New collections from Washington DC reveal more about Irish immigrants

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Findmypast has recently added three new collections from Washington DC, covering births, marriages and deaths from 1830-1964. The capital of the United States since 1790, these records can provide valuable information to family historians. Although the district did not officially begin collecting this information until 1874, many other records exist that allow for the earlier years to be well documented.

With commonly Irish neighborhoods, including Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Swampoodle, there are thousands of Irish Americans that have made DC their home. Ranging from the upper middle class to some of the poorest laborers in the area, these neighborhoods were the hubs of activity for the Irish; both the recent additions fresh off the boat, and those that had seen more than one generation of their family in the country.

Swampoodle became a refuge of sorts for Irish emigrants arriving during the Great Famine. Although it gained a reputation for crime, prostitution, and drunkenness, it was still a thriving community. The numerous Irish construction workers who called the area home are credited for helping to build what we know today as Washington D.C. At the time, it was on the edge of the city, and many households were able to keep livestock in the alleys, and this practice continued through the early 20th century. The demise of the community was not in the over-crowding or disease outbreaks that plagued it, but in the construction of Union Station in 1907, which demolished the core of Swampoodle, centered on Jackson’s Alley. The last remaining landmark standing that truly embodies the heart of the once Irish community is Gonzaga College High School and the adjoined St. Aloysius Church. The Roman Catholic Church was constructed in 1859 and catered to the Irish Catholic community surrounding its walls.

The contribution of Irish American’s to the history of Washington DC as well as to the United States cannot be doubted. This is being recognized in an ongoing effort to build The Irish American Museum of Washington, DC, which currently has an online exhibit available.

Locating your ancestor in the sea of Irish Americans that fill our nation’s Capital becomes easier with the addition of these records to Findmypast. Combine these with the U.S. & World newspaper collection, and you have a potent combination for finding your Irish family in Washington DC.

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