The National Archives Features Program on Irish Genealogy March 16
Press Release · Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Washington, DC

Damian Shiels to discuss The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America

Washington, DC. . . On Thursday, March 16, at 7 p.m., the National Archives welcomes author and historian Damian Shiels for the United States launch of his new book, The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America.  This special event, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater, and is free and open to the public.  Attendees should use the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW.  The building is Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.  Reservations are recommended and can be made online.  The event will stream live on YouTube.  

Dr. Michael Hussey, a National Archives archivist and historian, and Dr. David T. Gleeson, Professor of American History at Northumbria University and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, will co-moderate the discussion and audience Q&A.  A book signing will follow the program.  The book can be purchased from the National Archives Store for a 15% discount on the day of the program.  The National Archives Store will be the exclusive point of sale for The Forgotten Irish in the United States through May 1.  


On the eve of the American Civil War 1.6 million Irish-born people were living in the United States. The majority had emigrated to the major industrialized cities of the North; New York alone was home to more than 200,000 Irish, one in four of the total population. For this book, Shiels used the National Archives Civil War pension files, which often include birth,  baptismal and marriage certificates, medical records, and letters and private correspondence between family members. Many of these files contain  unparalleled and unique accounts of emigrants and relatives’ lives in both Ireland and America.

The treasure trove of material made available by the widows and dependent files comes, however, at a cost. In every instance, the file only exists due to the death of a soldier or sailor. Testimony in these files from fellow soldiers, widows, children, siblings and bereaved parents describe their deceased comrades, husbands, brothers and sons and often the circumstances in which they died, as well as the effect of the war on family members left behind.  The Civil War Widows' Pension Digitization Project at the National Archives helped make this invaluable resource available online, and each of the 35 stories in The Forgotten Irish uses at least one of the digitized files as its base.  The book is divided into the sections:  “Wives and Parents,” “Community and Society,” “A Life in Letters,” and, “A Death in Letters.”

Related Online Resources on Irish-American Genealogy

The Archives holds a wealth of material documenting the Irish-American experience, and highlights these resources online, in programs, and through traditional and social media.  

National Archives Text Message blogs:  “Irish American Heroes” and Ireland: The Easter Rising, 1916

Passenger records for those who arrived at the NY Port during the Irish Famine

Video: Civil War Widows' Pension Digitization Project at the National Archives

Kennedy Library:  John F. Kennedy and Ireland

This page was last reviewed on November 22, 2022.
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