Where Did the Irish Immigrants Settle in America?

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Most Irish immigrants who made their way to America settled in cities along the Eastern seaboard. After 1846, when almost all of the people leaving Ireland were rural Catholics fleeing the effects of the Great Potato Famine, Boston and New York received them in the greatest numbers.

During the 1840s, around half of the immigrants arriving in the United States came from Ireland. According to the 1890 census, 483,000 Irish lived in the state of New York, with 190,000 living in New York City, while 260,000 Irish settled in Massachusetts. Chicago’s 1890 population of 79,000 Irish attests to the westward movement of the population.

A smaller wave of protestant Scots-Irish, who were Scottish settlers who had been given land to farm in the northern parts of Ireland, had immigrated to America during the 1700s. They settled in more rural areas of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Carolina.

Altogether, more than 34 million Americans report Irish ancestry. The high populations of Irish-Americans who live in many East Coast communities reflect the legacy of these early settlers. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2012, around 24 percent of the population of Boston is of Irish ancestry, while more than 45 percent of the people living in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, New York claim descent from Irish immigrants.