Monday, October 28, 2013

Irish Immigrant Oral Histories

From time to time offer limited free access to certain databases, regardless of subscriber status. What is less well know is that they have a couple of hundred databases that are always free to access.[1]

One database of interest is New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976. This collection contains some 2,000 oral histories collected by the Ellis Island Oral History Program through the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Begun in 1973, the project aims to collect first-hand information about immigrant experiences from everyday life in their country of origin, family history, reasons for coming to America, the journey to the port, experiences on the ship, arrival, processing at Ellis Island, and adjustment to life in the U.S. Most interviewees are chosen from submitted questionnaires, range in age from 46 to 106, though the average age is late eighties, and are from many countries.[2]

Of these 2000 interviews, about 60 are with Irish immigrants now living in the U.S. They come from all over the 32 counties; places such as Tuam, Galway; Dublin; Urlingford, Kilkenny; Newry, Down; Newcastle, Limerick; and Bundoran, Donegal. Most were born between 1890 and 1930. It is a wonderful archive. The interviews provide an insight into early 20th century Ireland and how these immigrants adjusted to their new lives in the U.S.

You can access the database here (you will need to register for free to listen to the oral histories). As an aside, here is a 2011 listing of free Ancestry databases. Hat tip to the Ancestry Insider.

[1] Registration is usually required and you may be offered a free trial.
[2] 2010. About New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976. Available at: accessed 6 August 2013.

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