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January 28, 2014

The Great Famine - Emigration out of Ireland

The Great Famine - Emigraton out of Ireland
Between 1845 and 1855 almost  2.1 million people fled Ireland. Most sailed across the Atlantic for North American on what came to be known as "coffin ships". It is estimated that over 80,000 Irish emigrants died en route to a new home in Canada and America.

Dr Ciarán Ó Murchadha writes about the Irish Famine and emigration in his book, Great Famine: Ireland's Agony 1845-1852 available in both Kindle and hardcover on

[Source: New facts about Great Famine emigration out of Ireland revealed]

Do you have Irish ancestors who left Ireland in this time period? I do. My 2nd great grandfather Joseph McGinnis left Co. Down with his wife Fanny Downey and their one year old daughter Bridget (aka Delia) in 1846. They arrived in Ontario Canada sometime that summer and joined a large McGinnis family who had left Ireland in the 1830s. 

It must have been an unbearably difficult journey for all the poor Irish families who left, and incredibly torturous for those left behind.  If you are looking for your Irish ancestors arriving in Canada, the following databases may be of some help.

Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849 This database on contains various records and reports of Canadian emigration agents James Allison and A.J. Buchanan. Among the various records are some emigration and orphan lists. These lists are searchable by name. The two collections in this database are: Neilson collection [Records of James Allison, Emigrant Agent at Montreal, 1823-1845 Vol. 21 and 1846-1849 Vol. 22] & Emigration Agent Returns of Emigrant Orphans, 1847  

You can also request a search for your ancestor in the following Books of Immigration and Ships Passenger Lists Records from the following books.
  • [BOOK 1] Names of Emigrants 1845-1847. Records of James Allison, Emigrant Agent at Montreal (Quebec Canada)
  • [BOOKS 2-4] Canada Company Remittance Books 1843-1847 in 3 Volumes.
  • [BOOK 5] Index of Passengers Who Emigrated to Canada between 1817 and 1849.

Also see the free Index of Names of Irish Emigrants from the 1845-1847 Records of James Allison, Emigrant Agent at Montreal 


Dawn said...

Thanks for the info. Lorinne! I have done some research on Irish immigrants to the western New York area. I ran across a Bridget aka Delia as well. Do you know if that was a common nickname or something? Just curious :)

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Dawn, yes Delia was a common nickname for Bridget.

Sonja Hunter said...

I also recommend the book. It is a nice complement to Woodham-Smiths, "The Great Hunger," but it is much shorter. I also liked Terry Coleman's "Going to America." Among other things it discusses the conditions on the ships that carried famine immigrants, how they were taken advantage of upon disembarking in New York and continues on to discuss how the opening of Ellis Island made life much easier for immigrants.