Some historians have noted that no other ethnic group suffered as much
as they did. While this may be open to some debate, their plight was
heartbreaking: disease, poverty and violence.
They came here for different reasons. Some to escape religious
persecution, some to escape economic hardship, some to simply start
over and some to escape death by starvation.
Many left all they knew behind them - family, friends and loved ones.
There was no festive bon voyage party. Their departure was so traumatic
that an American wake was held, where loved ones gathered to bid a
tearful farewell to those they knew they would never see again. For in their
mythology, to go west was to die. Others brought their entire families with
them, either all at once or one at a time.
Some arrived on our shores in rickety wooden boats when sails ruled the waves.
Others came in the very bowels of steamships, while some endured the nightmare
of the coffin ships. Their voyages were often fraught with horror -
disease, rotten food, death and loved ones buried at sea.
When they landed on the shores of America, some continued their journey over
land, while the majority settled in the cities where their ships docked. With
little money and few, if any skills, many resided in the poorest sections of
New York City. Their life expectancy was a scant 40 years. Their death rate
was 21%, as opposed to the average 3% of other nationalities.
They accounted for almost half of the arrests in the mid-19th century, giving
rise to a new nickname for the black mariahs - paddywagons. Violence in
the streets of their neighborhoods were termed donnybrooks, after the town
in the country they left behind.
They encountered widespread hatred and prejudice. Newspaper cartoonists, most
notably Thomas Nast, portrayed them as backwards, drunken apes. Editorials
crying for their forced deportation were ripe for the picking. American society
viewed them as dirty, uneducated, obscene slobs with a foreign religion and too
many children for their own good. Political groups, such as the Nativists, were
formed to rob them of their basic rights and push them back overseas. Signs in
store windows told them that they need not apply.
They formed New York City's first and most notorious street gangs. They rioted over
a draft, and burned their city to the ground - only to rebuild her again. They
performed backbreaking labor for little money. They sent what they could back to the
old country, creating a chain of money that floated east across the Atlantic, unprecedented in American immigration history.
They took the jobs that no one else wanted. They swept the streets, did their neighbors'
laundry, became servants, labored in sweatshops. They became police officers and firefighters.
They comprised 15% of the Union Army - some were right off the boat.
They did not wait for America to give them their chance. They took it on their own terms. They
dominated New York City politics, extending a helping hand to their own. They shed blood and
sweat to build the Croton Aqueduct, Central Park and our beautiful lady, the Brooklyn Bridge. Their
sons, first generation Americans, would build the skyscrapers including the Empire State Building. On
a beautiful but tragic September afternoon, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would rush to
lower Manhattan to rescue their neighbors - many perishing in the attempt.
They gave us our fighting spirit, our New York attitude and our love of America. When we open
our mouths to speak, it is their voices we hear. It was the speech patterns and mispronounciations of
this immigrant group that created the New York accent.
Who were these people? They were the Irish of New York City. Their story does not end with the
20th century, but it becomes our story and continues into the second millenium. For over a century,
the Irish have been the spirit and voice of the Big Apple. This website, and companion Rootsweb list,
is dedicated to New York City's Irish of all centuries. For their story, is our story.
The Irish-New-York-City website is a work in progress. Currently,
you will find the following on the site:
In this ongoing series, you will find the history of some of New York City's
Irish neighborhoods. When available, we have provided newspaper excerpts,
photographs, legends and even songs. The following Manhattan neighborhoods
have been completed:
In this series, you will find a day-by-day account of the 1863 Draft Riots, the
worst riot in American history. New accounts will be added as more reports are
This ongoing transcription gives the personal ads placed by friends and families
who were seeking lost Irish immigrants in America. The ads are from the 19th
century newspaper, The Irish-American, and are arranged chronologically by edition date.
An ongoing series that gives an overview of Irish and Irish-American organizations, some secret, including AOH and the Fenian Brotherhood. On this page, you
will find a transcription of names from the Fenian Brotherhood Account Books, 1869-1876, which gives
the names of 19th-century Irish-Americans throughout the US!
Some general statistics regarding the Irish in New York City and America. Page contains
the breakdown of Irish in 19th-century Manhattan by ward, as well as some other interesting
News Around NYC & the US
This ongoing transcription presents news snippets
from the 19th-century NYC newspaper, The Irish-American. The news is arranged chronologically
by edition date.
News from Ireland
This ongoing transcription presents news snippets
from Ireland, courtesy of the 19th-century NYC newspaper, The Irish-American. The news is arranged
chronologically by edition date.
This page has a listing of 19th-century Irish-American newspapers in NYC. You are more likely to find birth, marriage and
death announcements for your Irish-American ancestors, as well as ancestors in Ireland, in one of these newspapers. Information on
this page includes newspaper name, dates of circulation and call numbers from the New York State Library.
This ongoing series profiles some well-known, and
not-so-well-known, New York City Irish.
What genealogical website would be complete without a helpful
links page? The links are to outside sources. Some are free databases and others are paid.
The Irish-in-New-York-City website has its own Surname
Database. All surnames are arranged alphabetically.
You can find various transcriptions from federal censuses on the INYC website!
Search the Website!
You can search the Irish-American transcriptions and Surname Database of the Irish-New-York-City website by name or keyword.
NOTE: There was no standard spelling of surnames in the 19th century. Please
be sure to try variant spellings.
You can subscribe to Rootsweb's IRISH-NEW-YORK-CITY email list in either List Version or Digest Version. The List Version brings you each message posted to the list as an individual email. The Digest Version is sent to you every 12 hours and contains each message posted to the list.
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Click here to search the Irish-New-York-City list archives.
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