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The Irish diaspora, now estimated to be in the range of 80 million, is one of the largest in the world. How this global Irish community grew in places so remote from this tiny emerald isle was in no small part connected to the sea, courage and hope. 

Here we explore the collective story of how the Irish who took the boat (and their descendants) survived and thrived in various countries around the world.

Ireland's Diaspora – They Took The Boat


So much of our Irish history is punctuated with "they took the boat", having little information on what became of them after emigrating. Describing separation by emigration was a painful subject for those left behind and to say a loved one took the boat somehow carried with it the hope that they would return one day again.  

This idiom originated from the Irish Gaelic phrase "Thug sé an bád bán air féin" (lit. He took the white boat upon himself ... took on the white boat). In contrast to the black currach fishing boats, the big white passenger ships symbolised emigration for the Irish. And with the Irish speaking-districts along the Wild Atlantic Way suffering the greatest loss to emigration, "to take the boat" soon translated into the way we say "to emigrate" in English as well.

Surviving a long arduous journey under poor conditions (the cheapest passenger accommodation available) was the first challenge to overcome. Surviving the heartbreak of leaving their homeland behind forever would have lasted a lifetime.

Chronicles Insight – Ships & Steerage 

Chronicles Insight - Ships & Steerage

Connecting with the survival story of those who emigrated is key to us all understanding our collective Irish history and heritage. IrelandXO is reaching out in the hope that the descendants of our emigrant deoraí (lit. the tearful) will bring home the memory of their ancestors and with the help of our local volunteers discover and reconnect with their place of origin. 

IrelandXO Insight – Transatlantic Crossings 

Transatlantic Crossings


Here at Ireland Reaching Out, we are reconnecting those people, their stories and their descendants with the very place they left behind. 

We invite you to share your ancestor's story with whatever clues you have (about where or who they were connected to) so that we can help you find your way home. With your help, sharing where they went and when they took that boat helps connect the dots for other researchers too.

For inspiration, here is a selection of insights and stories about reconnecting from across the water, wherever you may be today. 

Click on the LINKS and IMAGES below to discover more...


The Irish in Africa 

Africa - The Irish in Africa

Ancestors Roll-call for AFRICA


The Irish in India  

Irish in India

Ancestors Roll-call for ASIA


The Irish in Australia

Where the Irish Settled in Australia

Australia in Focus

Earl Grey's Orphan Girls or earl-grey-assisted-emigration-scheme

Ancestors Roll-call for AUSTRALIA


The Irish in Liverpool 

Irish in Liverpool

​The Irish in Scotland 

The Irish in Scotland

Coming soon: The Irish in Wales

Ancestors Roll-call for BRITAIN 


Irish Immigration to Canada

Ancestors Roll-call for CANADA


The Irish in New Zealand 

Irish in New Zealand

Ancestors Roll-call for NEW ZEALAND


History of Irish in America 

The Ordeal of a Connemara Family

​​Ellis Island

Reconnecting from Boston

Reconnecting from Milwaukee

Reconnecting from Chicago | Also "Ireland Reaching Out to the Mid-West"

From Connemara to Minnesota

The Irish in New York 

The Irish in New york

Ancestors Roll-call for USA


Coming soon: The Irish in the Caribbean

(For Canada see above)


The Irish in Argentina 

The Irish in Argentina

Ancestors Roll-call for SOUTH AMERICA

Where's MY Hub?

Can't find your Diaspora Hub mentioned here (yet)?

This list is constantly being updated so please keep checking in and, in the meantime, give your place a shout-out by contributing your own ancestor's story by clicking the link below...

Add your ancestor



HOW TO Add your Ancestor

We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

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