Irish Population in New England

Irish Population in New England

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There are more Irish people in New England than there is in Ireland. Irish people didn't just appear one day in the United States, though. Most of them emigrated here from Ireland over 55 years ago. Four in five people you meet in New England are at least one-eighth part Irish. It is easy to tell that when the Irish people came here, they didn't come in small groups.
Ireland is a beautiful country in Europe, about the size of Maine. Today, Ireland is mostly populated with middle-class families. Irish is famous for its potatoes, but in 1845 a disease attacked the potato crops. The potatoes were what most of the Irish families lived on. They ate and sold potatoes in order to make a living, so when the potatoes stopped growing, people ran out of money. This is known as "The Great Potato Famine". It was so bad; people were actually starving to death. Two million people died. There was almost no help from the British government. Often people rebelled against the government, angered by its carelessness. Many people didn't want to leave their beloved country, afraid of change. With no food to eat, emigration seemed to be the only solution for most of the population. People often talked about "streets paved with gold" in a country called America. There was said to be many job opportunities in this new country. America seemed like the best choice to settle down and finally start a new life.
The decision to leave Ireland was a difficult one to make, but to avoid starvation many Irish families boarded ships and traveled to America. No Irish families could afford first or second class on the ships, so they were forced to travel steerage. Steerage was the lowest and least expensive class. All the steerage passengers were tightly huddled together with almost no room, wallowing in filth. Many passengers became seasick, but there was no fresh air to at least slightly calm the sickness. The stench was horrible. Both from people who hadn't bathed in weeks, and from the spreading sicknesses and diseases. In the worst ships, no bathrooms were available. So many people died during these voyages, they were often referred to as ‘coffin ships'. One ship called the Elizabeth boarded 276 Irish passengers. By the end of the trip, 44 of these passengers had died. When Irish immigrants finally arrived in America, they sang songs and celebrated that the voyage was finally over.

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