immigration irish Paper
Like most of the Irish, Kearney's family probably lived as farmers on a tiny farm they didn't own. Potatoes were grown because they took so little land and they grew well in the moist soil of Ireland.Potatoes were probably the main food of the Kearney family. Therefore, when the potato blight hit, the family probably had as little food to eat as the rest of the Irish. The famine lasted over 10 years. The worst years were from 1840 to 1850, when over a million in Ireland died of starvation. It was in 1840 that 12 year old Martin and his family left County Mayo, Ireland for a better life.
Travel to America at that time was horrifying. Many sailed in coffin ships or fever ships. They were called that because a lot of ships weren't seaworthy, and typhoid fever and other diseases killed man passengers. The ships were cargo ships, not passenger ships. The conditions were filthy. The food was disgusting. Passengers were crowded below deck, and there wasn't enough water to wash. The trip often took 3 months. The conditions on some ships have been compared to those of slave ships.
When they arrived in America the Irish immigrants were treated very harshly. So many Irish arrived during the famine years that America couldn't absorb them. They were a different religion. They were unskilled in labor. They tended to remain in the large Eastern cities. They lived in slums, the poorest are of the cities. They were hired for only the lowest jobs. The men worked as unskilled laborers building railroads and canals and working in the coal mines. The women were hired as maids. But even so, many advertisements for jobs said things like, "Wanted: A woman for a maid. Any color or religion but NO IRISH."
Kearney probably entered the United States in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We know he settled in Pittston, where the family remained for 3 and a half generations. Many Irish from County Mayo s