Cos. Tyrone, Donegal, Londonderry & Fermanagh Ireland Genealogy Research

Official Website of the Mailing List


Influence & Experiences of 19th Century Emigration from the Parish of Donagheady, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Author- Olivene McDaid (reprinted with permission) 1999 and dedicated "To my late father John Caufield"
Transcribed & Compiled by Teena


Chapter 1- The Social, Economic, and Religious conditions prevailing in 19th century Donagheady
Chapter 2- Government Policy, Landlord Clearances: Newspaper Reports and their influences
Chapter 3- Passenger Trade from Derry Port
Chapter 4- Emigrant Letters


Chapter 1- The Social, Econonmic and Religious Conditions Prevailing in 19th Cetury Donagheady


The Act of Union in 1800 saw Ireland enter into a sub-ordinate relationship with England, not only in aspects of social and political policy but more importantly, the economic relationship which commenced was to have a devastating effect on the indigenous population. The Act had, in fact, established Free Trade between the two Countries, but because of the difference in industrial development between Ireland and England, every Irish industry did in fact decline and many were eliminated. Ireland in fact, became an agricultural colony giving up the protection of her native industries from English competition in return for continued preferential treatment of Irish agricultural products in the English market. In Donagheady, linen manufacturing was a major source within the economy from growth to the weaving of flax. Not only did the parish comprise of a number of mills but also 'in each house spinning by women and weaving by men were carried on".

(1) The extent that the linen dominated the local manufacturing economy can also be highlighted by the fact that a linen market was also held within the parish which was advertised in the Belfast Telegraph. It was this indigenous population which would have suffered the consequences of the Act of the Union. Many throughout the country were compelled to transfer to agriculture. "Non agricultural workers in Ireland declined from 1.7 million to 1.6 million between 1821 and 1841, while during the same twenty year period agricultural workers increased from 2.8 million to 3.5 million".

(2) From the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, Donagheady Parish consisted of 36,000 acres of land, of which 20,000 acres were noted to be the inland parish, while 10,000 in mountainous areas and 6,000 mountainous, but not accessible. The land contained very little pasture land, whilst in tillage production, potatoes were the general preparation crop throughout the parish, rotated with barley, flax and oats. Farms were of unclosed nature generally consisting of 20 acres but following the practise prevailing throughout the country, "there were also numerous small subletting of 2 or 3 acres called cottar-tracks".

(3) Rents for land were let at 1 pound 14s per acre- 1 pound 2s. 9d. and 12 shillings: descending in price depending on the condition of the land. At the same time wages fluctuated from boarded labourers getting £2 to £2.10s for six months, while day labourers received 10d. to 1s. 1d. a day. Agricultural employment was a seasonal enterprise confined to spring and harvest need, "want of capital prevents farmers giving employment at other seasons"

(4) Considering that the parish beheld 10,290 inhabitants, much poverty must have prevailed when home industries succumbed to the industrialised manufacturing of the North East. Futherance to the crisis would have been the recession in agricultural production, due to the lack of demand for grain after the Napoleanic Wars. Prices dropped drastically ensuring a complete reversal from tillage to pasture. As already discussed such a transition would not have been easy in Donagheady, where pasture land was scarce. "Naturally the greatest distress occurred amongst the labourers. The farmers were unable to give them employment. Some of them were without even the smallest piece of land and the amount held by the most fortunate, was entirely inadequate to support them, even in seasons when crops were bountiful."

(5) The lack of employment could surely have only led to ambitions towards emigration, whilst the social conditions prevalent would not have encouraged many to remain. As already stated, the parish population was of 10,290 persons yet with only 1,961 houses recorded. This overcrowding of accomodations in Irish homes was due to the fact that many tenants, although impoverished, were still obliged to build their own homes. It was a custom to encourage a married son to continue residing with his parents, rather than build a new home: the preferred option for any available money was that of obtaining more land. There was also a tendancy towards early marriage, reinforced by the cheapness of rearing a child. The potato had come to dominate the daily diet so expense was slight, whilst clothing and schooling did not commit great outlay. The Memoirs would confirm these facts that farmers diets and that of the manufacturing class, comprised of potatoes, milk, butter, seldom consumption of any animal food. While labourers and the poor sat down to dine of potatoes, buttermilk, and often salt only. This dependency on the humble potato surely would have led to the attraction of emigration in famine time. Donagheady parishioners are recorded as being poor and consequently unable to procure those cabin comforts, as to clothing and necessaries. They were well inclined to industry and fond of earning money, could they get it to earn. The poverty which prevailed is underlined by the records of the Donagheady Presbyterian Church. "Owing to the extreme poverty of the agricultural labourers and small farmers, there was a large number of non-contributors in all rural congregations.

