Posts Tagged “Famine”

Genealogy and Family History Myth #2
We were Great Irish Famine Immigrants.
Learn more at

Click here for my Irish Famine podcasts

Grandaddy of Irish famine songs here ‘Skibbereen (1847…)

Later ‘famine’ famine song here ‘Kilkelly’ (1860…)

The Famine Immigrants
For 30 years, thousands have explained to me
what they know of their own family history. Often
it goes like this:

“We know grandpa’s name, but he never talked about
anything so we don’t really know anything else.. but
we know we were famine immigrants .. So whenever
that famine was, that was when we came over.”

Family members take note:

1) Famines were fairly common in Ireland. The crop
failed several times in the 1800’s, both before and
after the famine, to say nothing of famines in the
centuries prior. So, saying they came over during
the famine might not provide a date for you. ( Though
it can be a good starting point).

2) The ‘Great Irish Famine’ period runs from about
1845-1852, and that includes not only famine, but
the resulting disease that the people suffered through.
1847 seems to be the worst of it.
A song that records the trials of the famine, as well
as the immigrants who went abroad is ‘Skibbereen’.
(see the song link at the top of this post).
A song that notes continuing troubles and failure
of the crop, and immigration from 1860-1890 is
‘Kilkelly”. (see the song at the top of this post).

Take your pick, it is a sad story, and makes
you wonder how an immigrant could smile at all….

3) Many people who lived through the ‘Great Famine’,
did not leave Ireland until after the famine was over.
This also makes the date of immigration vague.

4) Though many records are destroyed, the set of
books and online records for the famine immigrants
at the Port of New York, can be very helpful.

5) As often is the case, it’s not what grandpa said
that will help you, it is where his name was put
down in writing in records ! …and even more
so for your gr gr grandfather on back….

For those interested in more information on the famine:
My two free podcasts on the famine from our Hedgerow
History series are given at the top of this blog.
©2012 IGF
About Your Host
Mike O’Laughlin
Mike is the most published author in his field, with
books; newsletters; podcasts; and videos at:
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~ with 7 Broadcast series & 300 episodes ~
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©2012 IGF

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From the Hedge School at the Irish Roots Cafe.
Courses: Genealogy, Irish Song, Language, History.
Learn more at

Today:: Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Famine & Song Video

Surviving Irish Families
It has been several generations now, since the
famine; starvation; disease; and those days when
all Ireland was part of England. It was reported
that no more earth remained to cover the bodies,
that many died in their cabins, that many crawled
to the graveyard alone as a last act of despair, with
bodies left uncovered….

Hidden Ethnic Memory
Some dinner tables still remember the Irish famine.
Some still want to go back and ‘make things right’.
The emotion grows less as new generations can
only echo what was felt at the time.  But how is it
we can remember it at all ?

The Song Says
‘Skiberreen’ (which is spelled so many ways in the
history books, just like Irish surnames), is a town
and a song, which tells us why we can’t forget.

Lazy Irish
It is because we labored hard, even though some
called us lazy, and we took pride in our land.
Then came the failure of the potato crop.  We lost
our land to landlords and sheriffs at the point of
a gun.  Left to wander our own land or beg food
in the poor house.  So the song says…….

Find a Grave
It is because our mothers and fathers died from
the miseries, of starvation and the disease that
followed.  Because we were called outlaws for
trying to survive any way possible. So says the song

It is because so few survived and prospered after
fleeing to new lands, giving up the days hope
of ever reclaiming our old country and life.  It is
for the children who died on board the ships, and
the few who survived…. so says the song

It is because the children remembered the songs
and stories of their fathers who said ‘never forget’
when the story was told. Then passing it onto their
children and grand children… So the song said.

And now, because our bellies are full for the
moment, we still cannot forget, but remember
how the American Indian sent funds to the
starving Irish.  An what of the starving nations
today that we help no more than the world did
when we were starving generations ago….
So the song should remind us of our families…

The song, to remind peasant and landlord alike:

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Irish Roots Cafe has 7 Broadcast series & 300 episodes
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About Your Host
Mike O’Laughlin
Mike descends from the O’Loughlins of Kilfenora,
County Clare, and the O’Donahues of Glenflesk,
County Kerry. He also bears Sullivan, Buckley,
Kilmartin, Llewellyn and Kelliher roots.

A one of a kind resource, he is the most published author
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