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The legacy of Irish Famine evictions echoes through the collective memory of Ireland's diaspora worldwide.

It represents not just a shared sorrow, but a testament to the survival spirit of those who went on to forge new lives in unfamiliar lands.  

Join us, as we explore your most frequently asked questions about famine evictions in Ireland, and how to research them.

Guide to researching Famine Evicitions

FAQ#1 What kind of evictions took place during the Great Famine?

During the Great Famine (1845-52), evictions were prevalent as landlords sought to redirect their impoverished tenants to the newly established workhouse system. LEARN MORE About Irish Workhouses.

While some landlords used legal processes, others cleared their estate holdings by compelling surrenders.

  • If a tenant failed to pay his rent, his livestock could be confiscated without warning as "payment in lieu of rent" until the next Gale Day came around (see Driving for Rent 1846). With nothing left to confiscate, eviction soon followed.
  • Assisted Emigration: Some landlords, to reduce the costs of funding workhouse relief, offered incentives such as assisted emigration. They encouraged tenants to leave voluntarily for trifling sums, often unaware they were boarding "coffin ships" rampant with disease. SEE The Carricks Shipwreck.
  • Mass Evictions: Also known as wholesale evictions or famine clearances, mass evictions were particularly widespread during the height of the famine (1845-52) when landlords took the opportunity to forcibly remove whole clusters of tenants to allow for more lucrative pasture grazing. These evictions often affected entire communities, leading to widespread displacement and social upheaval.

In 1847, Poor Law tax increases for landlords prompted many to clear their land of properties worth less than £4 p.a., especially in the west of Ireland where poverty was at an all-time high. It is estimated that over half a million people (100,000 families) were evicted between 1846-1852.    

FAQ#2 Who was evicted and why?

On the eve of the Great Famine, about one-third of all Irish small holdings could not support a tenant family after rent was paid. These types of tenants were particularly vulnerable to eviction and displacement:

  1. Cottiers aka Cottagers: Small-scale tenants who lived in small cabins with a small patch of "conacre" lived in precarious conditions with no tenancy rights. Relying heavily on potatoes for sustenance and seasonal labouring work to pay rent, this class of Irish tenant was all but wiped out by the Great Famine in Ireland.

  2. Sub-Tenants: Anyone who rented land from another tenant "middleman" (rather than directly from the landlord) was also at high risk. Small farmers often had insecure tenure and sub-let on a year-to-year basis in overcrowded townlands. They faced eviction if the primary lessor could not meet his own rent obligations, or when the landlord sought to clear his land of "congestion". 

  3. Tenants "at Will": Tenants who rented land on a year-to-year basis, were also highly vulnerable.  If they couldn't pay their rent or if their crops failed, they quickly faced eviction and displacement.

  4. Dependent Families: Families with elderly or infirm members, widows, or large numbers of children were particularly vulnerable to eviction. Landlords often targeted these families for removal, viewing them as burdensome on the estate. There was no "outdoor relief" under the Irish Poor Law system. 

Evictions were higher in the west, and particularly acute in Co. Tipperary (over 10%), Co. Cork (over 8%), Co. Clare, and Co. Mayo (over 6%). Co Roscommon, Co. Galway, and Co. Limerick (over 4%).  These evictions left deep scars from which many rural Irish communities never recovered.

FAQ#3 Who did the evicting? Did the Irish evict their own?

Ireland's complex system of land tenure was marked by the absentee landlord (see below) and the various agents who managed and enforced his property rights:

Land Agents and Solicitors were responsible for overseeing estate management, collecting rents, and ensuring compliance with lease agreements. In many cases, they were harsh enforcers of landlords' interests.

Middlemen who leased land from landlords (and sublet it to smaller tenants at increased rents) also created a layer of intermediaries between landlords and those who lived on the land. 

County Sheriff & Bailiffs were responsible for enfocing legal processes, including eviction orders, often leading to confrontations with tenants and local communities.

The 'Crowbar Brigade' or 'Hut Tumblers' were local freelance ruffians called in to topple the houses so that the tenants could no longer use them as shelter. And yes, they were Irish. 

Police or Military the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) and British Army were sometimes called upon to protect bailiffs during evictions. 

