19th century Irish immigrants to the United States did not always remain in America. Many made the journey across the Atlantic ocean on more than one occasion.
I explored this idea in a previous blog post, Did Irish Immigrants In America Ever Return To Their Homeland?
Two of my own great-grandfathers traveled to America in the 1870’s, only to return to Ireland.
Table of Contents
Irish American Immigrant Tale
A reader of Irish American Mom concurred with my story. Her ancestors traveled first to New Zealand, before they arrived in the United States via Ireland.
Here’s their story…
Travels to New Zealand
My great-great-grandparents, John and Eliza, did a great deal of emigrating and re-immigrating to Ireland. Their first trip was in 1865 when they boarded the ship Berar.
There was a journal of this trip, and I learned in that journal that many of the Irish were not seeking a new homeland but just a way to make ends meet, or perhaps make a small fortune until they could return to Ireland.
According to this journal many of the Scottish were saying similar things, even after spending three and a half months on an ocean voyage, from London to Wellington, New Zealand.
My great-great grandmother had her first child on board the Berar, then they settled for about 18 months in Wellington, where their second child was born. Then they returned to Ireland by 1868.
Aboard the Castle Dover
The trip back to Ireland in 1867 was with an infant and a newborn baby of just 3 months old. They traveled from New Zealand via Australia on the ship, Castle Dover.
There was a man on that ship who created a “Dover News” every day for the passengers and then printed it and distributed it after he arrived in London.
The account shares stories of some very rough days at sea in which huge waves were hitting the ship, and the passenger areas were flooded with 3 to 4 feet of water.
The passengers had to rescue their children and then bail like crazy to survive. One man was so frightened he sent a letter in a bottle saying he knew they would not survive and to please take care of his wife and family and debts. The message was found many months later.
Even after this harrowing experience, my ancestors still traveled to America, not once, but twice!
Onwards To America
Upon returning to Ireland two more children were born before deciding to immigrate to America in1872. John took his mother Bridget to America with them. Her husband had died and she wanted to see her son Thomas again who lived in Providence, Rhode Island.
They arrived in New York with their youngest infant very ill. He died a few weeks later in Providence, Rhode Island.
After his death, they waited until their next daughter was born in Providence in 1874, and then boarded a ship and returned to Ireland.
Another thing I learned from the New Zealand journal was after you had made that voyage, the voyage to America seemed like just a small jaunt.
They resettled back into their old home in the Burren in County Clare, where my great grandfather was a herder.
Family Successes in America
They remained there until 1888 when they took their remaining children at home (some had left home by this time and gone back to America) and made their final journey to America.
Both my great great grandparents are buried in Newport, Rhode Island. Their children remained in America, several children going to NYC to make a living.
Their son Thomas had a daughter who became the first actress to sing and dance in a talkie movie. Her name was Anne Veronica Lahiff. She went by the stage name, Nancy Carroll.
Another son William went to NYC and worked for the Waldorf, until he saved enough money to open Lahiff’s Tavern just off Broadway, a restaurant that catered to the Broadway stars.
His tavern was raided several times during Prohibition, but he claimed he only served “near beer.”
Many thanks to Jan for sharing her family story and all her wonderful images that help illustrate her family tale so beautifully.
Her great-great-grandparents were tenacious people, who did not fear the high seas and arduous ship journeys around the world to survive and thrive.
If you would like to share your family’s Irish American immigrant tale, please check out this submission form.
I believe it’s vital we record the Irish American experience. Here in this little corner of the internet, we have an opprotunity to create and record our own social history.
Check out the form above – the questions were devised to help you create a story. Plus you can save your progress until you’re ready to submit it.
Thanks so much for reading our immigrant tales.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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