The Irish In America

Irish-Americans are considered American citizens whose ancestry can be traced back to Ireland. Today, in modern America, over 10% of the total population can trace their ancestry to the island of Ireland. In addition another 3 million people are identified as Scottish Irish, with ancestors who immigrated from Ireland. During the 17th to 19th century, over 100 thousand Irishmen, 75% of whom were Catholic, immigrated to North America. In the 1600s another 100,000 came. Indentured servitude was one of the most common ways for people to migrate. In fact, in 1740, nine out of every 10 indentured servants within the colonial areas were Irish. Many colonial settlers came from the province of Ulster and were called Scots-Irish. Many of these descendants were tenant farmers on plots owned by the British. During the colonial era it is estimated that 250,000Irish immigrants migrated to the United States. These descendants had a great influence on culture in America, contributing to things such as stock-car racing and folk music.

Irish immigrants from this period participated in the American Revolution, leading one Maj. Gen. from the British army to publicly testify that half of the rebel army came from Ireland. Irish-Americans actually signed some of the foundational documents for America starting with Andrew Jackson. The early immigrants often referred to themselves as Irish. And the next wave of immigrants came following the great Irish famine in 1840.The two groups of immigrants had very little initial interaction. Many of the 18th century immigrants were Protestants and those who came following the great Irish famine were Catholic. They originally settled different areas in America as well. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that many Irish settlers in America migrated to the interior to work on infrastructure projects including canals and railroads. It was at this point that the two migrant groups interacted.

During the colonial period the Irish immigrants settled the southern appellation area. There immigrants moved westward into places such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. From there further descendants moved into Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri. By the 19 century intermarriage with English and German settlers had caused the descendants of Ireland to lose their identification with their homeland. This new generation of pioneers did not consider themselves Irish, but rather, Americans.

A very small amount of Irish Catholics concentrated in medium-sized cities, Including Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah. It was in 1820 that John England was the first Catholic bishop in a Protestant city. He defended the Catholic minority against prejudices by the Protestant majority during the 1820s and 1830s.