Ireland Emigration and Immigration

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Emigration records are about people leaving a country. Immigration records are about people entering a country. Records of emigration and immigration include passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, records of passports issued, lists of transported prisoners, and registers of assistance to emigrate. These records may contain the name, age, occupation, destination, place of origin or birthplace, date of departure, and date and ship of arrival of the person immigrating or emigrating. Names of fellow passengers may suggest familial relationships or provide hints about a passenger's place of origin or destination.

No records are required for movements within the British Isles countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands). Records were not required for free emigrants to the United States until 1773, to Canada until 1865, or to Australia, New Zealand, the British West Indies, or South Africa until the twentieth century. No countrywide, official record was kept for people leaving Ireland.

Online Databases[edit | edit source]

Where Did My Ancestors Come From?[edit | edit source]

Are you looking for an ancestor who came from Ireland? Do you know a specific place, or only a county? Many people have information that one or more of their ancestors came from Ireland but they don't know where. Start with step 1. Click on a locality to learn more.

Step 1: Search records in the country where your ancestors settled[edit | edit source]

Here are reasons why you should search records in the country where your ancestors settled:

  • There are 32 counties and more than a thousand parishes in Ireland. It is possible to find dozens of people by the same name and in the same time period as your ancestor. Which one will you choose?
  • Country-wide vital records of the population of Ireland were not kept for the whole population until 1864. If you are looking for an ancestor before then, you may need to use surname distribution tools to narrow your search down to a specific county and parish.

An online surname county distribution tool is available at John Grenham's Irish Ancestors

Records in the country to where your ancestors immigrated can provide clues about where they lived in Ireland. To learn about these records, click on a country where they settled.

Step 2: Search the records in Ireland[edit | edit source]

Post-1864[edit | edit source]

A good place to start searching in Ireland when your immigrant ancestor was born or married after 1864 is to search the index to Ireland's civil registration records for births, marriages and deaths. The index is found at FamilySearch.

In 1864, Ireland began statutory registration of births, marriages and deaths throughout the whole country. Important data content of these civil records can be critical for proving genealogical connections in Ireland--when surnames are less unique or uncommon. Parents names (including mother's maiden), place of event, witnesses, informant name and relationship, age or date of event, signature, address at time of event, and occupations are usually given. For example, searching for an ancestor with a unique surname in the deaths index for those born prior to 1864, may provide you with possible clues to the next-generation name[s] of parent[s].

For those ancestors with common surnames, it still will require diligent searches, usually in the records of the country of settlement to help you determine a precise place or, at least the county of your immigrant's Ireland origins.

For those whose ancestors were not Roman Catholic, Protestant marriages began in the year 1845. All Civil Registration continues up to the present.

Sometimes it is possible to guess where an immigrant originated through surname distribution maps.

Pre-1864[edit | edit source]

Before 1864, few Irish records index the entire population. Here are some records that are indexed.

Reasons Irish Emigrated[edit | edit source]

Emigrants leave Ireland

The Irish throughout history had many reasons for leaving Ireland. As well many among those remaining in Ireland would have emigrated but were unable to, due to poverty or impoverishment. Many Irishmen during the Great Famine years who did embark were in such sickened and critically weakened condition that death followed many while traversing the high seas to their new world home.

Generally, the Irishman's reasons for emigrating--if not compelled to do so, to countries abroad were due to an intolerable convergence of circumstances including, but not limited to:

  • dire economic conditions that destituted families
  • austere political policies such as the Crown's Penal laws (from 1695-1829)
  • a series of circumstances surrounding devastating crop failures especially in the mid-19th Century.
  • social and religious persecution against most nonconformists and Catholics (the dominant segment of Irish society)

For a more complete list detailing the devastating effects of the Penal Laws and the main reasons for emigrating, read Compelling Reasons Why The Irish Emigrated.

See the "Ireland Beginning Research Series Immigration Part 2: Famine and Post Famine Sources" tutorial at

Emigration from Ireland[edit | edit source]

Emigration from Ireland began as early as 1603, when people immigrated to areas such as continental Europe, the islands of the Caribbean, the British colonies, and other parts of the British Isles. Emigration increased during periods of civil or religious unrest or famine in Ireland as well as during various gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. The period of greatest emigration began around 1780 and reached its peak from 1845 to 1855, when between one and two million people left Ireland because of the potato famine. The following categories of emigrants account for most people who emigrated from Ireland:

  • Free emigrants. Starting in the seventeenth century, emigrants left Ireland to seek opportunity in a new land; to flee religious persecution, poverty, or oppression; and to seek political asylum following rebellion in Ireland.
  • Assisted emigrants. In the nineteenth century, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants as incentives to emigrate. Assistance was viewed by officials as an alternative to providing poor relief for able-bodied, unemployed workers and for the starving masses during famine. After 1840, colonies such as New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to attract needed immigrants.
  • Transported prisoners. From 1611 to 1870, more than fifty thousand Irish criminals were sentenced to deportation to a penal colony for a number of years. Beginning with Irishmen who rebelled against Cromwell's army in 1649, political prisoners were also often deported. Many Irish prisoners were sent to America, primarily to Virginia and Maryland, until 1775. From 1788 to 1869, over forty thousand Irish prisoners were sent to Australia. Many of those deported were later pardoned on the condition that they would never return to Ireland.
  • Military personnel. Soldiers serving overseas were offered land or other inducements to settle in the colony where they were serving when they were discharged. This settlement practice was common for soldiers in Australia from 1791, Canada from 1815, and New Zealand from 1844.