(6) The famine had the same consequences in Donagheady as that of the rest of the country, population decrease. How much of this was due to death or emigration is not known. "In 1841 the population of the parish was slightly over 10 thousand, in 1851 between 8 and 9 thousand, and in 1861 slightly under 6 thousand.

(7) The last reference would confirm that indeed there was some considerable movement out of the parish over the subsequent forty years. It has already been acknowledged that Donagheady contained a majority Presbyterian population. This is confirmed when considering the Parliamentary Returns of 1764, "We find that at this date there were 140 families connected with the Established Church, 519 Schismatics (i.e. Presbyterians) and 316 Roman Catholics in the parish.

(8) For the Presbyterians of Ulster, 19th Century emigration was viewed as following the foot-steps of their fore-fathers, away from religious, social, economic, and political persecution to the land of equality and opportunity. Their fore-fathers had come to Ireland under the English Monarchy, who had guaranteed them their religious and political liberties, in return for serving the King's Royal Garrison, in the midst of his Papist enemies. They had paid for this guarantee with their blood and many, with their lives in the 1641 Rebellion and during the Seige of Derry. However, payment for the "Glorious Revolution" and the fight for Protestant Ascendancy, found them under Queen Anne and the Anglican dominated Irish Parliament, persecuted dissenters by penal legislation. What indeed followed was the communal exodus to a new Eden; "Whole congregations and their ministers, as in the case of Cahan's exodus, were driven forth, notably from the Counties of Antrim, Derry, Donegal and Down. This was the country drained of it's best blood, and loyal, law-abiding citizens, embittered and estranged"

(9) It is noted in the recordings of the Presbyterian Church in Donagheady that the reign of Queen Anne, was a period of acute financial depression and distressful religious oppression in Ulster. Presbyterians sought relief by emigration to America as did their ministers, who suffered with the people, and were unable to give them adequate support. Mr Issac BARR, was one such minister, who at the time sought the favourable opportunity of securing a sufficient subsistence in Canada, in preference to Donagheady. For those emigrants and those of the 19th century, their religion was of paramount importance. Many saw their role in the New World as an evangelical mission. Considering for a moment James PATRICK, born in the parish of Donagheady in 1808 and who emigrated at the age of 25. Being the eldest son, he chose to give up his birth-right and seek his fortune in the land of opportunity in the United States. Leaving Ireland with only his fare, he arrived in South Carolina where he secured much needed employment. In less than thirty years, James became a very affluent business man, in fact a Cotton Broker, but however his life lacked something, the absence of a Presbyterian Church. "In order to recitify this situation he bought a small section of land near the town section and gave it to the Presbyterian Church. Not only did he give the land, he also built the Church with his own money."

(10) Considering the social, economic and religious conditions prevailing in Donagheady in the 19th century, it is mandatory to ascertain that such push factors did indeed influence emigration. All of rural Ireland suffered from the changes in land structure, the dependence on the potato and the sub-division of holdings. All except those of the Established Church, felt the legacy of the Penal persecution. 18th century fore-fathers had set the pattern which was to become the 19th century trend.


Chapter 2- Government Policy, Landlord Clearances: Newspaper Reports and their influences

It was early in the 19th century that the British Government openly admitted that Ireland could only completely transform into an economically subordinate supplier of raw material for the British market, if the population declined by means of emigration. Emigration was seen as the only means to rectify the country's economic backwardness, social turbulence and a means of ridding Ireland of the many potato plots which stunted the progress of capitalistic agriculture. " In short, to Britian's rulers and Ireland's owners, rural to Urban migration seemed the natural concomitant to the commercialisation of Irish agriculture; and since most Irish cities and industries were stagnant or declining, emigration abroad seemed to disciples of laissez-faire, the only alternative to poverty and discontent in what they considered an over-populated countryside"

