Regional Division and Expansion of the New Country #7

Irish Immigrant Ancestors: Who, What, When, Where and Why?

Review of last post: Information was provided regarding the Irish immigrants before 1790. I also identified America’s original roads that were taken by the Irish and others.

Understanding and interpreting location.

            To be able to interpret language used regarding locations for early and later ancestors, it is helpful to know how America has been geographically divided. This division got its official start with the first U.S. Census in 1790.  Doing genealogy requires correct interpretation of somewhat outdated information. For example, if an old newspaper article noted that an immigrant settled in a southern state, we in the northwest might interpret that in a different way from its original intent. Today, people with limited historical knowledge might not include Delaware or Maryland in a southern state category. Here, we think of the south much as others might think of the “deep south” i.e., Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. I think most Northwesterners might think of Delaware or Maryland as mid-Atlantic.

Though we in Washington are relatively in the same latitude as the top of Maine, some of our “cold” weather comes from Hawaii, and historically, Washington is much warmer than our relative latitude partner of Maine.  Maine tops 47° but we are farther north at 49°.  However, the average range of temperatures in Washington State for the month of February is 51° – 31° F, but for Maine, it is 37°- 12° F. Meteorologists call us a “Mediterranian” climate. We know we’re on the northern corners of the nation, but everything is relative.  To drive to a southern state from Maine, one goes only ~326 miles. From Washington State to what we think of as “southern” (past San Francisco) is ~1200 miles. It helps to understand latitudes, geography, boundaries and even weather patterns.

I have read local histories that say that a family moved to the western frontier. If your Smith family, in 1743, left Wheeling to go farm on the “western frontier”, the writer might have meant the 160 miles southwest to Chillicothe, OH, and not 2,575 miles to the Willamette Valley in OR.

Here are the present US regions:

The Midwest of America includes North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. (If your ancestors were said to have gone to the Midwest, look here.)

The Northeast includes Maine, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.  (This is where immigrants directly from Ireland primarily landed until the later 1800-1900’s They also arrived in Nova Scotia [Canada/also called British America], New York and Pennsylvania.)

The Mid-Atlantic states are New York, New Jersey and, again, Pennsylvania—Pennsylvania being in two regions, though Mid-Atlantic is its more common designation.  There is a panhandle of West Virginia that intrudes between Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (Colonies were divided into Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern. Delaware and Maryland kept their “southern” designation.)

The South is Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  (As mentioned, some of the very earliest Irish came from Barbados to the Carolinas. They probably came through Charleston or possibly St. Augustine, which was Florida and owned by the Spanish. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 brought the New Orleans port into importance. Prior to the Civil War many Germans arrived through New Orleans.)

The West includes Arizona, Colorado, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska.  (San Francisco, CA was the first port for large Asian immigration—other than New York.  Seattle grew during the Gold Rush in the Yukon. Non-natives did not arrive there until 1851 and the port in Seattle was not formally established until 1911.)

When we talk about the Southwest states, we are talking about the land in the Mexican Cession (information following).

U.S. Census of 1790

            The first U.S. Census came about by an Act of Congress signed by George Washington in 1790.  Some places being short in paper, it is said that some collections were sent in on accountants’ paper, the back pages of books, and some schedules were bound in wallpaper. When the British burned the Capitol in Washington D.C. in the War of 1812, the returns of six states were destroyed in the blaze.

Side Note: In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, my great grandmother Amelda Schofield pasted obituaries of town folks, friends, and relatives; newspaper articles; poems; words for songs; and ideas for school lessons on the back pages of books.

Geography of America in 1790.  Though America had grown by leaps and bounds—especially after the Revolutionary War, the country was relatively small. These are the two regions the 1790 Census covered:

  • South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York (including Long Island), Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and most of Maine. At the time, a small section of northern Maine was claimed by the English. Returns from Delaware, Georgia (which included at the time, the northern halves of Mississippi and Alabama), Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia were destroyed.  Fortunately, Virginia Schedules were reconstructed from the State Census.
  • Included in the Census was the Northwest Territory which included part of northern Minnesota, most of Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and the northern tip of West Virginia. Those records survived.
  • Everything west of the Mississippi River, Florida, and the southern ends of Mississippi and Alabama belonged to Spain. A horizontal rectangle across the southern parts of Mississippi and Alabama were claimed by both the U.S. and Spain, but there was a Census taken there that survived.

