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Irish Timeline


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Many times it is interesting to study the history of a country or region in order to understand why an ancestor emigrated or even to find where his ancestors may have originated from. This file is a "timeline" or brief historical outline of Irish History. It may help you understand why your Irish ancestor left Ireland looking for better opportunities in the New World and also give hints as to where to find records of genealogy interest.

6,000 B.C.The first human settlements in Ireland, an island lying on the western fringe of Europe, were made relatively late in European prehistory, around 6000 BC. These were mostly Celtic people called Pretani or Cruithin. The arrived from Britain and settled mostly in east Ulster.

The Loiges, another branch of the Cruitin, live in the midlands.

600-150 B.C.Sometime between about 600 and 150 BC, other Celtic peoples from western Europe, who came to be known as GAELS, invaded Ireland and subdued the previous inhabitants. They spread from Antrim to Kerry. Erainn from Britain also settled in the south of Ireland and later conquered the rest of Ireland. The basic units of Gaelic society were the tuatha, or petty kingdoms, of which perhaps 150 existed in Ireland. The tuatha remained independent of one another, but they shared a common language, Gaelic, and a class of men called brehons, who were learned in customary law and helped to preserve throughout Ireland a remarkably uniform but archaic social system. One reason for the unique nature of Irish society was that the Romans, who transformed the Celtic societies of Britain and other societies on the Continent with their armies, roads, administrative system, and towns, never tried to conquer Ireland.
250 B.C.Laigin from Armorica in northwestern France arrived in southeast Ireland.
50 A.D.Gaeil or Goidets migrate from Europe to the Kenmare River in south Kerry and the Boyne estuary near Drogheda.
450 A.D.Another consequence of Ireland's isolation from Romanized Europe was the development of a distinctive Celtic type of Christianity. Saint Patrick introduced mainstream Latin Christianity into the country around the year 432 arriving at Tara in Meath. The system of bishops with territorial dioceses, modeled on the Roman Empire's administrative system, did not take secure root in Ireland at this time. While the autonomous tuath remained the basic unit of Gaelic secular society, the autonomous monastery became the basic unit of Celtic Christianity. During the 6th and 7th centuries the Irish monasteries were great centers of learning, sending out such missionaries as saints Columba and Columban to the rest of Europe. What was for most of Europe the Dark Ages was for Ireland the golden age. Religious art, such as the Ardagh Chalice and the Book of Kells and other illuminated manuscripts, flourished alongside secular, even pagan, artistic achievements, such as the Tara Brooch and the great Irish epic Tain Bo Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).
before 600 A.D.St. Brendan of Kerry is said to have sailed to North America (not proven).
795Vikings land near St. Columcille's monastery on Lambay Island.
800-850Norwegian Vikings plunder many Irish monasteries. In 845, Thorgils, king of the Norsemen in Ireland, is captured and killed by Maelseachlainn, king of Meath.
853Danish fleet defeats the Norwegians and takes possession of Dublin.
1014Irish defeat Norwegian and Danish forces at Clontarf.
1066William the Conqueror becomes King of England.
1169First Norman settlers arrive in County Wicklow, accompanied by 300 soldiers from southern Wales.
1169Invaders are repulsed by the Danes of Waterford.
1492Christopher Columbus sails to the New World, William Eris (or Ayers), a man from Galway, is reportedly amongst the crew. He is said to be one of the forty volunteers left behind in Hispaniola and apparently killed by Indians after Columbus' departure.
1550sBritish Queen Mary encourages English setllements in Ireland.
1598An Irish rebellion against the English began. Promised Spanish help did not arrive until 1601, too late to help.
1600The most determined resistance to reconquest came from the Gaelic chieftains of Ulster (the northeastern quarter of the island), led by Hugh O'Neill, 2d earl of Tyrone, at the end of Elizabeth's reign. In suppressing their rebellion between 1595 and 1603, English forces devastated the Ulster countryside. Once these chieftains had submitted, however, King James I of England was willing to let them live on their ancestral lands as English-style nobles, but not as petty kings within the old Gaelic social system. Dissatisfied with their new roles, the chieftains took ship to the Continent in 1607. This "flight of the earls" gave the English crown a pretext to confiscate their vast lands and sponsor scattered settlements of British Protestants throughout west and central Ulster (the Ulster Plantation). The crown's actions indirectly encouraged the much heavier unsponsored migration of Scots to the coastal counties of Down and Antrim. Land was sold to Scottish immigrants for six pence per acre. These settlements account for the existence in present-day Ulster of numerous Protestants (many of them Scottish Presbyterians) of all social classes. Elsewhere in modern Ireland, Protestantism has been confined to a small propertied elite, many of whose members were the beneficiaries of further confiscations a generation after the Ulster Plantation.
1641The pretext for these new confiscations was the rebellion of the Gaelic Irish in Ulster against the British settlers in 1641. Indeed, this rebellion triggered the English Civil War, which put an end to King Charles I's attempt to create an absolutist state (represented in Ireland by the policies of his lord deputy, Thomas Wentworth, 1st earl of Strafford).
