Ireland Emigration and Immigration
Emigration records are about people leaving a country. Immigration records are about people entering a country. Records of emigration and immigration include passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, records of passports issued, lists of transported prisoners, and registers of assistance to emigrate. These records may contain the name, age, occupation, destination, place of origin or birthplace, date of departure, and date and ship of arrival of the person immigrating or emigrating. Names of fellow passengers may suggest familial relationships or provide hints about a passenger's place of origin or destination.
No records are required for movements within the British Isles countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands). Records were not required for free emigrants to the United States until 1773, to Canada until 1865, or to Australia, New Zealand, the British West Indies, or South Africa until the twentieth century. No countrywide, official record was kept for people leaving Ireland.
- 1 Where Did My Ancestors Come From?
- 2 Reasons Irish Emigrated
- 3 Emigration from Ireland
- 4 Records of Irish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
- 5 Naturalization records
- 6 British Records of Irish Emigration
- 7 Sources
- 8 Immigration into Ireland
Where Did My Ancestors Come From?
Are you looking for an ancestor who came from Ireland? Do you know a specific place, or only a county? Many people have information that one or more of their ancestors came from Ireland but they don't know where. Start with step 1. Click on a locality to learn more.
Step 1: Search records in the country where your ancestors settled
Here are reasons why you should search records in the country where your ancestors settled:
- There are 32 counties and more than a thousand parishes in Ireland. It is possible to find dozens of people by the same name as your ancestor. Which one will you choose?
- Country-wide vital records of the population of Ireland were not kept for the whole population until 1864. If you are looking for an ancestor before then, you may have to look in every county and parish. Where do you want to start?
Records in the country to where your ancestors emigrated can provide clues about where they lived in Ireland. To learn about these records, click on a country where they settled.
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Step 2: Search the records in Ireland
Before 1864, few Irish records index the entire population. Here are some that are indexes.
Reasons Irish Emigrated
The Irish in history had many reasons for leaving Ireland. As well many among those remaining in Ireland would have emigrated but were unable to, due to the abject poverty and resultant ill-health and impoverishment. Thus, many who did embark were in such sickened and critically weakened condition that death followed many while traversing the high seas to their new world home.
Generally, the Irishman's reasons for emigrating--if not compelled to do so, to countries abroad were due to an intolerable convergence of circumstances including, but not limited to:
- dire economic conditions that destituted families
- austere political policies such as the Crown's Penal laws (from 1695-1829)
- a series of circumstances surrounding devastating crop failures especially in the mid-19th Century.
- social and religious persecution against most nonconformists and Catholics (the dominant segment of Irish society)
For a more complete list detailing the devastating effects of the Penal Laws and the main reasons for emigrating, read Compelling Reasons Why The Irish Emigrated.
Emigration from Ireland
Emigration from Ireland began as early as 1603, when people immigrated to areas such as continental Europe, the islands of the Caribbean, the British colonies, and other parts of the British Isles. Emigration increased during periods of civil or religious unrest or famine in Ireland as well as during various gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. The period of greatest emigration began around 1780 and reached its peak from 1845 to 1855, when between one and two million people left Ireland because of the potato famine. The following categories of emigrants account for most people who emigrated from Ireland:
- Free emigrants. Starting in the seventeenth century, emigrants left Ireland to seek opportunity in a new land; to flee religious persecution, poverty, or oppression; and to seek political asylum following rebellion in Ireland.
- Assisted emigrants. In the nineteenth century, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants as incentives to emigrate. Assistance was viewed by officials as an alternative to providing poor relief for able-bodied, unemployed workers and for the starving masses during famine. After 1840, colonies such as New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to attract needed immigrants.
- Transported prisoners. From 1611 to 1870, more than fifty thousand Irish criminals were sentenced to deportation to a penal colony for a number of years. Beginning with Irishmen who rebelled against Cromwell's army in 1649, political prisoners were also often deported. Many Irish prisoners were sent to America, primarily to Virginia and Maryland, until 1775. From 1788 to 1869, over forty thousand Irish prisoners were sent to Australia. Many of those deported were later pardoned on the condition that they would never return to Ireland.
- Military personnel. Soldiers serving overseas were offered land or other inducements to settle in the colony where they were serving when they were discharged. This settlement practice was common for soldiers in Australia from 1791, Canada from 1815, and New Zealand from 1844.
Records of Irish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
Immigration records of the country to which your ancestor immigrated may help you determine your ancestor's place of origin, occupation, and age. Knowing an approximate date and port of arrival or the name of the ship on which your ancestor sailed will help you search immigration records. Many immigration records are held in repositories, usually in the destination country. The immigration records that are available at the Family History Library are generally listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
[DESTINATION COUNTRY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Immigrant lists from the various ports of entry provide the most information on Irish immigrants to the United States. While several ports of entry existed, the majority of Irish immigrants came through New York. The following published lists and indexes of information on Irish immigrants to America are found in the Family History Library's US/Canada collection:
- Filby, P. William and Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 3 vols. plus supps. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1981-. (Family History Library book Ref 973 W32p.) This ongoing series indexes more than 1,000 published lists of Irish immigrants to the United States.
- Filby, P. William and Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigrations Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900. 2d ed. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1988. (Family History Library book 973 W33p 1988.) This bibliography references over 2,500 published lists of Irish immigrants to the United States that will eventually be included in Filby's Passenger and Immigrations Lists Index.
- Glazier, Ira A., ed. The Famine Emigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-51. 7 vols. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983-86. (Family History Library book Ref Q 974.71 W3f.) These volumes contain many lists and indexes of Irish immigrants to the United States.