Result of 1790 Census.  It was revealed that the “free white and other” population of the United States was 3.2 million.  It was estimated that 447,000 were Irish born or of Irish ancestry. Two-thirds of those were thought to be from Ulster (Northern Ireland).[i]  I believe this data included the Scots-Irish Covenanters and colonists who were not really Irish-born, but were either emigrants or were expelled from Scotland. After they colonized in Ireland, they revolted against the Anglican monarchy or gave up being able to thrive with the English monarchy in control of Ireland.  (Discussed in my fourth post.)

The slave population had grown enormously in this time. 697,697 of the 3.2 total were slaves from Africa—or about 22% of the entire population of the country. That’s one kidnapped human without a voice in his life and condemned to perpetual, birth-to-death enslavement for every group of four or five white people. What a horrifying image! I will never understand it.

Side Note: If you regularly scratch your head in dismay, can’t wrap your head around the institution of slavery, or you are curious about the relationships among English slave-owning plantationers, Irish indentured servants, and African slaves in the Caribbean, read “The Tide Between Us” by Irish historical novelist, Olive Collins. She weaves a remarkable and epic tale among the three groups who often became “family” through the Jamaican slave plantation system of abuse and “bad angels.” The psychology, secrecy, and cultural juxtapositions ooze with structural failures inherent to the institution of slavery that manifest themselves through generations.

Expansion of the Nation

            There were very large purchases and political actions that burst the seams for the expansion on America’s frontiers, and gave immigrants limitless opportunities if they survived:[ii]

  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1802, that sent Merriweather Lewis, a soldier and private secretary to President Jefferson, and a soldier of the U.S. Militia, William Clark, into the territory that would, in 1803, become the Louisiana Purchase.
  • The Louisiana Purchase included France’s property that lay across the south from New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico up north and west to the Rocky Mountains.  The exploration took a couple of years, and the great Northwest Passage they sought was realized to be a system of interconnecting rivers. They portaged them with the guidance of a Shoshone wife of a fur trader, Sacagawea (pronounced Suh-kah-guh-way-ah) and York, Clark’s man slave.  Besides York, there were about twenty-six other “volunteers” in the party.

This expedition took a couple of years, but it revealed that there was a lot of land to the west, that it was navigable, tillable after clearing, and that it was a great investment – if it could be taken from the indigenous tribes. The giant area included Montana; most of North Dakota and Minnesota, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma; nearly half of Colorado; and all of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

  • The Monroe Doctrine was a document from Monroe’s Presidency (1817-1825) meant to warn potential European colonists to keep their hands off the land we intended to inhabit. Of course, the English went along with it because they still believed that they would remain the dominant traders to the United States if others stayed away.[iii] Ultimately, I believe that this doctrine justified acts of civil rights abuse against those (Native Americans and Mexicans) who were being “replaced.”
  • The Indian Removal Act (May 28, 1830).  This was another act of President Andrew Jackson, an indifferent slave owner, that proved his inability to value not only slaves, but indigenous people. The “Trail of Tears” was a 1,000-mile march of 16,000 Cherokees, 25% of whom died. It sounded the death knell to a thriving Native American existence in their own land. Any immigrant who inherited or purchased lands where the native tribes had lived, benefitted from a Native American’s irretrievable loss of his homelands.
  • The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the conditions for the settlement of the Northwest Territory. This included the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.[iv]
  • The purchase of Florida in 1819.
  • Oregon Territory Cession in 1845 (Oregon, Washington and Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming).
  • Texas Annexation in 1845 stretched us from sea to sea and from Canada to Mexico.[v]
  • Mexican Cession in 1848 (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico). This was especially a great shock to the Mexicans who lived in the fertile regions of California. They were promised protection of their property rights and were to be given their American citizenship within a year if they wished to have it.  Unfortunately, the gold rush arrived, and people poured onto their property.  The U.S. government had not established processes or policies to protect the property owners, and many had their property squatted on, or stolen through mining claims and corrupt officials. They were also forced to pay mining taxes on their land, but Irish and German immigrant “invaders” paid no taxes at all. Many “Californios” went to court to protect their land, often going bankrupt in the process.[vi]

