Irish-Catholic Immigration to America
Irish-Catholic immigrants came to America during colonial times, too. For example, Charles Carroll immigrated to America in 1706. His grandson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signed his name to the Declaration of Independence.
Ireland’s 1845 Potato Blight is often credited with launching the second wave of Irish immigration to America. The fungus which decimated potato crops created a devastating famine. Starvation plagued Ireland and within five years, a million Irish were dead while half a million had arrived in America to start a new life. Living conditions in many parts of Ireland were very difficult long before the Potato Blight of 1845, however, and a large number of Irish left their homeland as early as the 1820s.
In fact, Ireland’s population decreased dramatically throughout the nineteenth century. Census figures show an Irish population of 8.2 million in 1841, 6.6 million a decade later, and only 4.7 million in 1891. It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930.
Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation. Interestingly, pre-famine immigrants from Ireland were predominately male, while in the famine years and their aftermath, entire families left the country. In later years, the majority of Irish immigrants were women. What can these statistics tell us about life in Ireland during this period?