The Irish in Pittsburgh, circa 1930

In 1930, U.S. Census enumerators recorded for the first time whether Irish immigrants hailed from the Irish Free State or Northern Ireland. A decade had passed since the island’s partition during the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. In America, the Great Depression was barely two years old, and the Irish here were still transitioning from a mostly downtrodden people to among the most successful immigrant groups to ever reach these shores.

Many tens of thousands of these Irish immigrants populated the American cities of Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh. In 1930, my grandparents and their four children (two more came later), plus other relatives from Kerry, were among those being counted in the Pennsylvania city.

In his excellent Townland of Origin website/blog, Joe Buggy recently posted about a set of maps from the National Historic Geographical Information System showing the 1930 distribution of first and second generation Irish immigrants in these three cities. As Buggy notes:

There can sometimes be ambiguity as to whether a first generation immigrant is the foreign-born person who immigrated or their native-born children. Social science researchers and demographers mostly refer to the first generation as those who are foreign-born and immigrated to the U.S.

The three NHGIS maps are below, and under that is a map of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. My grandparents settled in Hazelwood, shown in dark blue inside the deep bend of the Monongahela River (at bottom) from the area extending to the 5 position of a clock face. There, up to 30 percent of the residents were Irish, and the percentage reached up to 60 percent in the adjoining Greenfield section.

Map 1930 NHGIS



One thought on “The Irish in Pittsburgh, circa 1930

  1. Don Henderson

    Interesting demographics, like my mom used to say “we are a clanny lot”. She claimed growing up in Lawrenceville that she didn’t know anyone that wasn’t Irish. Her people were from Cork on the Wallace side and Sligo on the Ging side. Isn’t it interesting how they seemed to take the high ground?

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