The Irish in Connecticut: From the Emerald Isle to the Land of Steady Habits


Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans have a long and storied history in Connecticut.  They have been involved in the settlement, defense, and development of our state since well before the Revolutionary War. The Irish experience has had a profound impact on Connecticut's past, and its narrative spans all periods of the state's history and touches every one of its eight counties and 169 towns ... [ more ]

Colonial and Revolutionary Periods (1620-1800)

Early Arrivals

While the number of Irish colonists who came to Connecticut during the seventeenth and eighteenth century cannot be established with exactitude, it can be said that the value remained relatively small until circa 1820. That being said, however, the Irish were among those who were first to settle the area in the decades following the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ... [ more ]


While a number of the Irish immigrants who could be found in Connecticut during the seventeenth century came as adventurers or soldiers – such as many of those mentioned above – a far greater percentage came as refugees or enslaved laborers forced from their homes due to the political environment resultant of the Irish Uprising of 1641 ... [ more ]

Famine and Flight

Although many of the Irish who arrived in Connecticut during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did so under the forms of duress already outlined, this was not the case for all new arrivals. Many others came as a result of the harsh conditions that gripped Ireland for decades following the Cromwellian occupation of the country ... [ more ]

Religion in the Colonial Period

During the eighteenth century, as the number of Irish immigrants increased in number, discernable migration patterns began to emerge. The Protestants among the new arrivals tended to settle in the Southern and Middle Atlantic states, while Catholics largely gravitated towards Maryland and New England. This did not mean, however ... [ more ]

Post-Revolutionary Migration and Community Development (1800-1845)

The Seeds of Industrial Revolution

The trickle of transplants from Ireland to Connecticut during the eighteenth century continued its slow but consistent pace following America's successful bid for independence from Britain. Those who found themselves in the state in this period entered a world in the midst of significant economic and demographic shifts ... [ more ]

Catholicism in Connecticut after the Revolution

Catholicism occupies a significant role in the process of conveying the story of the Irish-American experience in Connecticut, this for a variety of reasons. Foremost among them is the fact that the majority of Irish immigrants were practicing Catholics who had no intention of abandoning their faith as part of their transatlantic voyage. While many of the Protestant Irish were generally able to blend into the religious environments already established in Connecticut ... [ more ]

Famine, Flight, and Social Change in Connecticut (1845-1880)

The Irish Famine of 1845-52

A census taken in 1841 placed the total population of Ireland at 8,175,125. Historian Neil Hogan notes that at that time, the majority of the country's six million peasants and farmers lived in abject poverty and a state of almost constant suffering. Hogan cites an 1845 study completed on the order of British Prime Minister Robert Peel, which sought to identify ways to rejuvenate the stagnant Irish economy. Known as the Devan Commission ... [ more ]

The Immigration Boom

A census conducted in 1851 placed the population of Ireland at 6,552,385, a loss of 20 percent from the numbers gathered in 1841, and a drop of around 2 million from an estimated population of 8.5 million when the potato blight struck in 1845. Some 1 million persons are calculated to have perished during the famine, while another 1.8 million emigrated from the country between 1845 and 1854. The vast majority of the latter flooded across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and Canada ... [ more ]

Employment for the Irish

These new arrivals found employment in an assortment of arrangements as diverse as the communities in which they made their new homes. As has been previously outlined, a large percentage of Irish immigrants found work as unskilled laborers providing the backbreaking and low-cost manpower needed to construct new infrastructure projects such as canals, roads, railroads, bridges, and dams that sprouted up throughout the state during the 1840s and 1850s ... [ more ]

Proliferation of the Catholic Church

As the number of Irish-born residents throughout the state of Connecticut exploded between 1840 and the 1870s, it is unsurprising to see that the number of Catholic parishes and churches likewise increased at a rapid rate. As noted, by 1844 the number of Catholic parishioners in the state had reached a total of 4,817, the majority of them being Irish-born, and the first Catholic churches built to serve them were primarily located in ... [ more ]

Social Conditions

The presence of increasing numbers of Irish immigrants caused notable friction in many areas of Connecticut during the course of the nineteenth century. This was the fault of both native and immigrant parties and can be contributed to a variety of factors including the nativist tendencies of some locals, the fears held by many New Englanders regarding Catholicism, and the comfort newly-arrived immigrants gained from retaining long held customs rather than assimilate. Hogan writes of the two parties ... [ more ]

Fraternal Organizations and Celebration

The local militias were not the only avenue for the Irish to congregate and socialize with their fellow countrymen and women. A bevy of other organizations were established throughout the state during the nineteenth century, these occupying a variety of niches ranging from social welfare and cultural pride, to sporting and leisure activities. Among the earliest were the state's first Catholic total abstinence society, organized in Hartford in 1841, and New Haven's first Irish social organization, the Hibernian Provident Society, founded in that city in 1842. As Hogan notes ... [ more ]

Defending an Adopted Nation

One of the most significant aspects of the Irish-American experience during the nineteenth century followed the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. While many Irish social organizations sought to emphasize patriotism and downplay ethnicity through their choice of title or the character of the events they hosted, other Connecticut residents went countless steps further by volunteering for military service when ... [ more ]

Assimilation and Continuation of the Ethnic (1880-Present)

The Second Generation and Beyond

Irish immigration into the United States continued at a steady pace in the decades following the American Civil War; however, the flow of arrivals from the Emerald Isle was slowly eclipsed by the numbers of other groups from Great Britain, such as the English, Welsh, and Scots, and an increasing stream of transplants from Germany and Scandinavia between 1860 and 1890. In 1860 the Irish comprised ... [ more ]

Preserving Connecticut’s Irish Culture

Stories similar to these are interspersed throughout local histories and in many cases, such as Farrell's Rock Ledge, they provide a tangible tie to the history of the Irish-American experience in Connecticut from the Colonial period through to the present day. Irish immigration to Connecticut continues during the 21st century and, as in the past, many of these transplants... [ more ]



This article contains the footnote references for this section of the website ... [ more ]

Selected Bibliography

This article contains a selected bibliography for this section of the website ... [ more ]

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