- Harris, Ruth-Ann M., and Donald M. Jacobs, eds. The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the "Boston Pilot." 3 vols. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989-93. (Family History Library book Ref 974.461 H29s.) These volumes list more than ten thousand Irish immigrants to the United States and their places of origin. The information is based on advertisements run between 1831 and 1856.
Lists of passengers arriving at most U.S. ports after 1820 are available at the Family History Library. Many are indexed. For more information on these lists and indexes, read United States Emigration and Immigration. To learn more about the emigration process and life on board an American-bound emigrant ship, see the following book:
- Coleman, Terry. Going To America. New York, New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. (Family History Library book 973 W2cg.)
To find United States emigration and immigration records at the Family History Library, look in the Place Search of the catalog under:
UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
From 1815 to 1850, Canada was the primary destination of Irish emigrants. Until 1900, the major ports of immigrant arrivals were Quebec City and Halifax. After 1900, arrivals were more widespread. Canadian passenger lists are rare before 1865. Those from 1865 to 1900 are available at the Family History Library. Indexed Passenger lists from 1890-1960 are available at www.findmypast.com.
Starting in 1788, thousands of convicts were sent to Australia. They were first sent to Tasmania and New South Wales. Along with the convicts were those who supervised the prison system and their families. By the early 1800s, many more free and assisted emigrants were arrived in various states. Learn more about Australia emigration and immigration by clicking here.
In 1840 the British began colonizing New Zealand. Most immigrants to New Zealand received some form of assistance either from the New Zealand Company or from a government or church association set up to encourage immigration. Besides the age, origin, and occupation, New Zealand immigration records usually include additional details such as the wife's and children's names and ages and details of settlement. Many New Zealand immigration records are available at the Family History Library and are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
NEW ZEALAND, [PROVINCE] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION RECORDS
Naturalization records in the destination country can be more helpful than immigration records in determining your ancestor's place of origin. To learn more about naturalization records, consult the "Naturalization and Citizenship" section of the destination country's research outline, if available, or see Tracing Immigrant Origins.
British Records of Irish Emigration
Many records of Irish emigration are kept in England. To effectively search these records, it helps to know the approximate date of emigration, the ship in which your ancestor emigrated, the type of or reason for emigration, or the previous residence of your ancestor in Britain. If you know the ship name, Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping, 1776-1880(LaCrosse, Wisconsin: Brookhaven Press, 1981; Family History Library fiche 6024581-5194 6025259-95, 6053006-7; not available at Family History Centers) may provide additional details on the ship, including ports of embarkation and arrival. Once you have gathered background information, you can search British emigration records including:
Passenger lists. Passenger lists are port records listing departing or arriving passengers. British passenger departure lists are rare before 1890. From January 1890, records were kept of passengers departing from ports in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These lists usually give the emigrant's name, age, occupation, departure date, address in the United Kingdom, and sometimes destination. These records are arranged by date and by port of departure. They are kept at the Public Record Office, Kew. The Family History Library does not have copies of these records. Therefore, you may want to check Irish emigrant lists that have been compiled from these records and published in recent years by such authors as Ira A. Glazier, Michael Tepper, and Brian Mitchell.
Assisted emigrant registers. Assisted emigrant registers list people applying for assistance to emigrate. These records often contain the petitioner's name, age, occupation, residence, destination, name of sponsor, address of relative, and size of family. The registers available at the Family History Library appear in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:
IRELAND - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
GREAT BRITAIN - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Many emigration and immigration sources not discussed in this section are listed in:
Smith, Frank. Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources: Ireland. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D23s.)
A more detailed discussion of emigration and immigration records is also provided in:
Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D27f 2 vols.)
The National Archives Emigration Collections
Registers of births, 1847-1854, and deaths of emigrants at sea, 1847-1869, are in the National Archives at Kew, Richmond, County Surrey. See the CO class series no. 386, pieces 170-172. These may include many among the Irish "Famine" immigrants who died journeying across the Atlantic to North America.
Immigration into Ireland
Immigrants to Ireland came primarily from elsewhere within the British Isles or from continental Europe by way of England. Specific groups of immigrants included refugees from various wars (such as the French Revolution), Huguenots, Germans, and Jews. Ireland kept no official immigration records, so you must rely primarily on (1) English records of immigrants who passed through England on their way to Ireland and (2) emigration records of the country from which your ancestor moved.
No consistent records of arrivals into the United Kingdom were kept until 1836. Beginning in 1836, certificates of entering aliens were kept. These are arranged by port. They provide name, nationality, profession, date of arrival, country last visited, and the signature of the alien. The Public Records Office, Kew has an alphabetical index to these certificates.
Beginning in 1878, passenger lists were kept of those entering the United Kingdom (see "British Records of Irish Emigration" in this section). Passenger lists no longer exist for the years between 1878 and 1883. Records surviving from 1883 to 1891 are for the Irish ports of Cork (Queenstown), Londonderry, and Belfast. After 1891 the records are more complete. However, passengers from Europe or the Mediterranean are rarely listed. These passenger lists are arranged by port and are kept at the Public Record Office, Kew.
One good, though limited, source of information on British immigrants, especially for before 1836, is naturalization and denization records.
Other sources of information on people entering Ireland include court records, state papers, and plantation and settlement records.
The Family History Library has few records of immigration into Ireland. The sources the library does have are mostly published works. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:
IRELAND - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
ENGLAND - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
GREAT BRITAIN - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
The library may have emigration records of the country from which your ancestor moved. These are listed in the "Place Search" of the catalog under:
[COUNTRY OF ORIGIN] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION