The Erie Canal contributed to the wealth and importance of New York City, Buffalo, and New York State. It increased trade throughout the nation by opening eastern and overseas markets to Midwestern farm products and enabling migration to the West. New ethnic Irish communities formed in towns along the canal, as Irish immigrants were a large portion of labor force involved in its construction.
The University of Rochester and the Family History Library Catalog have more information about the history of the Erie Canal.
Settlers and Records
Because so many immigrants traveled on the canal, many genealogists would like to find copies of canal passenger lists. Unfortunately, apart from the years 1827-1829, canal boat operators were not required to record or report passenger names to the New York State government. Those 1827-1829 passenger lists survive today in the New York State Archives.
Prior to the building of the Erie Canal the settlers in upstate New York were often from New England, especially Vermont. Once the Canal was finished, setters along the canal and farther west into Ohio would have reached the Erie Canal from New York City, or from along the Hudson River in New York, or from Vermont via the Champlain Canal. Most of the men who labored to build the Erie Canal were from Ireland and many of them settled near it.