(1) However, mass emigration to America was viewed by the British Government with much discontent. It was considered tantamount to treason and fear was widespread amongst the Ascendancy in Ireland, that the exodus of skilled Protestants could weaken their elite position and also lead to competition from foreign textile industries. To regulate the mass exodus to the United States and to divert the flow to British Canada, the Government enforced the Passengers Act of 1816. The resulting carriage restrictions and increased fares made Canada a much cheaper option by far. However, Government encouragement went far beyond legal restrictions; widely advertised land grant incentives would have proved most influential, considering the social and economic restrictions at home. The Strabane Morning Post, being the local newspaper of Donagheady, carried many such reports. On Tuesday 24th June 1823, an account is given of the Government's encouragement of emigration. It reports that liberal encouragement is held out to farmers, offering them free passage, the conveyance of their belongings and on arrival in Upper Canada, a grant of one hundred acres of land and provisions, gratis, for the first year. " It is supposed that this offer will be readily embraced by numbers in consequence of the overgrown population in the country, and the general want of employment at this moment."

(2) The benefits of such a move was cited in the report of April 4th 1826; when the circumstances of the 2,000 Irish settlers sent out by Government to Mukio Lake are accounted for. Readers were assured that they were content in their new homes ranging from 2-10 acres; which was cleared, fenced and ready to receive spring seeds. The emigration of Irish farmers not only allowed capitalist agriculture at home, but would in Canada provide the much needed labour to transform the colonial territory into a productive nation. Subject to this purpose by 1828 the Government was indeed highlighting the type of immigrants the colony would prefer. "The description of persons so taken, are insolvent farmers, who have been dispossessed of their land, and who by industry and exertion are determined to support themselves and their families on the other side of the Atlantic. No individuals are taken over forty-five years of age or whose family exceed either three children under fourteen years of age"

(3) It is well documented in all reports that the intending emigrant should be aware that the New Country expected him to work hard, however, the benefits of such enterprise would certainly be repaid. The wages would indeed have encouraged local readership to leave the parish. In Upper Canada, they were reported as being in the range of between £2-3 per month, with board and lodgings; whilst as already stated, the same labourers would only have received £2- £2.10s for boarded employment for six months with local farmers. By February 1832, The Strabane Morning Post was advertising further job opportunities for the local tradesmen; working artisans, particularily blacksmiths, carpenters, bricklayers, masons, coopers, millwrights and wheelwrights in the British Province. Moreover, there had been a special request to local females. "Women are wanted, and although there is no great scarcity, there are more males than females". Men were requested to bring out their wives or intended wives as "generally speaking, a man will find a woman of his own country more congenial to his habits and taste, as a wife, than another. This is not a bad country for single females to come to, as a house servant will get from 20 shillings to 30 shillings a month and if steady, industrious and deserving, may probably soon (if they choose) become the mistress of a house of their own."

(4) It must be pointed out at this stage that, although the great majority of Irish emigrants were drawn from the small farmer and agricultural laboring classes, in the New World they opted for urban life over rural. One explanation for this, is that they did not have the means nor the training, for the large scale prairie farming. Secondly, the big cities quickly established Irish communities, where new emigrants could feel at home among their own people. Industry within the cities such as mills, factories, docks etc, offered employment to this unskilled labouring class and also greater opportunities for upward mobility. Thirdly, their experiences with agriculture at home had left them totally disillusioned. Clearly from the press reports fore- mentioned, emigration for many in the local area would have been an opportunity for personal advancement. However, a darker side of emigration also lurks in which the poorest of Irish people were given no option or choice in the decision. Considering the report in the Belfast Mercury on Tuesday 29th April 1851, the headlines read- Strabane Workhouse- pauper Emigration. It cites that on the preceeding Monday, 58 persons left Starbane Workhouse for Belfast on route to Quebec. Thirty nine of the numbers ranging in age from 12- 36 years. Accommodation in the workhouse cost the Government £4 per year, whilst the fare to the New World stood at £5; it is obvious that in Famine times and it's subsequent crisis, emigration would have been a more financially viable option. " We think it desirable that, in every Union, the guardians should encourage the emigration of able bodied paupers, who cannot find useful and renumerating employment at home, instead of suffering them and their families to continue a permanent burthen on the ratepayers"

(5) It is widely recognised that the strongest advocacy of controlled emigration came from landlords and their agents. The pre-famine social structure of Ireland advocated cluttered estates of small uneconomic holdings, which generated little or no income for the landlords. Progressive improvements of estates for maximum financial gains, could only occur through the consolidation of the common holdings into enclosed farms. Entire family removals to distant shores was therefore promoted by landlords. The famine, in fact, increased the urgency of estate reform, but also facilitated it. It is obvious that external funding was crucial in facilitating and moulding Irish emigration. Landlords and the British Government allowed many Irish men and women to become pioneers of the exodus, joined by those wo were influenced by the pull factors of newspaper reports.