Herdsmen were sometimes given the reluctant task of encouraging their neighbors to give up their small holdings and head to the workhouse. (See Nanny Maxwell's account of famine evictions in "Woodbrook" by David Thomson).

FAQ#4 What was an absentee landlord?

While a landlord may have had his "seat" (main estate) in the community, this was no guarantee he resided there or anywhere nearby. Most absentee landlords viewed their estates as a source of income, rather than a community to be nurtured.

While, some absentees had empathy for their tenants and reduced their rent (e.g. Richard O'Ferrall Cadel); others were incredibly callous. Lord Lucan, for example, was said to regard his peasantry as "vermin to be cleared off" his land. 

LEARN MORE Merciless Landlords 

FAQ#5 Where did they go after eviction?

With no legal rights to protect them, famine-era evictees often put up little resistance to eviction. Those evicted during the Great Famine had limited options: the workhouse, emigration, or death. What influenced their decision to stay or go depended on several factors:

  • Ability to walk across the country on foot to the nearest port,
  • Access to "assisted emigration" from their landlord, charities, or government-assisted schemes,
  • Family support nearby or overseas.

With workhouses soon overcrowded, many resorted to makeshift roadside dwellings, struggling to survive in harsh winter conditions. It is estimated that close to one million did not survive the Great Hunger. LEARN MORE About Irish Workhouses.

The frequency of evictions, almost a daily occurrence, contributed to a sense of apathy. By contrast, resistance to eviction during the Land War period (1879 –1909) differed significantly due to a shift in the power dynamics between landlords and tenants. With greater tenant empowerment came better reporting and records, and the iconic photos of Irish evictions and battering rams come from this later wave of evictions. 

Listen to a 107-year-old recall the evictions he witnessed as a child. 

FAQ#6 Where did the evicted Irish emigrate to?

Between 1845 and 1852, about 2 million people left Ireland for Britain, North America, and Australia.


For those who had no access to assisted emigration, the cheapest passage was to Britain on empty returning ships that had delivered coal to Ireland:

  • From Ulster, they fled to Glasgow, Paisley, and Kilmarnock in the west of Scotland and beyond to Dundee. SEE The Irish in Scotland.
  • From Connacht and central Ireland, they walked on foot to Dublin and Drogheda to make their way to Liverpool and on to Lancashire's industrial towns. SEE The Irish in Liverpool
  • From Munster's southwestern counties, they fled via to South Wales and Bristol, from whence many then moved on to London.


Liverpool at that time was the busiest port in the British Empire and the first port of call for those en route to North America. The frightful conditions encountered by poor "deck passengers" crossing from Ireland to England spurred four parliamentary inquiries between 1848 and 1854.  SEE Ships & Steerage

An estimated 5,000 famine ships made the trans-Atlantic crossing to North America. From Liverpool, they made their way to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Large numbers also left from the Irish ports of Limerick, Sligo, Westport, Killala, and Kinsale.

The most affordable passage was to Canada's port of Quebec, with the most destitute and bereft stopping first at Grosse Île for mandatory quarantine.  In 1847, dozens of Irish ships queued for days to make a landing. SEE The Irish in Canada.


Earl Grey's Famine Orphan Scheme (1848-1850) organized passage to Australia for 4,114 teenage female orphans from workhouses across Ireland. Another scheme provided free passage to the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land for wives and families of well-behaved transported men. SEE  The Irish in Australia.

FAQ#7 What records were kept on evictions and where?

Finding records or documentation about individuals who were evicted during the Great Irish Famine is not straightforward, especially if you have no idea where your ancestors came from. If you do know your ancestral county of origin, ask our local volunteers for help pointing you to eviction resources for that county.  JUMP TO MESSAGE BOARD.

Some key resources include:  

Ejectment Books: To evict a tenant legally, landlords had to receive a judgment in their favour from the Circuit Court. Ejectment books are a summary record of ejectment cases brought before the court (then known as the Quarter Sessions) and generally contain the names of evicted tenants (Defendant), landlords (Plaintiff), and their attorneys, the location of farms (and sometimes details of leases and grounds for seeking eviction). Few early 19th-century ejectment books survived (save for Co. Clare, and Co. Cork). Surviving ejectment Books are held offline in the "Crown and Peace Records" at The National Archives of Ireland (NAI).  

