Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “” In this blog article – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day – Gena writes about GenealogyBank’s online Irish American Newspaper Archives.
When doing genealogy research, ethnic newspapers are an important component to your overall newspaper research strategy. Why? They cover the issues and information important to that community. Ethnic newspapers aren’t restricted to just a single city or region. They cover people in the larger community in ways not found in local newspapers.
GenealogyBank’s Irish American Newspaper Archives include eight New York Irish American newspapers spanning 1810 to the present day. Let’s take a look at three of the newspapers in this collection and see what types of articles you can expect to find.
No doubt that “Shamrock” seems like a fitting name for an Irish American newspaper. Sometimes it can be beneficial to conduct a Google search on a newspaper title to learn more about its history. I found this 1902 blurb in The American Catholic Historical Researches available on Google Books:
The Library of Congress has in its Periodical Division, The Shamrock, published by Edward Gillesphy and Thomas O’Connor in New York. It begins with Volume 1, No. 1, June 18, 1814 and runs to August 16, 1817. It was the successor of The Shamrock or Hibernian Chronicle, December 15, 1810 to June 5, 1813. In The Shamrock may be had the list of passengers arriving at New York and Philadelphia from Ireland. These are historically valuable.*
The Shamrock did indeed devote space to passenger lists in its pages. This 1817 list includes every passenger’s name as well as a symbol to indicate child passengers. What a great source for finding early female immigrant ancestors and their children.
American Irish Weekly (1849-1914)
The American Irish Weekly in 1872 had a circulation of 25,000 papers a week. It was one of 4,750 weekly newspapers in the United States, and one of 604 weeklies in New York state during this time period.** Founded in 1849, it:
became the most popular publication of its kind in the city during the 1850s and 1860s… The newspaper was successful partly because it endorsed a moderate brand of Irish nationalism and thus maintained an uneasy truce with the Catholic Church.***
While doing your family history research in old newspapers, don’t forget that your ancestors’ names can be found in the classifieds and legal notices. It’s easy to overlook these dense back pages but they hold important information.
Legal advertisements in the form of probate notices include the name of the deceased and the administrator as well as possible heirs.
Classified advertisements might provide ideas about where your ancestor shopped, or – if your ancestor was a merchant – you might be able to document their work life by finding an advertisement about their business.
Irish World (1890-1905)
There’s no doubt that the Irish World was a popular newspaper for its time. “The largest, most influential and widely circulated Irish journal published” had a weekly circulation of 125,000 newspapers. An advertisement for the newspaper found in the 1893 Remington Brothers’ Newspaper Manual, A Catalogue of the Newspapers of United States and Canada includes a full page with accolades from its admirers, including a long-deceased President James A. Garfield, who is quoted as saying: “the enterprise and patriotism exhibited in The Irish World are worthy of the highest commendation.”****
Because ethnic newspapers serve a larger community outside of just a city or county, you can often find news of an ancestor in a newspaper published far from where they lived. Take this 1894 example of a page in the Irish World titled “News from All Parts of the United States.” This newspaper article has reports of deaths from all over the United States including this heartbreaking one from Washington D.C.
Mary L. Keefe, the 13-year-old child of Mr. Martin Keefe of 1232 Potomac avenue, fell from the steps of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, May 27, and struck her head on the pavement with such force that she died in a few minutes.
Along with death notices, there are other notices in these Irish American newspapers that are a treasure trove of names. This article lists the men on the Executive Committee of the Young Men’s Institute Day in San Francisco.
Genealogy Tip: While it’s an important technique to sometimes narrow a search by place, don’t always limit your searches to just those newspapers from a specific location. Remember to also broaden your search by sometimes not indicating any location at all. You should always conduct multiple searches using various search parameters.
Have you looked for your Irish ancestors in Irish American newspapers? Now’s a good time to get started. We’d love to hear about your successes in the comments section below.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
* The American Catholic Historical Researches. https://books.google.com/books?id=m7c7AQAAMAAJ&lpg=RA1-PA184&ots=0R9mO7XW7&dq=the%20shamrock%20or%20hibernian%20chronicle&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q=the%20shamrock%20or%20hibernian%20chronicle&f=false, p. 184.
**Geo. P. Rowell & Co’s American Newspaper Directory. New York: Geo. P. Rowell & Co. 1872. Available via Google Books. https://books.google.com/books?id=b2ADAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22Irish%20american%20weekly%22%20new%20york&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q=%22Irish%20american%20weekly%22%20new%20york&f=false.
***Jackson, Kenneth T. The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.
****Remington Brothers’ Newspaper Manual, A Catalogue of The Newspapers of United States and Canada. Available via Google Books.
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