Click on any of the markers or lines on the map above to see the journeys of many who made their way to North Adams from Ireland in the second half of the 1800s.  Many of the Irish who were traveling to North Adams first immigrated to Canada by way of lumber ships.  Leaving Europe on ships bound for Canada was often cheaper than sailing to America and during the Potato Famine in the 1840s many Irish people had little to no money.  Once in Canada some decided to stay, most landed in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, or Quebec City. Thousands of Irish however, sailed to Boston or other ports along the Northeastern coast of America.  The men, women and children, who could not find transportation to America decided their best chance was to walk across the border.  In a journey that would take roughly 10 hours by car, the Irish walked nearly 600 miles to North Adams which took anywhere from a few weeks to a month.[1]

Today it is hard to tell exactly how many Irish immigrants came over land and sea.  While there are figures showing those who sailed directly from Ireland to America, mostly by way of Ellis Island which did not open until 1892, those that took a less direct route are not counted in those figures.[2]  Some Irish immigrants traveled through Britain and left from English ports. Some records may show that the passengers were originally from Ireland, but not all do. Additionally, during the 1800s the border between the US and Canada was far more fluid than today. Irish immigrants who walked across the border and into the United States by way of Maine and New England states would not have been included in immigration numbers, as it was not until the early 1900s that land migrations were really recorded. One estimate states that anywhere from  1/4 to 1/7 of all Irish Immigrants into America would have gone unrecorded. In essence, the true number of Irish immigrants that made the perilous Atlantic crossing to begin new lives in North America can never really be known.[3]



This is a timeline documenting major events, dates, and people of the Irish Immigration Story to North Adams and the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

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[1] Phil Pugliese, “Irish Fled Famine in Old Country for New World and Hope,” The North Adams Transcript, March 17, 1987.

[2] “Ellis Island History.” Ellis Island History- The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. Accessed November 24, 2017.

[3] Patrick O’Sullivan, The Irish in the New Communities (London: Leicester University Press, 1997).