The Irish Emigrant Society expanded its activities to found the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in 1850. This greatly helped the Irish to send home remittances thus leading to “chain emigration”. Between 1845 and 1854 when the famine was at its worst, $19 million dollars was sent back to Ireland much of it in the form of prepaid tickets so that families could be reunited. Thus chain migration began as inhabitants of Ireland followed their brothers, sisters, parents, aunts and uncles to the US. Historian Arnold Schrier has calculated that the Irish in America sent over $260 million back to Ireland during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Dennis Clarke called this phenomenon “the greatest transatlantic philanthropy of the nineteenth century”. In 1864 one writer confidently asserted that not more than 5% of the emigrants from Mayo paid their own passage (Mayo Constitution, March 15th 1864). Remittances were used to pay rent and shop bills. As late as the turn of the century a visitor to Achill Island observed that the island supported a population far larger than could be supported by the meagre farming and spasmodic fishing in the area. This was due to American money sent home by absent sons and daughters. (R.L Praeger, The Way that I went)
This is a typical letter written in a clear educated hand by a dutiful daughter to her parents in Cork in 1850:
My Dear father and mother,
I remit to you in this letter, 20 dollars, that is four pounds, thinking it might be some acquisition to you until you might be clearing away from that place altogether and the sooner the better, for believe me I could not express how great would by my a joy at our seeing you all here together where you would never want to be at a loss for a good breakfast and dinner.
Your ever dear and loving child,
Margaret McCarthy (TPC 285)
An extract of a letter to the family back in Ireland from an emigrant living in America, dated New York, 22 September 1850. The writer expresses sadness for the fate of the country and people she left behind and looks forward to being reunited with her family (spellings as in the original)
The Weekly Freeman which circulated among Irish communities abroad carried advertisements from families in Ireland seeking emigrants who had left many years before and disappeared. Many advertisers appear to have been ageing parents anxious for news of their emigrant sons and daughters. For example:
Hayes, Charles; left Ballynew, Castlebar in 180?, last heard of 15 years ago, he was then in Chicago.. Sought for by his mother
Sometimes newspapers carried advertisements from those who had emigrated, or their children, endeavouring to trace their families who had stayed in Ireland. The Weekly Freeman claimed to have made 75 discoveries in 1899, but this figure represents only a very tiny percentage of the numbers of people being sought. Many thousands must have lost contact never to be found.
Of course newspaper advertisements were also used to try to separate emigrants from their money. The New York Herald of June 1, 1848, ran this ad:
Emigrants! - The Miseries and troubles of sickness from change of climate can, in a great degree, be saved you if you procure and keep by you the Brandeth Pills to be immediately resorted to should your health become affected. Days, months, nay years of sickness may be thus prevented