Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A new life in Boston

In the early 1800s, the Irish began to migrate to the North End of Boston in huge numbers. They dominated the neighborhood until approximately 1900.

Our very own Patrick Tierney (1841-1900) emigrated from County Tipperary to Buffalo, New York. He arrived there on April 10, 1858. (This information is recorded on his application to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.)

Patrick was a young 17 years of age when he arrived in Buffalo. He must have arrived soon thereafter in Boston, but I have not yet found records to specify the date.

It is understandable that Patrick and other Irish immigrants would have chosen Boston as their final destination.

According to this website which explains much of the history of Boston's North End neighborhood:

...over the 40-year period, from 1815 to 1855, over 1 million Irish emigrated to America. Boston was a major destination, the North End neighborhood its poor haven. In an almost arithmetic progression: 2000 Irish were living in Boston in 1820, 5000 in 1825, 7000 in 1830, and between 1846 and 1855, 37,000 more Irish had fled Ireland for Boston. In 1847 alone 13,235 Irish emigrated to Boston. This was the year known as "Black 47" and was the most deadly year of Ireland's Great Potato Famine or, as it was called in Gaelic, An Górta Mor or The Great Hunger.

Arriving in Boston, many Irish immigrants initially settled in the North End and along its waterfront - impoverished and in despair. Disease became so endemic to the overcrowded neighborhood that by 1845 the neighborhood suffered a communicable disease rate twice that of the rest of Boston. "Children in the Irish district [North End]," wrote Bostonian Lemuel Shattuck, "seemed literally born to die." By 1850, the Irish comprised over half of the North End population of 23,000 and five years later 14,000 of the 26,000 North Enders were Irish born. Families were packed together in one-room decrepit apartments and run-down boarding houses - all in a neighborhood comprising less than 70 acres traditionally used for housing (the remaining 30 acres comprised waterfront warehouses and wharves). Moreover, as Thomas H. O'Connor has written: "Native Bostonians might have been willing to send money and food to aid the starving Irish as long as they remained in Ireland, but they certainly didn't want them coming to America." Thus began the long saga of incessant suffering and discrimination.
This is a photo of Boston's North End today:

This was the world that Patrick Tierney entered into when he left the suffering of Ireland. And there's more...
Unlike the subsequent waves of immigrants that followed over the next half-century - the Portuguese, European Jews and the Italians - the Irish had neither the resources nor the competitive skills to adjust easily. Employment opportunities were limited and anti-Irish job discrimination was rampant: "No Irish Need Apply" signs seemed to be everywhere. The Irish were forced to take only the lowliest, most menial jobs - as domestics, laborers and unskilled factory workers. And most of these jobs were outside the North End. Much of the work force employed for Boston's land reclamation projects, such as the filling in of the City's Back Bay, were Irish laborers from the North End. They also helped build Boston's transit system and the bridges and highways to the suburbs.
Patrick Tierney, my great-great-grandfather, was one of those hard-working Irishmen. This is what his resume might have looked like:

Patrick Tierney
1874-1876 Laborer
1877-1881 Peddler (of tea and other items)
1884 Trader
1888-1891 Grocer
1897-1898 Laborer

We know the jobs that Patrick held because of various records that have listed his occupation: he and his wife's marriage license, his naturalization application, his children's birth records and several Boston city directories.

His must not have been an easy life, but his decision to immigrate to America allowed him the opportunity to find work, and to feed himself and his wife and family in a way that might not have been possible had he remained in Ireland.

Thanks for all your hard work, great-great-grandfather. You must not have felt much pride in yourself being a poor Irish laborer in Boston in the 19th century. But I'm proud to be your great-great-grandaughter and inspired by the story of your life.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails