The Irish in America

Emigration Networks

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Last week I received a comment from a woman from County Wexford who was interested in learning about her great-uncle’s family, the Coadys, who left for America in the early twentieth century.  Her mother had kept in contact with a cousin in America for many years, but eventually lost touch.


Sample of 1930 US Federal Census (click image to enlarge)


She had a few solid clues: the names and birth dates of the parents, the children’s names, and the town in Pennsylvania where they once lived.  I did a quick search and found the correct Coady family in the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Census.  I also found the ship manifest for their voyage to America, and even the uncle’s death as registered with the Social Security Administration.  This is but the tip of the iceberg for the Coady family in America; much more information is available.

When I searched the census, I came across an interesting tidbit of information that helps illustrate the point I made in my last post regarding the predictable nature of Irish emigration.  My search of the 1920 census brought up the Coady family I was looking for as well as a second family – a generation older, but with the same surname.  There were even three grandchildren with identical names to the children in the original Coady family.  The three girls were older, so I could be fairly certain it wasn’t an error.

Clearly the family who immigrated in 1914 were not the first Coady family to come to this part of the United States.  The older family had been here since 1888 and were firmly established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The presence of kin would have helped the young immigrant family tremendously to adjust to life in America.  Ten years later, in 1930, the young Coady family moved to another town in Pennsylvania where Mr. Coady found work in a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients.

The network had been in place for generations before the Coady family came to America in 1914.  Emigration had become an accepted option for so many in Ireland.  In the book Emigrants and Exiles, author Kirby Miller describes how changes in Irish society affected emigration during the years 1856-1921:

“Many emigrated eagerly or at least without protest, either alienated from a society impoverished in more than economic respects, or conditioned to join relatives abroad whose letters and remittances promised advantages unavailable in Ireland.”

What about those they left behind in Ireland?  I wonder if they were relieved to not have to leave home, or were they envious of those who went to America?


Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

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