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I am looking for information on Hugh and Margaret Donnelly who had at least one child, James Donnelly born 1830 who left Ireland for New Brunswick, Canada as a toddler around 1834. He may have gone with a sister but I haven't found anything about that.

I'd also love to know what was going on at that time to make such a dangerous trip. Thank you - Bridget Russo




Friday 5th Feb 2021, 11:42PM

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  • You ask why your ancestors might have left Ireland. I am sure they left for the same reasons that millions did. To find work, or better paid work. Ireland has very few natural resources (no oil, coal, iron ore etc) and so did not benefit from the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the way Scotland, England, the US, Canada & Australia did, which created hundreds of thousands of comparatively well-paid new jobs in new industries (coal mining, steel making, railways, ship building etc). So that was a big pull factor. There had also been a huge population explosion in Ireland going up from about 3 million people in 1750 to 8 million in 1830. There simply weren’t jobs for all those people. In much of Ireland the only employment was subsistence farming topped up in Ulster and one or two other areas with a bit of linen weaving. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back, along came the famine, numerous times throughout the 1800s. The worst period was when the potato crop failed almost completely 3 years in a row in the late 1840s, and then partially several more years after that. 

    There was a massive tide of migration all through that century. Approximately 8 million people left Ireland between 1801 and 1920 - the equivalent of the entire pre-Famine population. The population today is only around 6 million.

    Other factors encouraged emigration, eg early mechanisation on farms. With new machines to turn the soil and plant seed, farmers no longer needed an army of agricultural labourers to help on the farm. So those jobs were rapidly disappearing. Likewise mechanisation had led to linen factories being set up in places like Belfast. These made home weaving uneconomic and so also upset the labourer’s family economy. Agriculture was the biggest single employer in Ireland, but it was mostly a barter economy. Few people had any ready cash save what they could make from weaving or any government sponsored work such as building new roads. So when the opportunity arose to get jobs with a regular wage packet, as opposed to a few pence from your father each week, the decision to migrate wasn’t really all that hard to make. So it was as much about economic betterment as anything. 




    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 6th Feb 2021, 09:23AM
  • Bridget:

    Elwyn provide dyou with a very good history overvew of Ireland in the first part of the 19th century.

    Co. Donegal is probably the most difficult county to research at least in the first half of the 1800s. There are very few RC parishes that have any records prior to 1850. I did a search on the subscription site Roots Ireland but could not find a baptismal record for James Donnelly.

    Donnelly was not a common surname in Co. Donegal. Looking at land records from 1857, the majority of Donnelly households were in north central Donegal in two civil parishes: Aughnish and Tullyfern.

    You may want to consider DNA testing and see if you have matches with others with Donnelly connections.

    Roger McDonnell

    Castlemore Roscommon, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 6th Feb 2021, 02:07PM
  • Elwyn - Thank you so very much for the history. I knew when the potato famine started which is why I didn't understand taking the risk with a 4 year old but had no idea the population increased that much.            





    Sunday 7th Feb 2021, 01:22AM
  • Roger - My 23&me, done a few years ago, is on Gedmatch #DC6221205. My Gedmatch # is 3471553.

    It took me years to track my great grandfather to St. John's, New Brunswick, Canada. Two years ago my husband and I drove to there from Boston, MA -!d went to their genealogy library and found the workhouse he was in and drove to it. The stories of the Death Ships broke my heart. I needed to know where he came from in Ireland but the records were before 1850 and they were destroyed in a fire they had at that time. I have his parents marriage records, Hugh Donnelly and Margaret Conway.   Ancestry sent me to Ulster - Tyrone, 23&me sent me to Donnegal.   That being said, Hugh Donnelly was born 1795 in Armagh County so who knows. Just thought I'd ask for help. Thank you for the information you gave.




    Sunday 7th Feb 2021, 02:45AM

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