Irish Emigration Advice

Compiled by Ken Austin

The promised land

Emigration from the shores of Ireland is not a modern phenomenon, in fact the migration from Ireland has been recorded since early Medieval times, but it is only possible to track movement from around 1700: since then between 9 and 10 million people born in Ireland have emigrated. This is more than the population of Ireland at its historical peak in the 1840s of 8.5 million. The poorest of them went to Great Britain, especially Liverpool; those who could afford it went further, including almost 5 million to the United States.

After 1840, emigration from Ireland became a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national exodus fuelled by The Great Famine. In 1890 40% of Irish-born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent, which includes more than 36 million Americans who claim Irish as their primary ethnicity.

In 1849 the Armagh Guardian published a guide entitled 'ADVICE TO EMIGRANTS'. Reading through it today, it gives an interesting insight into the lives and times of our Irish Ancestors


The Irishman who contemplates emigration to America or elsewhere, will do well to consult with others in like circumstances and if practicable without too much trouble or risk, hold a meeting of all intending to emigrate in the Parish, or even in the county. If one hundred single persons and heads of families are found ready to form an emigrating association, each member putting down his passage-money and binding himself to be ready by the day agreed on for starting, it would be advisable to send a capable and trusty agent to Liverpool and engage the whole steerage of some first class packet for the voyage, for the use of this emigrating company. The passage could doubtless be made cheaper in this way, the passengers, being relatives, friends, and neighbours, would endure the crowding and mixing up of steerage with less inconvenience, and they would be safe from the intrusions of vile characters, who often abuse the opportunities afforded by an ocean passage for the perpetration of their iniquities and villainies.

Say goodbye to the Irish LadWHAT TO BRING OVER

It will be found wretched policy to bring to this country bulky or heavy articles merely because they cannot be sold where they are. - Clothing, bedding, etc. should be carefully packed so as to be safe from moisture or vermin, and brought with table furniture, but very few cooking utensils of any considerable weight. Most articles of furniture can be bought here cheaper than they can be transported. The true general rule I take to be, sell off all your effects, except clothing, etc, that will bring near their value, and all that are of considerable bulk or weight, and bring the money, with which you can readily buy what you need, as you need it. Most of the implements of agriculture etc, used in Ireland are unsuited to the conditions and demands of American industry. For instance, begin by reducing the number of cloth coats and trousers, if pressed, have no coat, be content with a shooting jacket and one pair of warm, loose, cloth trousers, then cut off the best shirts; then reduce the pairs of drawers, and so on. Of course, a man will take any clothes he has by him; any old things do for a sea voyage. In the United States and Canada, plenty of woollen and flannel are indispensable. Plenty of shirts are the greatest requisite. For ladies, for shirt read chemise, and so on. The clothes they have they can take, and if they buy any, good cotton and muslin gowns; one warm dress for Australia will do very well. Very fine tweed is made in Sydney, and we believe in Adelaide lately. For Canada, a good stock of warm woollen dresses and furs, which may often be purchased cheaper in London than in Canada.


February and March are the best months to start in, so as to arrive here about the middle of March to the 10th May.


New York naturally and properly attracts by far the largest share of European immigration. Its commercial eminence, commodious location, and connection with the great West by the cheapest lines of communication, ensure and justify this preference. To single men, especially mechanics, who leave Europe late in the fall New Orleans proffers higher wages and great industrial activity in winter, when the business of New York is in good part paralysed by frost. Passage is often cheapest to Quebec and Montreal; but the dupe who takes that route intending to settle in the States discovers too late that it will cost him nearly as much to reach New York from Quebec as from Liverpool. Philadelphia is largely for those who are familiar with weaving, mining, iron-making etc. It is by no means a bad place for labourers generally. I do not recommend Boston.


An old countryman coming over should always, when practicable, apprise some true friend and old acquaintance in our city of his intention and proof of your having already work engaged there. With your arrival being announced in the newspapers, he may be sure to meet his friend on the deck when the ship comes up, and be conducted at once to cheap and suitable lodgings.- An immigrant Boarding-House so called, is a nice place to lodge in when you can't find any other. (I speak of them generally; some of them maybe as conscientiously conducted as any public houses in town).

For all colonies, ladies should take a loose, long cloth pelisse, or cloak, with large hanging sleeves. Packages for the ship should be divided into two parts. What you will not require at all may go into the hold, and should, if possible, be lined with tin or zinc, and raised from the ground on slips of deal.- The boxes for your berth or cabin should not be larger than you can easily fit. If the lid opens at the side instead of top, it is convenient when they stand on each other. Make rolls of complete changes of lines, as, for instance, a shirt, a pair of stockings, and singlet, all together. Have a tin box, with partitions, and earthenware jars, to hold anything in the shape of provisions. A hammer, a few nails, and a gimlet, are often useful, with a lot of brass hooks for screwing into the sides of your cabin. Steerage passengers should provide a piece of stuff for a curtain, to hang before their berths.

Advice to emigrants

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