Irish Heritage

To define who is ‘Irish’, it is thought that the Irish are an ethnic group whose ancestors originally lived on the island of Ireland and most of the Celtic and Gaelic people. Now today and for some years back there are two parts to that island – The Republic of Ireland (an independent nation) and ‘Northern Ireland’ is part of the United Kingdom (Great Britain), just like Scotland and Wales are part of Great Britain.

For thousands of years the people living on this island developed a common identity, language and culture (music, sports, clothing, foods and dance). The earlier language was Irish (Gaeilge) but English is more commonly used. Today, counting the entire island there are just under 7 million people. However, since many Irish individuals from years ago immigrated to other lands, it can be figured that 60 to 80 million people in the world have Irish ancestors, most found in the United States. Many settled in Boston and New York. Those who moved to England settled in large numbers in Liverpool. In 2020 the most Irish American city is Pittsburgh, PA with 43,000 Irish ancestry. Other high numbers of Irish ancestry is found in Boston, Philadelphia, Louisville, KY and Buffalo, NY. The state with the highest Irish ancestry is New Hampshire with 20% of its residents claiming Irish ancestry.

An interesting aspect is the Irish were among the first group of people in Europe to use surnames, not just one given name.

One type of Irish was known as “Black Irish” has been in circulation among Irishemigrants and their descendants for centuries. The term is commonly used to describe people of Irishorigin who have dark features, blackhair, a dark complexion and dark eyes. However, there can be blue-blackhair, blue eyes, and pale white skin of Black Irish.

It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930. They worked at the menial and dangerous jobs that were often avoided by other workers. They worked in coal mines and built railroads and canals. Second- and third-generation Irish immigrants (children and grandchildren of those who had sailed to America) often took jobs as police officers, firefighters, and schoolteachers. These generations achieved higher levels of education, which allowed them to earn more money.

In the United States over the years, many well-known individuals claim Irish descent. There are 25 presidents with Irish origins. Also John Travolta, Patty Duke, Grace Kelly, Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, Gregory Peck, Georgia O’Keeffe, Neil Armstrong, Diamond Jim Brady, Walt Disney, Conan O’Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tom Brady to name a few.

See how much Irish heritage is on your family tree.

Photo: USA-Ireland

Related Blogs:

Researching Irish Ancestors

Northern Ireland

Irish Genealogy Toolbox

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