancestry there. Any help we can get is very valuable when we are stuck on family dead ends.

    1. Just remember that if you do use Familysearch that its like one big giant shared tree. Its not like Ancestry or other sites where the tree is your own and only you can change things. Anyone can come in and change info or add to it. Yet its not a bad idea to see if you can find your family on it and if not add them to the site with the info you know. It might help others out or lead to someone adding to info to it you might not have. I’d also suggest checking some other sites as well.

      1. Anna, is there way to copy a family tree from Ancestry and paste it on FamilySearch or any other genealogy database sites? Would be easier than having do it all over again on each site. Thanks for your information.

        It is nice to see so many Irish ancestors listed here. Maybe we will find some other FishWrap messages that have the same ancestors.

        1. There is. If you go to your settings on your tree you should see an option to export your tree. It becomes a gedcom file and most sites have options to import your tree. I couldn’t remember the name of a site earlier but I know I have some of my tree on Findmypast as well. I haven’t imported my tree to most sites myself because I have one on Ancestry that includes my husband’s and mine together. I decided to not do separate trees but did on Findmypast so I am slowly adding the info there as I have time. Good luck in your searches and hopefully you have no problems exporting it and importing it to other sites.

          1. Thanks Anna, I will get it a try to export my tree. I’ve had spam that came with Findmypast, so not using that now. Thanks for all your help.

            There is a person that I follow on that puts articles in of my ancestor and there ancestors. I can’t find who the person is other than their sign in. doesn’t have a name or email address, so can’t contact that person. We must be DNA match to have the same G. Grandparents.

  31. My Great, Great Grandparents, James McGroarty and Mary Ann Cassidy came after the famine to the US at different times. They were both born during it and some how were able to survive. I know he was probably from Co. Donegal and born in 1846. Came to the US around 1867 and was a shoemaker. Story supposedly is he came here first to set up shop and home then after some time went by sent for Mary Ann to come join him. Which they soon married after she had in Kentucky. Had a few of their kids there and moved to St. Louis, Missouri and had the rest of their family. I don’t know much on them when it comes to where exactly they were born in Ireland or their families there. Those that I have found by way of similar trees on Ancestry or from DNA matches know what I know or less. Mary Ann Cassidy is a common name so hard to figure out what info is correct or not. The only lead on James McGroarty’s parents are from a death certificate and his mother’s maiden name is hard to make out but could be Mahon from what I was told. While I may never know more then I do about the Irish family, I am grateful they were able to survive so much over their lives like they had.

  32. This was so interesting to read about the famine but to also read from the many that are are doing their genealogy. As i read and picked up sir names I was looking in my own records for a match. I and 36% Irish, 28% West Europe and 13% Great Britain. I actually have the Sir name of Irish that goes way back. My Johnathan Irish married Elizabeth Kirby that are in the years 1564 to His death 1628. Would love to hear from a connection even though I have extesive information in my possesion

  33. My great grandfather John Morrissey came to America in 1847 with his mother and father, Mike and Mary Morrissey. They came from Dungarvin, County Waterford. and settled in Cumberland , Maryland. They we’re Victualer’s , or butchers.
    Mike and Mary returned to Ireland some time later, and we lost track of them and their ending.
    A few of my great aunts and uncles moved to Baltimore but the majority stayed in Western Maryland.
    Only members of the fourth and fifth generation are alive today. We were a famine family and fortunate to have survived and flourished in America.

  34. Looking through all these posting,I never once seen the name. Burns. My ancestors came from Galway. I have had a DNA test but awaiting results.

  35. John, when you get your DNA results, do a search of your DNA Matches for the name Burns. It will come up with all your DNA Match that have Burns in their Family Trees. You can then check in their family trees to see if it is mutual ancestors. You will meet many distant cousins you didn’t know you had.

  36. My great great grandfather was born in cork county Ireland in1773 and died in Restigouche new Brunswick, Canada in 1811, he was married to marie-anne slegher from England.

  37. Isn’t it true; that a good “Trivia” question would be: What American City/Town would have the highest percentage of Irish immigrants?

    Somewhere along the line, I read that the answer would most likely be Butte, Montana. I suspect that most people would respond with “Boston, MA”

    A worthy answer might be Butte; due to the timing of large immigration from Ireland and the large need for workers in the Copper Mines of Montana.

    Do facts support the “Butte” answer?

  38. My great, great grand parents Addis and Julia Condon McCarty came to America 1851 from County Limerick, through NYC. Their son Patrick was 2 years old, he had a sister. They ended up in the Alton, IL area. Patrick married Mary Alice Porter (parents James and Rebecca Bettis Porter) in 1870. They lived near Waterloo IL and Alton, St. Louis,MO. Had a family of 11. My grandmother was Kate m Charles T. May of Nashville IL 1903. We have McCarty family reunions every year with 50 or so that show up. The oldest descendants are 98, 95 and 76, from ST Louis area.

  39. My Great, great grandparents left Ireland & England in 1845 and arrived in New Orleans, La. That same year. It is unknown exsctly when. They brought three children with then, my great grandmother Mary Lisa Jane Pearson/Pierson (the correct spelling is unknown), her twin brother Hugh ( both born June 5, 1842 ) and younger son James, still a baby born that same year. Both parents, Anna and James died of Yellow Fever either on the ship or shortly after they arrived. The boys were separated from their sister, who was sent to a Catholic orphanage in New Orleans to be raised as a teacher. Twin brother hugh was immediate adopted by a doctor, and no records of younger boy James Jr., except that he died at the Civil War Battle of Shilo, Tennesse in April of 1862. Still have no info on Hugh. Mary Lisa Jane married a plantation owner named Thomas Day Allen in St. Helena Parish La. And had 13 children, one of which was my grandmother Nettie Jemima Allen. Mary Lisha lived until 1932. I don’t even know the name of the ship they arrived on. If anyone has any suggestions on how to look for more, I would appreciate if they would share. Thank you, Nettie Evelyn

    1. There are several of our Irish ancestors that immigrated to New Orleans about the same time. Mine were G.G. Grandfather Joseph Stokes. His son, my G. Grandfather Joseph married Ellen Barry in New Orleans. Her family were from Ireland too. It is difficult to trace them back to Ireland, but know their lives in the U.S. You might find some news in in articles in New Orleans. I’ve not found anything on mine in Ireland. Good luck.

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