Irish Immigrants’ Memoirs: An Appeal for Information

In 1979, Czech dissident Milan Kundera wrote, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Irish immigrants struggled, oftimes successfully, sometimes not, amidst the powerful forces that caused them to leave Ireland and that shaped their lives in North America. What was memory’s role in their struggles? What would they remember and transmit to their descendants? What would they forget?—or suppress?

These are among the fascinating questions that longtime ACIS member and historian, Kerby Miller of the University of Missouri, with Breandán Mac Suibhne of Centenary University and the Moore Institute, NUI-Galway, and Sarah O’Brien of Trinity College Dublin propose to address in a new study of Irish immigrant memory.

Kerby, Breandán, and Sarah are collaborating on an interdisciplinary study of memoirs and other autobiographical writings and oral histories by Irish immigrants of all classes and religious faiths who came to North America from the seventeenth century through the mid-twentieth century.

Their first task is to identify and locate such memoirs, some of which were published, although often very obscurely, but the majority of which remain in manuscript or typescript forms in libraries, archives, and private family collections.

Kerby and his colleagues are particularly interested in finding unpublished memoirs, but they will be very grateful for information about the whereabouts of all Irish immigrant memoirs and similar testaments, published or unpublished. Please contact Kerby at: MillerK@missouri.edu.