Research from both sides of the Atlantic focuses on Tulla town molded by the experience of mass immigration.

A new online exhibition, “Epic Journeys Ellis Island,” the result of extensive research, has been launched from Tulla, County Clare. The exhibit tells the stories of 71 residents from the small town who left Ireland at the turn of the 19th century and arrived in New York, bound for a new life.

The exhibition is the result of a research project undertaken by Ireland Reaching Out with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as part of the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme. It’s hoped that exhibitions and research at this kind of parish level can be carried out across the country.

The community of Tulla, County Clare, was chosen as the pilot parish for this project. As the site explains “In the mid-1800s it was a market town with a population of over 9,000. Today it is a small community with under 1000 residents. The bulk of its people left in a wave of mass emigration in the wake of the Great Famine (1845-1850), or died from disease and hunger as a result of extreme poverty. An Gorta Mór changed the landscape of the community forever.”

It continues “Records show that the vast majority of people from Tulla who passed through Ellis Island never returned to Ireland, and many never saw their families again.

The 71 stories researched as part of Epic Journeys are highlighted in this exhibition, reflecting the lives of those emigrants and their descendants. The prevailing sense of place, and connection to Ireland, has never been forgotten.”

People on both sides of the Atlantic were involved in the research for these stories delving into genealogical and local historic resources. The two main sources of information were the works of Tom McDowell which lists over 900 people who left the parish of Tulla, passing through the Ellis Island Immigration Station and the Ellis Island Passenger Manifests.

The findings of the study into Tulla’s history was at the local courthouse on August 28 at the “Epic Journeys Ellis Island” exhibition. The exhibition was hosted as part of the Tulla Reaching Out Weekend of Welcomes, an annual festival which celebrates local heritage and welcomes Diaspora back into the parish as a central part of that celebration.

Speaking at the launch of Epic Journeys Mike Feerick, Chairperson of Ireland Reaching Out said “The experience of emigration through Ellis Island is part of the heritage of every Irish parish. This exhibition, shining a light on stories of people from County Clare, leaves us with immense admiration for the mammoth journey they undertook. These stories need to be told and the Tulla community have presented a sparkling template of how this should be done.”

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