Chapter 3- Passenger Trade from Derry Port

While researching 19th century Irish emigration trends, it became obvious that the century could be broken up into 3 clearly defined periods; each distinctive in the character of emigrants, the numbers leaving, and subsequently, the reasons for them leaving. Pre-famine emigration to America and Canada was in fact under-taken by skilled and semi-skilled individuals with enterpreneurial ambitions. The young and able bodied went, as did members of the affluent middle class, who recognised that their ambitions would not be fulfilled in their home land, where want and scarcity prevailed. For them, the New World offered abundance and opportunity. Between 1815 and 1845, "well over a million emigrants left Ireland which quickly became established as a major supplier of overseas labour."

(1) Famine emigration had no social class boundaries, no age or physical well being restrictions, those who could afford the passage went. They did not seek opportunity with their entrepreneurial skills, but charity in the New World. It, in fact, became an exodus of desperation. Under-lining this fact, "There were very many children sent out of Ireland in the charge of an older brother or sister, with the hope of reaching relatives already established there. In an effort to save the children's lives, parents remained at home and paid the passage for the children".

(2) However, it must be clearly stated and highlighted that in each of these 3 periods defined, those totally destitute never financially had the option of leaving Ireland. Secondly, it must be remembered that throughout the century, Britian became Eden to those Irish who could not afford the fares to America and a stepping stone for those who hoped to earn this amount. "Between 1845 and 1855 almost 1.5 million sailed to the United States, another 340,000 embarked for British North America; 200-300,000 settled permanently in Britain and several thousand more went to Australia and elsewhere."

(3) In Post-Famine Ireland it has been said that Irish parents raised their children for export. Pull factors such as permanent employment, social mobility, and rewards of effort induced more than 50,000 per year from 1870-1900 to leave Ireland. The island held only discouragement, crop failure, agrarian strife and unemployment, caused by technological change and capital intensive farming. Consequently, a large proportion of those leaving Ireland in the latter half of the century were no longer self-perceived exiles but eager, ambitious emigrants seeking material and personal enhancement in the New World. The passage itself would certainly have been recognised for the danger to life, which it would entail. Locally the Strabane Morning Post reported April 1830, the deplorable shipwreck of the Ship "Newry" and the immense loss of lives. Between one and two hundred lives were lost in Carnarvon Bay, just 2 days after setting sail to Quebec from Newry Town. Again, in May 1847, the paper carried a report on the shipwreck of the passenger ship "Exmouth" and a list of those who perished from Northern Ireland. However, for the majority, opportunity outweighed the danger, and they were influenced by the variety of shipping advertisements in the local papers. In the Post's edition dated 30th July 1816, safety was assured on the new ship "Emperor Alexander", which boasted of being copper-fastened and coppered to the bends. Whilst the Londonderry Sentinel on 16th April 1867 carried an advertisement for the "Anchorline", which sailed every Saturday from Derry to New York, steerage fares 5 guineas, intermediate fare 7 guineas, and cabin fare 11, 13 and 15 guineas. Passengers were also alerted to the comforts which each ship provided during the passage. The Ship "Elizabeth" sailing about the 20th March 1864 assured passengers that they would be given full allowance of provisions as the law required, while the Ship "Emperor Alexander" convinced prospective passengers that plenty of provisions and water would be on board for the voyage. There is no reason to doubt that restrictions were followed by the majority of shipping companies during the greater part of the 19th century; however with the advent of the Great Famine and the consequent mass exodus, the demand for shipping was such, that it was the quantity, rather than the quality, of ships which counted. Many ships used at this time, were neither intended nor suitable for carrying passengers, along with their Captain's also being ignorant of how to deal with human cargo. Note the experiences of Stephen E. DEVERE, travelling steerage to Canada during the Famine time, " No cleanliness was enforced, and the beds never aired. The master during the whole voyage never entered the steerage, and would listen to no complaints; the dietary contracted for was, with some exceptions, nominally supplied, though at irregular periods; but false measures were used (in which the water and several articles of dry food were served) the gallon measure containing but three quarts, which fact I proved in Quebec and had the Captain fined for."