Estate Records: Records kept by the landlord can include: Landed Estate Court Rentals, Estate maps, Tenure Books, Account Books, Tenants Application Books, Employment Books, Tithe Books, Observation Notes, Letters from Land Agents (aka Estate Agent) Solicitors and other Legal Representatives. Not all estate collections survived or are accessible to the public (they may still be held by members of a landed family or a legal representative, such as a solicitor or land agent). Of those held by the national archives in Dublin (NAI), Belfast (PRONI) or London (UK), many are private collections and access may not necessarily be given to researchers.  

Newspaper Reports: Old news articles (especially in the Freemans Journal and The Irish Times) can help you identify the location of evictions that match your ancestors' emigration timeline, but such reports rarely name the individuals evicted. For example: Reported Number of Evictions by County 1849

LEARN MORE How to Research Ancestors who Emigrated during the Famine

FAQ#8 Where can I find Irish Famine eviction records online?  

If you do know your ancestral parish of origin, the best approach is to piece together the story of evictions in that district first. Even if all you know is your ancestral county, this initial research can help.

Some key resources include:

Census Population Returns & Famine Maps: To identify areas affected by eviction, examine the census reports of 1841 and 1851 to inspect population decline in specific townlands, parishes, or counties. SEE The Great Irish Famine Online and The Irish Famine Eviction Project.

Newspaper Reports: Contemporary newspapers such as the Freeman's Journal and the London Illustrated News reported on evictions, “ejectments” and sometimes “outrage”. Search for “calamity” in old papers to get results during the famine. These reports help identify the timing and location of evictions, and very often the number of souls ejected.  Insights into specific cases and names of those evicted are rare, but possible. See Newspaper Sources

Landlord Estate Papers (where they survived) may be found in various archives. These guides will help you determine what's online or not:

Aim to identify the landlord (and agent) names involved, as any search on them will yield more results and help you narrow down where to look next. See NUI Galway Landed Estates database.

FAQ#9 How do I research famine clearances in my ancestral parish?

First check out the Famine Maps for a heatmap of eviction townlands. 

To inspect the population decline of any given townland, parish or county, compare the population and housing reports from the Census Population Returns 1841 vs 1851The loss of population could be due to emigration, eviction, famine deaths, or a combination of all.

Conduct searches in Newspaper Archives by landlord name, parish name, townland name coupled with the old terms they used to report eviction such as "extermination", "ejectment", "calamity" etc. 

Ask our local volunteers on your County MESSAGE BOARD.

FAQ#10 How can I tell if my ancestors were evicted?

During the "great calamity" of the Irish Potato Famine, there were no regulations in place to keep record of individuals who were evicted. 

To work out if your ancestors were at risk of eviction, you could:

  • Note the 'stipend' in parish registers (the amount a couple 'gifted' a priest for a baptism or marriage) and see how it compares to families who turn up on Griffith's Valuation with 15 acres or more.  

  • Look for them in pre-famine Tithe Applotment Records. Poorer agricultural tenants were rarely listed, or hidden under "& Co." as an unnamed partner.

  • Check old Griffith's Valuation Maps for tiny houses with no listing. Buildings that were once occupied (when the first Ordnance Survey was taken in the late 1830s) but were "down" or unoccupied after the Famine, appear on these maps, without a letter or number.

IrelandXO Timeline: Discover community-contributed information related to specific evictions in our TIMELINE here.


FAQ#11 Where can I find specific eviction reports? 

Some Irish evictions were so infamous that they have already been well researched and the details shared online. For example:


FAQ#12 How do I Share an Eviction Story on this site? 

Ireland Reaching Out's Timeline is a unique FREE way to crowd-share information that you know others could benefit from. It is also a great way to store a link to a newspaper report that you came across during your research. What you share with our Timeline helps all members and researchers piece together and reconnect with a place and time. You can post a Timeline Chronicle for any historical event connected to an Irish parish or county, for example

It's up to you how much detail you add to the Timeline. If the task seems daunting, or if you can't find your old research files... just give the title, general description, and year a shout-out to GET STARTED for now. 

Add a timeline

Evictions in Famine Ireland by Ciaran Reilly (for RTEHistory)
The Depiction of Eviction in Ireland, 1845–1910, by L. Perry Curtis, (University College Dublin Press, 2011)
Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland by W. E. Vaughan (Clarendon Press)

We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

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