Side Note:  My husband taught field classes in the history of public lands –our National Parks, Wilderness regions, BLM lands, etc. He hiked with educators receiving college credit, in the parks, monuments, sites, wilderness areas, and reserves (all public lands).  He would comment on the Mexican Cession as one of the “greatest crimes” perpetrated on the Mexican people. To fully comprehend the immensity of the loss to the Mexican people you might want to hike in the areas about which he spoke—all in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidago of 1848. In the agreement, Mexicans lost 45% of their territory. Antonio López de Santa Anna signed the treaty after having been Mexico’s President for one month.[vii]

(Those locations in bold below, are places my husband and I hiked together. We are so blessed that there are so many places to explore. A thought: Like Mt. Rushmore, should they be given back to the Native Americans?

The National Parks in the Mexican Cession include: Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, Point Reyes, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Sequoia, Death Valley, Channel Islands, and Joshua Tree all in California; Great Basin in Nevada; Grand Canyon (also NV), Petrified Forest and Saguaro in Arizona; Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion, in Utah; and Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Mesa Verde in Colorado.

The National Monuments include: Lava Beds, Muir Woods, San Gabriel Mtns., Devil’s Post Pile, and Cabrillo in California; Basin & Range and Tule Springs Fossil Beds in Nevada; Pipe Spring, Rainbow Bridge, Navajo, Canyon de Chelly, Wupatki (recently burned in a fire), Walnut Canyon, Tuzigoot, Montezuma Castle, Tonto, Hohokam Pima, Casa Grande Ruins, Oregon Pipe Cactus, Chiricahua, in Arizona; Dinosaur, Colorado, and Hovenweep in Colorado; and Aztec Ruins, Capulin Volcano, Bandelier, Petroglyph, El Morro, El Malpais, Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Prehistoric Trackways in New Mexico.

Other National Historic areas, sites, and reserves include: Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity, Point Reyes, Mojave desert, Cabrillo, San Jucinto (Palm Springs), Junipera Serra Mission, all in CA; Coronado National Forest (one of the most special, spiritually-inspiring places I have ever been), Yuma Crossing, and Pecos National Historic Park, NM.

Side Note:  For the amazing story of the Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise, go to this website. This is an absolutely amazing place, given the circumstances in which the great Cochise hid (and fed) 1,000 people in the Dragoon Mountains for over a decade. To sit on massive bald boulders, feel the hot gusts of rising desert air; smell the pine, juniper and sage; and look down at the scalding land where the soldiers circled his tribe for fifteen years is something that brings tears and extreme admiration. What a chief, formidable warrior, gentle father, and faithful friend to Wells Fargo driver, Thomas Jeffords, this hunted man was!  Read: “Making Peace with Cochise,” by Edwin Sweeney.

To learn about Antonio López de Santa Anna, go to

Diversity and Wealth of the Mexican Cession

The Last Stand of Apache Chief, Cochise. The entire Dragoon range is thousands of stacked, giant boulders. Note the tree in the space between the boulders on skyline at right to get a perspective on size. Also notice the deep ravines and cracks that have eroded between them. Once you have climbed up into the highest rocks, one can understand how easily families could hide, but living there is another thing. It must have been exhausting to hunt in mazes of ravines that are similar to crevasses in glaciers. When stepping from the top of one boulder to another, you hope that you don’t fall. Imagine toddlers living there! The Apaches were amazing to have survived for more than a decade within these hidden rocks! Also, I neither saw nor heard water, though it is obviously there.