(4) In contrast, cite the the recordings of a passenger on board the "S.S.Caledonia" 1850, where she states that because she has been unwell, she has received attendance from the stewardess and got breakfast in bed which comprised of tea, toast, eggs and anything else she desired. The hospitality on board is exemplified by the fact that "It is told us today that we may land on Sabbath morning, we will only be sorry as we have had such a nice time here on board."

(5) It is assumed because of the close proximity of Derry Port, that all emigrants from Donagheady would have embarked from this port. Not only does this assumption allow us greater insight into the destination of local emigrants, but through the surviving registers of J & J COOKE, it can, to some extent, be ascertained who actually went in any given period. The Port of Derry established itself as an emigration port after the War of Independance and served the neighbouring counties of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone; and to a lesser degree Antrim and Fermanagh. It's passenger trade grew out of commercial links with the New World and so in fact, determined the destination of emigrants. Philadelphia had since the early 18th century been a predominate destination of the Northern Irish, due to trading links of flax seed for the linen industry. Fleets from Philadelphia and New York would bring flax seed over and rather than return empty, they provided transportation for those wishing to return with them. "During the period 1750-1775 Philadelphia was the destination for 78% of Derry ships."

(6) These trade links forged a beaten path for early emigrants and the connection between the ports remained strong by many who followed during the 19th century. However, in the first half of the 19th century Canada became the principle destination for Derry emigrants, growing again because of the Passengers Act of 1803 and the commercial links forged in the timber trade. The sheer scale of emigration from Derry port is best understood especially in the 1840's when "firms were able and willing to risk their capital in the purchase of ships built expressly for the emigration trade across the Atlantic."

(7) The passenger trade from Derry lasted until the 1860's, when after the American Civil War ,the advent of faster and more comfortable steamships ended the trade from Derry within a decade. There were two main shipping companies operating out of Derry, already mentioned J & J COOKE and Barry McCORKELL. Their registers combined, cite 26,600 passengers leaving Derry for the United States and Canada in the period 1841-1871. McCORKELL's order book is less detailed than that of COOKE's because his venture was dependant to a large extent on passenger bookings pre-paid in America. "People of Irish extraction, paid money to firms such as Robert TAYLOR & Co. of Philadelphia, to bring out their friends and relatives. Passengers were engaged in America to be sent out from Derry."

(8) In all, between 1863-1871, 5,184 passengers had their fare pre-paid in this way. In this paper the registers of J & J COOKE will be examined, because they offer us the best source of data of who left Donagheady Parish between 1847-1867. However, some level of doubt exists in the total accuracy of the documents and in the total numbers reported to have travelled. It was obviously a massive decision in 19th century to emigrate and leave loved ones behind. Many could have had last minute doubts and remained home, while it is known that numbers gathered at Moville seeking passage of cancellations in Derry. However while considering these discrepencies it has been noted that in 1847, 66 Donagheady individuals sought a new life in Philadelphia, 19 in St. John's and the remaining majority of 32, preferred Quebec. Within these figures, whole family units are very evident and the largest families; the THOMPSON's 7 in all, ARBUCLE's 10 in all, and HASSON's 8 in all; all opted for Quebec, probably because the more travelling, the cost would have been so much less than that to America. Of the 66, in total, only 14 individuals can be assumed as travelling alone. It would seem that the HASSON's were very lucky if they all survived the passage, as their voyage on the "Superior" to Quebec in 1847 had been noted for it's fatalities, "Ship fever left sixty of the Superior's 360 passengers dead before they arrived at Quebec in 1847."

(9) The largest ever bookings made through Derry port has been registered for 1847, resulting from the successive crop failures of 1845 and 1846. However, Donagheady Parish emigrants do not reflect this; with 22 passengers noted from the vicinity. Of this total, again two families, the TOWER's and the CLARKE's make up the majority of 14, again travelling to Quebec; while single individuals sought refuge evenly, in Philadelphia and St. John's. It can only be assumed that this rural community diversified their consumption during the crisis period, or that those who were badly affected did not have the resources to facilitate emigration. 1850 saw only 14 parishioners emigrate. Quebec again being the choice destination for the RUSSELL family of Donemana, comprising of 6 members. The youngest, Mary Ann, being only 1 year old. That year no-one sought St. John's, as the remaining 8 persons sailed to Philadephilia. From 1851 to 1863, when the registers of COOKE end, only a minimal number of people emigrated from Donagheady.


