This week I had a chance to examine an interesting web site, called "The Irish in New York City." It is a history site, not a genealogy site. Nonetheless, anyone with Irish ancestry in New York City will want to look at this one. It is fascinating.
Quoting from the web site:
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.
The web site goes on at length to describe the living conditions of most of the Irish immigrants. It describes the bigotry they experienced and the only jobs available, often in the sweatshops. Not only did they come to live, they sent for their relatives back in Ireland to come join them. As bad as it was, the life in America was still better than that in Ireland.
By 1860 the Irish comprised 25% of New York. As the years when by, the racism decreased, the average education levels increased, and soon the Irish and their children and grandchildren became accepted as fully equal residents of New York.
The site contains several databases filled with valuable genealogy information, including:
- The Deaths in Ireland page contains transcriptions taken from the New York City newspaper, The Irish-American. Spellings are as they appear in the newspaper. Many of these records are no longer available in Ireland; the New York City newspaper (and this web site) may be the only source of such information. Only the year 1857 is available at this time.
- Marriages in Ireland - a similar page, only of marriages. Again, much of this information may not be available elsewhere. At this time, only the marriages for 1857 are available online.
- 1857 Marriage and Death Notices from New York City, as published in The Irish-American.
- Draft Riots - A detailed historical perspective that involved many Irish during the American Civil War.
- A Surname Database page allows you to see if anyone else is researching your surnames. You can also add your own interests to the database.
The above list provides a glimpse of what is available on this excellent web site. However, you can find even more. I did not list all of the information available as such a list would probably fill this newsletter.
You can access the free "Irish in New York City" web site at: http://www.irishinnyc.freeservers.com