Ancient Cliff Dwellings and Ruins

Cliff Dwellings – Bandelier, New Mexico – The black ceilings are the result of fires for warmth and cooking.
Montezuma Castle – Cliff dwelling, Nevada.
Mesa Verde, Colorado. In time, many tribes struggled with water problems – especially when the population increased. (Me at left.)
Tuzigoot, Arizona


Weaver’s Needle in Superstition Mountains, Arizona.  This is an ash cone. My husband, Bob. Now deceased.
Yosemite, California. This is yet another “easy-peasy” trail in Yosemite. The rocks are like walking uphill on fine grade sandpaper.
Mt. Lassen, California. See Mt. Shasta far right in distance. It was 75° F in the meadow below and 36° F on top, yet the short, 5-mile hike is only a flimsy 1,957 – foot gain, though the mountain is 10,462 ft. Be sure to go to the bathroom before you leave the parking lot!! The trail is short switchbacks on a barren heap of rock and ash. No trees.
Mt. Baldy (aka Santa Fe Baldy), Pecos Wilderness within the Carson National Forest, New Mexico. 12,441 feet. A long hike to arrive where lightning strikes around 3 p.m. daily in summer. It was striking before we got there and cleared out for our arrival. In the final ascent you walk over fields of rose quarts crystals. It’s really a fun hike, but be sure you are fit! There is a very cold stream where you can soak your feet before hiking out of the wilderness.

Plant life

Aspen forest in Utah. These trees clone (asexual) rather than cast seeds. The clacking of leaves, quiet breeze, and water flowing under the aspen floor brings a cool peace—like sitting in a glowing cathedral. In a place, like this, I sit alone as others explore on.
Bristlecone Pines, Great Basin, Sierra-Nevada Mountains. These are among the oldest trees in the world — thousands of years old.

Saguaro Cactus, Arizona.   
Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, California.


Canyons and Red Rocks

Sedona, Arizona
Brice Canyon, Utah 
Grand Canyon, Arizona-Nevada – public domain picture
Arches National Park, Arizona, my husband’s favorite spot in the world.I only know of two people who have walked the world more than he. – public domain picture

The immigrant “wave”.

The giant wave of foreign migration started around 1815, after the War of 1812. When the land opened up and pioneers got word back to others about what was out there, immigrants to the east packed up their goods and headed west. Sometimes they overwhelmed whomever was already there. They got ahead of the United States government that was not “set up” to make a smooth transition or protect indigenous populations. It was, “Here we come, ready or not!”

Preview of my next post:  I will discuss the 1798 Irish Rebellion that sent many immigrants here and will describe the social turmoil around their arrival.

[i] Irish Genealogy Toolkit. “Irish American History to 1845” Accessed 29 July 2020.

[ii] Wills, Chuck. Destination America: The People and Cultures That Created a Nation. Accompanies the major television series by David Grubin, PBS. New York: DK Publishing, 2005, p. 40.

[iii] Editors, “Monroe Doctrine.” Published by A & E Television Networks, September 20, 2019          Accessed April 4, 2022.

[iv] Wills, Chuck. Destination America: The People and Cultures That Created a Nation. Accompanies the major television series by David Grubin, PBS. New York: DK Publishing, 2005, p. 40.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Mischel, David. (Written while teacher and Masters student at Georgia State University.) Manifest Destiny: Mexicans Living in the Mexican Cession. Posted February 2013.,would%20be%20given%20to%20them%20within%20one%20year. Accessed October 8, 2020.

Mary Jaffe (neé Scott)

Mary Jaffe

Mary Jaffe (neé Scott) dreamed of becoming a National Geographic journalist, but it was a dream unrealized--even though she spent her entire eighth grade summer sleeping outdoors along a river, in the woods with the bears, in a barn, in lightening storms, etc. to determine if she was made of the right stuff. Now, at age seventy-seven--after thirty-five years of teaching elementary, adolescent and adult incarcerated students; raising her family as a single mother; singing professional opera; and caring for her beloved terminally ill husband for more than a decade--she has turned to writing historical fiction.