Year Total Emigrants to Quebec to Philadelphia to St. Johns to New Orleans
1851 11 2 9
1852 10 10
1853 9 9
1854 1 1
1855 7 5 2
1856 3 3
1857 1 1
1858 7 6 1
1859 2 2
1860 none
1861 none
1862 18 (2 families) 18
1863 4 4
1864-1867 none


Although the figures certainly diminished over the 16 years surveyed, it is interesting to point out that the majority of the emigrants who did sail over this period were single individuals; and like earlier periods, the 2 large families sought Quebec as their destination. Moreover, Philadelphia after the Famine, became the prime refuge sought by those who did travel. To give one explanation for the small numbers who travelled after the crisis in 1846, is again the Parish's close proximity to Derry. "It is no coincidence that the height of Derry's prosperity coincided with the thriving passenger trade."

(10) It seems that many could have journeyed the five miles to Derry, where it's urban economy stimulated by the passenger trade, and must have held local refuge.


Chapter 4- Emigrant Letters

During the 19th century as literacy rose, it was indeed emigrant letters which became the most influential factor of emigration trends. These letters not only reflected the experiences of families in the New World, which either encouraged or discouraged others to follow; but ultimately many contained the financial assistance required. Chain migration became a way of life throughout the century; one family member left for the New World and after much labour, sent the passage for another to follow. "By the early 1830's between one-sixth and one-half of the Irish emigrants leaving from Liverpool and Ulster ports had received their tickets or passage money from America and by 1840 over half of all Irish emigration was so financed."

(1) The receipt of any emigrant letter from the New World became a local event. Not because of the money it might contain (because this was always kept private), but because of the news it could hold of neighbours, and for neighbours, who did not write often or could not write at all. It was not unusual for a local scholar to be summoned to read the letter; firstly to the family and then many times to various calling neighbours. Nor was it unusual for the scholar the next day, to move from house to house in the locality, reading the letter, for the benefit of those who did not hear it the night before. This is not to state that the letter was not indeed a private document, it certainly was not read out at fairs or public functions. However, early 19th century Ireland saw communities as extended families interdependant in work and recreation. The concept of privacy extended to the community. It is evident that the practice of chain migration and letter reading were evident in the locality of the Parish of Donagheady, as the Strabane Morning Post on 22 June 1830 reported the observances and duties of the Right Rev. Dr. DOYLE. Dr. DOYLE states that he had observed that, "it was customary with the most able-bodied of the family first to emigrate and after a little time, to send money over to enable the other members of the family to follow. He was often times the medium of those communications and remittances."

(2) More often children became the medium of communication between the Old and the New Worlds. The introduction of the National Schools in 1831, meant most children could now seek a basic education. Donagheady it seems, could boast of numerous educational establishments in the Memoirs of 1836, "Schools are numerous. There are 4 Hiberian Society Schools and 6 others, besides the parish school."

(3) It would seem that many young scholars awaited news from afar which will now be examined. This source is very limited in quantitative data, reflecting the experiences of only eight emigrants from the parish; however their qualitative content allows us a knowledge which could not be superseded by any other source. The most obvious features in all the letters examined is that although physical seperation prevailed, the emigrants wanted to assure family and friends of their love for them and their homeland. All salutations are affectionate and because of this, can at times be misleading, as in-laws call each other 'brother' and 'sister'. It is also obvious that the emigrant recognised that the letter would be read by those beyond the named correspondant, as affection is sent to the full family circle, with local townlands named. Exemplified here in the letter from William HUTTON to John McCREA, "With much love to all your dear circle and dear friends at Farmhill, Grange, Leck, Magheragh, Lisnarrow and very kind regards to that most worthy and good friend Brother Alexander when you see him."

(4) In many instances love was sent from the family of the emigrant, to relatives they had never seen or known. Another important concept comes to light when the letters of James SAMPLE are considered. All the letters which James sent are to his sister Ellen, although his mother is mentioned within them, and his love is sent to her. It is not until he makes reference to a legal land document at home needing his mother's signature and states, "touch the pen before witnesses said act will be legal", that we learn, that his mother had been illiterate. This must have been a feature of Irish emigrant correspondence in the 19th century; as many brothers and sisters would have become the sole mediators of communication to the older illiterate generation. Few reasons are given within the letters as to why the emigrants left, as obviously their friends and family were well aware of their circumstances. However, as David BAILEY wrote in 1827, "hard time was so plenty when I was there that I will not go back to Ireland again."

