For such a small country, Ireland has a hugely disproportionate amount of descendants dispersed throughout the world. In particular, countries such as the United States, UK, Australia and mainland Europe have above average ratios of Irish descendants compared to other nationalities.
The Irish Diaspora is a term used to describe Irish emigrants and their descendants, who live in countries throughout the world. The name evolves from the Irish phrase, Diaspora na nGael, coined many decades ago by Irish Government officials to describe people of Irish nationality who resided outside Ireland. Under Irish law, they and their children, who although born abroad, are considered Irish citizens. This interpretation also includes grandchildren and great-grandchildren, assuming they fulfilled certain registration conditions with Irish diplomatic missions in the relevant country in which they were born.
Apart from the official parameters of what is considered the Irish Diaspora, the total amount of people worldwide who deem themselves to be of Irish descent varies in estimate from 80 to 110 million. This is a staggering figure and possibly reflects the inclusion of some people who are unsure of their ancestry and affiliate themselves to Ireland such is the popularity of the country, particularly in America.
Other countries who have sizeable populations of Irish descendants are Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean.
The main reason for such statistics is firstly the Great Famine of 1845-1950. Also known as the Great Hunger, or Irish Potato Famine, the failure of the potato crops together with British oppression of commerce and human rights, resulted in vast numbers of people being forced to leave Ireland, mainly destined for America.
Between those emigrating and those who died from starvation in Ireland, various historians and demographic experts reckon the population of Ireland fell from approximately 9 million in 1840 to 4.5million in 1851 estimate it.
This awful reduction in the population of the Island of Ireland was effectively partly genocide and partly forced migration.
It is difficult to exactly quantify how many emigrated out of that number, but it is reasonably accurate to say that almost three million left Ireland in that 11-year period. Many thousands died on the notorious ‘coffin ships’ that transported them to America.
Leaving aside (if indeed one can) the moral issues surrounding the events of that period and taking those figures as a starting point, it means that the Irish-Americans are the second largest ethnic grouping in the US after the Germanic-Americans, most of whom are Jewish.
The influence of the Irish who settled in all countries in the world is massive in relation to their number. They have risen to the offices in a variety of callings from politics and business to religion and academia. Their imprint is stamped on the history of many countries that the average person would not associate with Ireland.
Because of the terrible circumstances in which so many were forced to emigrate there is a deep longing in their descendants to identify their roots. It manifests itself in the huge number of American people who visit Ireland each year. They certainly do not come for the sun! Many come for the scenery and, more importantly, to track their links to Ireland.
We hope that the information contained here will assist those whose hearts belong to Ireland and who have a deep desire to trace their ancestors