Irish-American Connections

Did you know that some 40 million Americans currently claim Irish heritage? Here at Finders International, we are well aware of the Irish-American connections as finding the rightful heirs to an estate can often lead us to the US.

Throughout the decades, Irish people have emigrated to the States in huge numbers hoping for a better life – escaping hunger and poverty, looking for a better life and a more stable future for their family. Of course, a sense of adventure might also have motivated them to leave.

The 40 million Americans claiming Irish ancestry is almost nine times the population of Ireland itself which shows the extent of emigration. The biggest trigger was the Great Hunger in the 1840s following the potato famine. The journey was a very dangerous one in those days – the 3,000 mile journey could take anything from 40 days to three months, and the ships known as coffin ships were often unseaworthy and breeding grounds for diseases such as typhus.

In the 19th Century, those travelling to America from Ireland peaked in 1890, when there were some 1.9 million Irish-born people living in the US. Adding the number of Irish-Americans to that figure (those not just born in Ireland) raised the number of Irish Americans to 4.3 million in 1890, some 13 percent of the population.

Most of the Irish immigrants in the 19th Century settled in the main urban areas on the east coast of the States, such as New York and Boston – although others made their way to the west coast in later years.

The numbers of Irish people emigrating to the States began to drop after 1890 and it fell below the million mark in 1930, and has continued to fall ever since. Immigration from other countries increased and states that had been predominantly Irish in the 19th century became less so as the years went on.

Following the Second World War, more emigrating Irish people chose the UK as their destination, rather than the States.

Irish people are no longer the predominant immigrant group in any US state in this day and age. The 2013 figures show that the vast majority of immigrants in the States come from Mexico. But there are still millions of people claiming Irish ethnicity, and thousands still moving to the US – in 2014, for example, there were 125,022 Irish-born people living in America.

The Pew Research Center has created an interactive map which shows the changes of nationality in immigrant groups – showing which nationalities make up the largest immigrant group state by state from 1850 right up to 2013 (these days, Mexicans make up the largest immigrant group is practically every state).

With thanks to Irish Central for the background to this piece. If you are an Irish American and you think you might be related to any of the people named in our unclaimed estates section, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You might be entitled to an inheritance.