(6) Some of our own conclusions can in fact be reached as to why emigration was sought, through the correspondence, where large family members are mentioned. The custom regarding land inheritance at the time was that the eldest son in each family inherited the family land; whilst it was up to the rest of the family to make their own way in life, through trade or employment for men, and marriage for women. The fact that many of our correspondents wrote enquiring of a brother or a homeplace highlights that this was probably the main reason. It seems that opportunities were indeed available to those in the New World, which could not have been envisanged at home. Emigrants boast of wages unheard of in Ireland. " I found my friends in a very prosperous way, they have five girls at home, all school teachers, one has twelve hundred a year, another has 640.00 and the other have four hundred each, they own a very handsome house which they bought since I was there, you see how they are paid for teaching in America."

(7) Not only did wages increase but so also did evidence of living conditions. "He is making more than £1,000 per annum, by his business so that he may safely marry. He has purchased very handsome curtains, green and gold and crimson and also carpets and furniture to the extent of nearly £200."

(8) However, it must always be remembered that hard work accompanied such earnings as did the cost of living, and more importantly, family at home expected success. "nothing here but work hard today and go to bed at night and rise and work harder tomorrow, nothing but work,work, away."

(9) "I often think if young men and women in Ireland only knew what was before them, a great many more would stay at home."

(10) It was the dream of economic prosperity that lured the Irish to America. Newspapers aided in this vision, describing it as the land of milk and honey, where the streets were paved with gold. The many letters proclaiming good employment prospects, as well as remittances seem to underline the fact that success in the new country was natural. Therefore, relatives at home, overwhelmed by these romantic illusions expected no less for their departing sons and daughters. It seems that James SAMPLE allowed his family to believe such an illusion and it was not until after his death that the truth was revealed. His wife discloses " I often asked him why he did not write to his sisters and all he would say was 'I don't know'. I believe that he felt discouraged and chagrined at his failure of success in his business life and did not like to own it to his relatives."

(11) During the 19th century there were indeed times of economic depression in both Canada and America, and emigrants were advised to remain at home. Accounts of one such time is made by David BAILEY in 1827, when he notes that money is very scarce in Boston and the cost of living very high. However the severest depression of 1873-1888 is well documented in all correspondence of the day; consider this report by James SAMPLE of Brooklyn, New York, "Business in this country remains still in a very depressed condition and to all appearances there is no hope of a revival for some time yet, although money is abundant in the banks and in the hands of capitalists, wages is low and multitudes out of employment and manufactured goods are selling at very low prices."

(12) Also in 1857 William HUTTON in Canada wrote to advise his nephew not to come, "James should not come out at present. These very hard times were not expected even three months ago- no-one appears to have foreseen them- things are much worse in the United States than here, their banks have almost broken down."

(13) If the Donagheady emigrants were able to weather the economic depressions, they were not able to weather the homesickness and loneliness of their unfamiliar surroundings. For Thomas SAMPLE word from home only made emotions much worse. "How much I would like to see you all I have suffered more from homesickness since I commenced to correspond with you than I did in the thirty years previous."

(14) It has to be realised that for the vast majority of 19th century emigrants, no return ticket was ever purchased. The custom of the American Wake exemplies this fact. However, futherance to this concept is the fact that many Irish left and were never heard of again. Two reasons can be given for this. Firstly, the majority of early 19th century emigrants were illiterate, once they had disembarked, they had no means of communication. Secondly, as the century progressed so too did the generations, as the older generations died on both sides of the Atlantic, younger generations, not personally knowing each other, stopped corresponding. It seems J. J. ELDER was troubled by such developments and from New Brunswick in Canada he sends home a family tree which he has compiled with the help of other emigrant relatives. He reminds his Uncle that when other relatives die, the family genealogy will die also. "If your Aunt's were removed, a bit of genealogical information might be removed with them, which could not be supplied by anyone else." furthermore, "I am informed by mother that you were not aware that you had an Uncle Sam."