1644Daniel Gookin (1612-1687), son of an early Irish settler in Virginia, moves to Massachusetts and eventually becomes a member of the Governor's Council, major general of the militia, and superintendent of Indian affairs.
1649Oliver Cromwell quickly imposed English authority on Ireland. Cromwell repaid his soldiers and investors in the war effort with land confiscated largely from the Anglo-Irish Catholics of the Irish midlands who had joined the rebellion hesitantly and only to defend themselves against Puritan policies.
1652A list of inhabitants of most of the southern part of County Dublin is assembled.
1652Thousands of Irish men and women were involuntarily "transported" as laborers to the West Indies by Cromwell's forces. Many of these people and their descendents later moved to the United States.
1654-1656A civil survey is recorded of major landholders.
1659A census was made of all major landowners.
1663-1666Hearth money rolls registered for property owners.
1677Charles McCarthy from Cork leads a party of 48 Irish immigrants in founding a colony at East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
1678About 100 Irish families sail from Barbados to Virginia and the Carolinas.
1685-1705Many French Huguenots seek asylum in Ireland.
1691Treaty of Limerick penalizes public worship for Catholics and Presbyterians.
1700-1720Ulster lands were confiscated from Irish owners and offered to British and Scottish immigrants.
1702Partial lists of male householders for Kilkenney enumerated separately by religious denomination and parish.
1708Registry of Deeds established.
1709Over 6,500 Palatines leave war-torn German countries and settle in Ireland.
1710200 Palatine families leave Ireland for Britain.
1720Noting that some 2,600 Irishmen had arrived in Boston during the past three years, the governor of Massachusetts complained of the "public burden" imposed by the coming of "so many poor people from abroad, especially those that come from Ireland". The General Court of Massachusetts warned immigrants from Ireland to leave the colony within seven months.
1721-1742Over 3,000 immigrants arrive in 21 years in the U.S. from Ulster alone.
1737The Charitable Irish Society was formed on St. Patrick's Day in Boston by 26 Irish immigrants "to aid unfortunate countrymen, to cultivate a spirit of unity and harmony among all Irishmen in Massachusetts colony and their descendants, and to advance their interests socially and morally." This is now the oldest Irish society in the U.S.
1740Protestant householders in counties Antrim, Armagh, Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone are listed.
1749A census of most of County Roscommon, part of County Sligo, and nine parishes of County Galway is taken.
1750Catholic inhabitants of County Tipperary were taxed.
1757Military oaths of allegiance are registered.
1766Rectors of the Church of Ireland record householders by parish, indicating religion and other details. The only records still surviving today are for North Cork and the counties of Limerick, Londonderry, Louth, Tipperary and Wicklow.
1772-1777A decline in the linen trade and exorbitant rents spurred a new wave of emigration from the north of Ireland. Some 30,000 Ulstermen sailed for America in a five-year span.
1776Men of Irish birth or descent formed netween one-third to one-half of the American Revolutionary forces, including 1,492 officers and 26 generals.
1790The first census of the United States records 44,000 Irish-born residents, more than half of whom lived south of Pennsylvania. Historians consider this figure to be lower than reality.
1791James Hoban, a native of Kilkenny, designs the White House, modelled upon Leinster House in Dublin.
1798A revolutionary uprising by the Society of United Irishmen was destroyed by the British, many of the Society's members emigrate to the United States.
1801The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland abolished the Irish legislature and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1802-1803A census of Protestant parishoners was made, records of 28 parishes still survive.
1820-183050,000 Irish immigrants enter the United States.
1821A general population census is taken (most of which was destroyed by fire in 1922).
1824-1838Tithe applotments (or tax lists) are compiled.
1829The Emancipation Act lifts penalties for Catholics and Presbyterians.
1830-1840237,000 Irish immigrants enter the United States.
1837Vital registration begins.
1838Poor Relief for Ireland enacted.
1840-1850The Great Famine strikes, more than 1,000,000 Irish men and women emigrate.
1840-1850800,000 Irish immigrants enter the United States.
1846All of Ireland is mapped for the first time, many county boundaries finally defined.
1848-1864A householder list is compiled of every householder and land owner/renter.
1850Tenant-Right League founded, it's goals were: fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale.
1851Government census taken, most of which was destroyed in a fire in 1922.
1852Tenement Act provides for a uniform evaluation of property for tax purposes.
1858Probate Act changes jurisdiction from the Church of Ireland to the newly-established Court of Probate.
1861 & 1871Censuses were taken and then destroyed by order of the government.
1868Irish Reform Bill passes British Parliament, allows a million more men the right to vote.
1869Disestablishment Act deprives the Irish Church of property and authority.
1870Irish Land Act provides protection for tenants.
1898The administrative counties are formed.
1901A government census was taken, this one survives today.
1911Second surviving census.
1916Great Easter Rebellion suppressed by the British.
1917Irish Republic adopts a constitution.
1921Irish Free State becomes an independent member of the British Commonwealth.
1922Public Record Office and Four Courts fire destroys many irreplaceable records.
1948Republic of Ireland Act establishes a free country independent of Britain.

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