Records of Irish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries[edit | edit source]

Off to America

Immigration records of the country to which your ancestor immigrated may help you determine your ancestor's place of origin, occupation, and age. Knowing an approximate date and port of arrival or the name of the ship on which your ancestor sailed will help you search immigration records. Naturalization records in the destination country can be more helpful than immigration records in determining your ancestor's place of origin. To learn more about naturalization records,  read United States Emigration and Immigration or the articles about Naturalization and Citizenship for each destination country.

Many immigration records are held in repositories, usually in the destination country. The immigration records that are available at the Family History Library are generally listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:


See the "Irish Emigration to North America: Before, During, and After the Famine"tutorial on

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Filby, P. William and Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 3 vols. plus supps. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1981-. (Family History Library book Ref 973 W32p.) (BYU Family History Library book CS 68 .P36 1981.)This ongoing series indexes more than 1,000 published lists of Irish immigrants to the United States.
  • Filby, P. William and Mary K. Meyer, eds. Passenger and Immigrations Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900. 2d ed. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1988. (Family History Library book 973 W33p 1988.) This bibliography references over 2,500 published lists of Irish immigrants to the United States that will eventually be included in Filby's Passenger and Immigrations Lists Index.
  • Glazier, Ira A., ed. The Famine Emigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-51. 7 vols. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983-86. (Family History Library book Ref Q 974.71 W3f.) These volumes contain many lists and indexes of Irish immigrants to the United States.
  • Harris, Ruth-Ann M., and Donald M. Jacobs, eds. The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the "Boston Pilot." 3 vols. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989-93. (Family History Library book Ref 974.461 H29s.) These volumes list more than ten thousand Irish immigrants to the United States and their places of origin. The information is based on advertisements run between 1831 and 1856.
  • Ffolliott, Rosemary. The Irish Passengers Aboard the New World Liverpool-NewYork October-December 1853. List of passengers names and ages, job description.  The bulk of the passengers were Irish and German with smaller numbers from U.S.A,, England, Wales Article in The Irish Ancestor. pages6-10. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v7-8.
  • Scott, Kenneth. 1979.British aliens in the United States during the War of 1812. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co. (FHL 973 W4s) As the War of 1812 began, all residents of the United States from Brtain who had not begun the naturalzation process were considered an enemy of the country. To overcome this status, it was necessary for them to register locally with descriptions of themselves and their family members, how long they had been in the country, their occupation and their residency. This book lists these individuals and their information. It is a very good source of British immigrants prior to passenger lists beginning in 1820.

Lists of passengers arriving at most U.S. ports after 1820 are available at the Family History Library. Many are indexed. For more information on these lists and indexes, read United States Emigration and Immigration. To learn more about the emigration process and life on board an American-bound emigrant ship, see the following book:

  • Coleman, Terry. Going To America. New York, New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. (Family History Library book 973 W2cg
  • Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D27f 2 vols.)
  • Smith, Frank. Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources: Ireland. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D23s.)

To find United States emigration and immigration records at the Family History Library, look in the Place Search of the catalog under: UNITED STATES - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION

From 1815 to 1850, Canada was the primary destination of Irish emigrants. Until 1900, the major ports of immigrant arrivals were Quebec City and Halifax. After 1900, arrivals were more widespread. Canadian passenger lists are rare before 1865. Those from 1865 to 1900 are available at the Family History Library. Indexed Passenger lists from 1890-1960 are available at


