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Immigration into Maryland in the mid-19th century

Immigrants enter the United States in 1902.
Immigrants enter the United States in 1902.
Creative Commons

The United States is a “nation of immigrants.” Since 1820, the federal government has required all incoming passenger vessels to provide a manifest giving at least the name and age of every passenger. These ship manifests have been microfilmed for all of the large East-coast ports (and many smaller ports nationwide) by the National Archives and Records Administration. These microfilmed manifests, including those for the port of Baltimore, are also available on

If you locate an inhabitant of Maryland who was born in another country, it may be your first instinct to search for that immigrant in the Baltimore ship manifests. You may find that the immigrant did not actually arrive in Baltimore, however.

Between about 1845 and about 1870, a millions of Irish immigrants entered the United States, fleeing the Great Famine. These families entered through all of the ports on the East Coast, including those Canada, and settled throughout the country. A simple search of the 1860 U. S. Census reports almost 25 thousand people born in Ireland living in Maryland.

The mines in Allegany County drew quite a few Irish immigrants to settle in the Lonaconing, Frostburg, and Cumberland areas. Over 1,500 Irish-born people lived in Allegany County in 1860.

I have recently researched several different Irish families in Allegany County. The men in these families worked in mines throughout the area. They generally attended Catholic churches in the area, including St. Michael’s, St. Mary of the Annunciation, and St. Patrick’s.

But none of these particular families entered the United States through the port of Baltimore. Instead they were located on passenger lists entering the port of New York. They must have been attracted to settle in western Maryland by the prospect of employment in the mines. Coming from a nation in dire poverty, any opportunity for work was an answer to their prayers.

Not all of the Irish-born residents of Maryland entered through the port of Baltimore. When searching for your Irish ancestors, do not neglect the other ports. You may find them somewhere else.


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