The Freeman’s Journal, January 1, 1846.

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The Great Famine was amongst the darkest periods in Ireland’s history. In the space of just a few years, roughly two million people were lost through either emigration or death, and Ireland’s politics and culture affected permanently.

We’ve delved into the newspaper collections on Findmypast to look at how some contemporary reports described the Great Famine from 1846 onwards.

The Freeman’s Journal reproduced a letter from 1845, the year the Famine began. The letter’s author expresses fears of ‘the probably failure of the potato crop’, and the solemn news that there are daily confirmations that this was indeed the case.

The Hull Packet appealed to readers to contribute money to those in Ireland who, in the journalist’s chilling words, were ‘actually dying from lack of food’. The writer laments those who would discuss the causes of the Famine rather than creating a strategy for resolving this vital issue. ‘While we deliberate,’ he wrote ‘the Irish are dying.’


The issue of emigration was a grave cause for concern, as reported by the Dublin Evening Mail in 1849. Within two years, this piece states, Ireland had lost half a million people, and nothing was being done to staunch the flow. In the end, a million would leave within seven years.

You can find thousands of newspaper reports on the Great Famine, alongside centuries of Irish history, in the historical newspaper collections on Findmypast.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.