University of Notre Dame
AmesNP042021D.pdf (19.38 MB)

Traversing the Hearth: Navigating the Structures of 19th Century Irish Migrations

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posted on 2021-04-19, 00:00 authored by Nicholas Ames

This dissertations addresses 19th century Irish migration to the United States, and the ways in which migrants navigated the complex structures through which they moved. Focusing on three different aspects of the 19th century Irish migration process – transatlantic crossing, arrival into urban America, and the experience of situating themselves within a neighborhood space, this dissertation draws upon a variety of data sources, including historical records, archaeological assemblages, and phenomenological studies, to ask in what ways did migrants negotiate the social, physical, and community structures that shaped the experience and processes of migration? Chapter 2 looks at the ways migrants worked to improved travel conditions during transatlantic crossing and contended with the physical and social constraints of shipboard space based on framings of class and gender. Chapter 3 focuses on the role of community networks in structuring residential practices of the 19th century Irish arriving into the small industrial city of Clinton, Massachusetts. Analyzing the movement of Irish through boardinghouses in different Clinton neighborhoods, I argue that community networks facilitated the formation and persistence of ethnically concentrated neighborhoods which defined the broader urban space. Finally, in chapter 4 I explore the strategies by which migrants navigated structural violence within the industrial setting of Irishtown Bend in Cleveland, Ohio. Using historical records and archaeological assemblages from four excavated households, I demonstrate how residents used the consumptive practices of self-medication, class-based aspirational purchasing, and leisure in smoking and drinking as strategies for improving the marginalizing conditions they faced. This research provides a detailed analysis of the different ways in which migrants relied on personal agency and social community to contend with, and shape, the structures defining 19th century migration processes. Collectively this thesis illustrates how the processes of migration were an integral part of urban life and community structures within 19th century industrial narratives.


Date Modified


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • 45.0201

Research Director(s)

Ian Kuijt


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


Library Record


OCLC Number


Program Name

  • Anthropology

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