MKA Blog Cunard SteamWhere did Kerry emigrants mostly go to?

We know that from the early 1800s, significant number of Irish had already settled in the cities of Liverpool and London as well as in the U.S, states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine as well as the Canadian settlements of Upper Canada.


Irish immigration to Britain took off in 1818 with the first seam packet service.  Very quickly more ships started ferrying passengers from both Dublin (North Wall) and Cork (Penrose Quay),  mainly to Liverpool where there was also the option for onward travel to North America.  Low fares to Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) as well as the possibility of linking up quickly with family members was one of the main reasons to choose this emigration location.  With competition on the seas, fares dropped to as low as 10d in steerage and 3rd on deck..[1]Unfortunately no records or passenger lists were kept either at the point of departure or arrival for crossings of the Irish sea.


Yes emigration to Canada was one of the most popular destinations chosen by Kerry people particularly in the early 19th century.  We know that between 1823-1825 a large group of North Kerry as well as Cahirciveen and Sneem small tenant farmers left for Ontario under the Peter Robinson scheme.  This group set up set up a system of chain migration, bringing out other relatives and friends from their immediate Kerry townlands.    From 1818 we then had a vibrant timber trade between Canadian ports and in particular between Quebec and Tralee.   This gave the Kerry emigrant an opportunity to travel at a more affordable rate on the return journey and of course, from a more accessible location than the other Irish ports.   See the full list of ships from the Port of Tralee 1828-1867.   It is important to stress here, that though the Kerry emigrant took this option, a large proportion of them then crossed over the border immediately on arrival into the northern states of the U.S. Canadian sources


From 1846, emigration to America became the preferred option.  We can see from the list of ships that travelled from the Port of Tralee, from 1846 the change in the ports of arrival.  Now, these ports became predominantly  New York, North America with a few going to Baltimore or New Orleans.   We can also see as the ship sizes grew larger, the passenger numbers flocking to Blennerville grew to  – 300 -400 per sailing.  Tralee would have been the natural point of departure for all Kerry families and where we have the passenger lists this is very obvious – father, mother , children all emigrating together.  However, once the trains came to Tralee in 1857, this point of departure changed.  It was now possible to travel to Cork and to leave from Cove (sic) or Queenstown as it was also known. Larger steamships from the bigger companies were advertising and attracting customers with their promises of ‘superior accommodation’ for steerage passengers and a ‘full supply of cooked Provisions, served up by the company’s Stewards’  as well as reduced travel time.   Passenger & Immigration Lists

Departures from Tralee (Blennerville) ceased in 1867.

Australia & New Zealand

Although Australia and New Zealand were the most difficult places for Kerry people to emigrate to in the 1800s, being resourceful and intrepid, they travelled and settled there but not in large numbers during the 1800s.  The dire economic conditions at home as well as the possibility of assisted passages and the prospect of one day owning your own land, rather being a tenant forever, drew able bodied single people in the main, but also some families.    Assisted passages  were viewed by  officials as an alternative to providing poor relief for able-bodied, unemployed workers and for the starving masses during the famine. After 1840, colonies such as New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to attract needed immigrants.  Ships Passenger Lists., and a good all round site

If your Kerry ancestor did not have the luxury of being able to choose his departure date or location, he could well have been one of the many convicts who were transported to New South Wales or Tasmania.   There is an Ireland-Australia transportation database available through the National Archives of Ireland here.