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October 17, 2022

Discovering Your Irish Heritage

The history of Ireland is fascinating, both to cultural historians and those with Irish ancestry.

Having been under colonial rule by the British, the country achieved its independence in 1921 after a war fought by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British. Prior to this, the Great Famine caused many Irish to emigrate to the United States. The ethnically Irish that live outside of Ireland are referred to as the Irish Diaspora. It is estimated that there are 70 million people worldwide that are considered part of this group.

Legacy preservation is important to Irish families, because so much Irish ancestry has been lost over the years.

Let’s look at Irish ancestry, stories, and how CircleIt is able to help Irish people globally stay connected to their roots on the Emerald Isle.

Early Irish Emigration

Early on, there were numerous Irish raiders that would settle along the West Coast of Britain, which at the time was under Roman rule. Many of these Irish travelers were recruited to fight in the Roman army, which over time slowed the emigration trend. After the Romans were dispatched from Britain, the Irish started to emigrate into Britain and establish a foothold.

In fact, these early Irish settlers founded the basis of what would eventually become modern-day Scotland. Due to this early pattern, the ethnically Irish population had already become more spread out than many cultures at the time. This would be a pattern that would continue for many centuries to follow, for various reasons. We’ll explore some of those in detail.

The Great Irish Famine

Commonly referred to as the “potato famine”, this was a period of great strife in Ireland that lasted from 1845 to 1852. During this period, about 1 million people died and even more fled the country and settled all over the world, although mainly in Great Britain and North America.

Between 1841 and 1851, Ireland’s population fell by over 2 million, or around 20%–25%. Some towns were affected so enormously that they lost around 67% of their inhabitants between 1841 and 1851. Historians often debate the true impact of the famine on Irish emigration. While many left the country during this period for North America and Britain, other factors came into play as well.

One argument that the famine did not cause the massive amount of Irish emigration is that these numbers remained high for years after the famine was over. The historians that have this opinion point to other causes for Irish emigration, such as economic activity in Britain and the United States and the beginning of the industrial revolution. With jobs available, many left Ireland (and other European countries) for economic opportunities.

However, others claim that the famine was still the main driver. The argument goes that the famine caused many Irish citizens to flee, but it also caused many to stay to care for family. Once the famine subsided, they left Ireland in search of more economic opportunity, with the memory of the famine fresh in their minds.

Whatever the reason, Irish emigration would be a constant factor for years to come.

Irish Heritage Research

Researching Irish heritage became difficult over the years, mainly due to the poor record keeping practices of the past, coupled with prejudice against the Irish. In the United States, many Irish would lie about their country of origin in order to move. It was also common practice for those with ostensibly Irish surnames to change them in order to avoid prejudicial hiring practices.

Irish heritage research can only go so far. Preserve your family legacy with CircleIt and tell your story for future generations.

Over time, the panic over Irish immigration subsided in the United States, and within a generation, the son of an Irish immigrant was elected President of the United States. However, many within the Irish diaspora were still not aware of their heritage. In fact, the scope of the diaspora was not even well known until 1995, when Irish President Mary Robinson discussed the phenomenon openly.

Technology has made it possible to determine ethnicity. Ancestry, a company that performs DNA studies can help some determine their nationality. However, that is about as far as this kind of research can take you.

Understanding your heritage is more than your ethnicity. It is the stories that your ancestors tell, the traditions you partake in, and the feeling of family you can only get from those you love. That’s where CircleIt comes in.

CircleIt is the only generational platform, helping to preserve these stories and traditions for future generations. Irish or not, you can discover and share your story on CircleIt.