(15) However where location made it possible, it seems that those from the home parish kept in contact with one another, C TAYLOR reports to Ellen McINTYRE that she had been talking to her brother Mr SAMPLE. While Mrs. J YOUNG writing to the same lady, again tells, "Your brother James was here and spent the afternoon and evening with us as he heard John had returned from Ireland and wanted to hear from all the family", moreover reminiscing seems to be what they enjoyed most when together, "I wish you could have heard John and James, they had little Ireland in the parlour, between them they had all the names that you could mention in that part of Ireland and I laughed hearty to hear the two of them talking of home."

(16) All emigrant letters contained advice and information for those who intended to follow, however it seems that for one ex-patriot of Donagheady, his advise went beyond influencing family and friends. William HUTTON who obtained employment with the British Government of Canada in 1848, as Provincial Arbitrator settling disputes about public works in Canada West wrote an Emigrants Manual. " I am much obliged by your circulating a knowledge of my little emigrants guide- I am glad to think that it meets very ready sales- The emigrants on board ships coming to Quebec are in possession of numbers of copies and have had several letters of Capitalists led hither by it. They will not be disappointed if they act upon it's suggestions"

(17) It would seem that too many Irish men and women were influenced by such books only to find that America offered them no home; "This country is overburdened with our countrymen and women, there is one of trains ships to leave here tomorrow, this is her second passage to Liverpool since I came here and she is taking 500 passengers home, 57 of whom are paupers sent home by government."

(18) Leaving the examination of these letters on the following note, the New World was indeed paved with gold in comparison to the Parish of Donagheady. All emigrants received employment or owned their own business, which qualified them to a social standing which could not have been envisaged at home. However, there was indeed a great price to pay for this, not only was life hard and working hours long, but it was loneliness and need for familiar friends, family and surroundings, which was most costly. "A terrible feeling of loneliness comes over me, we have lots of good friends but they are not relatives."

(19)"We shall meet in that better world where friends do not part."


Olivene's references & Biblio were:

Rev. John Rutherford "Donagheady Presbyterian Churches and Parish"
Robert E. Kennedy Jr. "The Irish" (University California Press 1973)
Ordinance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Vol 5
W.A. Carrothers "Emigration from the British Isles" Frank Cass & Co Ltd. London.
"I Witness Cuttings Book 71" 1/1/1888 The Linen Hall Library serial # 9501009
Joseph Howard Patrick Jr. "The Search for Thomas Patricks Ireland Home" (Greenwood S.C. 1998)
Kerby A Miller "Emigrants and Exiles" "The Strabane Morning Post" Linen Hall Library Serial # 9309279 Serial #'s 9410135, 9410420, 9409369, 9309278, 9309277, 9309280 9411201, 9408119, 9410484, 9407088, 9410135
The Strabane Evening Post PRONI serial # 9408120
The Belfast Mercury serial # 9408179
Belfast Newsletter serial # 9503092
D Fitzpatrick "Irish Emigration 1801-1921" Dundalgan Press Ltd 1984
Patrick O'Sullivan "The Meaning of Famine"

Passenger on S.S. Caledonia to "MY Dear Lizzie" PRONI serial # 9007193
Brian Mitchell "Irish Passenger lists 1847-1871
David Bailey Boston PRONI serial # 8903169 & 8903169
James Sample PRONI serial # 9410151 & 9007194
C Taylor PRONI Serial # 9007195
W Hutton PRONI 9310125 & 9310126
Thomas McIntyre PRONI serial # 9007180
Thomas Sample PRONI Serial # 9007190 & 9007189
? Sample to Ellen McIntyre PRONI 9007191 J J Elder PRONI serial # 885004
Mrs J Young PRONI Serial # 9007188
William Hutton PRONI serial # 9307042
David Bailey PRONI Serial # 8903169
Belfast Newsletter serial # 9503092 PRONI serial # 9707052
JJ Elder PRONI serial # 885004
Correspondence of William Hutton Serial #'s 9307040, 9307042, 9310029, 9307033, 9306002, 9305224, 9310124, 9310125, 9310126, 9307038
Lizzie Moore PRONI serial # 9007183
Thomas McIntyre Correspondence serial #'s 9007180, 9007189/90.
Correspondence of James Sample Serial #'s 9410151, 9007181, 9007182,9007184, 9007187, 9007194

Secondary Sources:-
K H Connell The Population of Ireland 1750-1845
T Coleman "Passage to America" R J Dickson "Ulster Emigration to Colonial America 1718-1775"
A Schrier "Ireland and the American Emigration 1850-1900 W D Griffin "A Portrait of the Irish in America" Academy Press Dublin.