  • Starting in 1788, thousands of convicts were sent to Australia. They were first sent to Tasmania and New South Wales. Along with the convicts were those who supervised the prison system and their families. By the early 1800s, many more free and assisted emigrants arrived in various states. Learn more about Australia emigration and immigration by clicking here. There is an Ireland-Australia transportation database available through the National Archives of Ireland here.
  • Ellis, Eilish.  Free Settlers in New South Wales in 1828.  The article lists those convicts whose good conduct had entitled them to apply to have their wives and children sent out to join them in New South Wales, Australia, at the expense of the Crown, and the names of those returned as having acutally embarked for Australia. It gives name, ship, wife's maiden name, number of children resident to whom known.  It covers almost all of the Counties in Ireland, 1828-1855. Article in the Irish  Ancestor, vol. XI. no.2. 1979. pages 95-107. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i vol.10-11.
  • Ellis, Eilish. Free Settlers in New South Wales in 1830-31. List of convicts who have applied for their wives and families to be sent to N.S.W. at Govt. expense, listed by county, gives names and addresses, or at least town in county. covers years 1813-1831 Article in The Irish Ancestor vol XII, 1-2 1980 pages 26-34. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i vol.XII, 1-2  also 1828-1832 lists 55 convicts applying for their wives and families to be sent. in The Irish Ancestor, vol. XIII no.1.1981 pages 37-41, FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i vol. XIII no. 1, also year 1835, in The Irish Ancestor vol. XIV, pages 6-13, FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i vol. 14.  Also year 1836, in The Irish ancestor, vol. XVI, no. 1, 1984, pages 37-39, 941.5 B2i. Also year 1835 & 1836, in The Irish Ancestor, vol. XVI,no.2. 1984 pages80-81. FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i

New Zealand
In 1840 the British began colonizing New Zealand. Most immigrants to New Zealand received some form of assistance either from the New Zealand Company or from a government or church association set up to encourage immigration. Besides the age, origin, and occupation, New Zealand immigration records usually include additional details such as the wife's and children's names and ages and details of settlement. Many New Zealand immigration records are available at the Family History Library and are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:


also go to, and scroll down to Australia and New Zealand on left handside of screen, and you will see a line for New Zealand Immigration, click on there, and enter a surname only.  Gradually the Shipping data is being indexed, and loaded.

At the Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand, there are 3 books with Irish Immigrants to Otago Southland, by Michael Rombouts.  You can ask the Staff to look up and see if your Ancestor is listed.

British Records of Irish Emigration[edit | edit source]

Harbour in Kingstown Dublin

Many records of Irish emigration are kept in England. To effectively search these records, it helps to know the approximate date of emigration, the ship in which your ancestor emigrated, the type of or reason for emigration, or the previous residence of your ancestor in Britain. If you know the ship name, Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping, 1776-1880(LaCrosse, Wisconsin: Brookhaven Press, 1981; Family History Library fiche 6024581-5194 6025259-95, 6053006-7; not available at Family History Centers) may provide additional details on the ship, including ports of embarkation and arrival. Once you have gathered background information, you can search British emigration records including:

Passenger lists. Passenger lists are port records listing departing or arriving passengers. British passenger departure lists are rare before 1890. From January 1890, records were kept of passengers departing from ports in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These lists usually give the emigrant's name, age, occupation, departure date, address in the United Kingdom, and sometimes destination. These records are arranged by date and by port of departure. They are kept at the Public Record Office, Kew. The Family History Library does not have copies of these records. Therefore, you may want to check Irish emigrant lists that have been compiled from these records and published in recent years by such authors as Ira A. Glazier, Michael Tepper, and Brian Mitchell.

Assisted emigrant registers. Assisted emigrant registers list people applying for assistance to emigrate. These records often contain the petitioner's name, age, occupation, residence, destination, name of sponsor, address of relative, and size of family. The registers available at the Family History Library appear in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:



Immigration into Ireland[edit | edit source]

Immigrants to Ireland came primarily from elsewhere within the British Isles or from continental Europe by way of England. Specific groups of immigrants included refugees from various wars (such as the French Revolution), Huguenots, Germans, and Jews. Ireland kept no official immigration records, so you must rely primarily on (1) English records of immigrants who passed through England on their way to Ireland and (2) emigration records of the country from which your ancestor moved.

No consistent records of arrivals into the United Kingdom were kept until 1836. Beginning in 1836, certificates of entering aliens were kept. These are arranged by port. They provide name, nationality, profession, date of arrival, country last visited, and the signature of the alien. The Public Records Office, Kew has an alphabetical index to these certificates.

Beginning in 1878, passenger lists were kept of those entering the United Kingdom (see "British Records of Irish Emigration" in this section). Passenger lists no longer exist for the years between 1878 and 1883. Records surviving from 1883 to 1891 are for the Irish ports of Cork (Queenstown), Londonderry, and Belfast. After 1891 the records are more complete. However, passengers from Europe or the Mediterranean are rarely listed. These passenger lists are arranged by port and are kept at the Public Record Office, Kew.

One good, though limited, source of information on British immigrants, especially for before 1836, is naturalization and denization records.

Other sources of information on people entering Ireland include court records, state papers, and plantation and settlement records.

The Family History Library has few records of immigration into Ireland. The sources the library does have are mostly published works. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:




The library may have emigration records of the country from which your ancestor moved. These are listed in the "Place Search" of the catalog under:


Sources[edit | edit source]

The following will help you learn more about emigration and immigration.

The National Archives (England) emigration collections include registers of births, 1847-1854, and deaths of emigrants at sea, 1847-1869. See the CO class series no. 386, pieces 170-172. These may include many among the Irish "Famine" immigrants who died journeying across the Atlantic to North America.