lthough most of us tend to think of the Famine in Ireland as occurring about 1848 , contributing factors began long before that date. Unemployment and hunger in Ireland were everyday problems. The 1821 potato crop failed totally. Tenants were being evicted by absentee landlords which allowed subdivision of the landlord's property into smaller pieces but with greater rent due. These evictions together with tithes due, the famine and the ongoing religious problems, brought about a critical state in 1823. From the British perspective, the state of affairs in both Scotland and Ireland were so bad, that both countries were flooding the English job market, already overloaded with English workers. The British government came up with a plan to fund assisted emigration programs for Irish folk who were desperate. Peter Robinson was selected to lead the expeditions. The advertisement which proclaimed the emigration scheme stated categorically that only a limited number of Settlers would be chosen to emigrate to Upper Canada.
Most of the emigrants were chosen from the area north of the Blackwater River in Cork from the estates of a few landlords though a number of Kinsellas, presumably from the southeast of Ireland, also went. Eight land owners chose 239 families with 37 other landowners picking the remaining 68 families. Emigrants were required to be peasants, and Roman Catholic although several Protestant families were chosen. No person over the age of 45 would be accepted. Each emigrant was to be given 70 acres which would be subject to a payment of an annual quit rent to the Crown, to be paid every six months at 2 pence per acre. In "The Peter Robinson Settlement of 1825", author Bill LaBranche says, "In the year 1823 Robinson was to lead an emigration from poverty stricken Ireland to Canada bringing over 182 families in that same year, Robinson opened and settled much of the Ottawa Valley. By May, 1825, the problem had not resolved itself and once again, Robinson, as Superintendent, hustled his Settlers onto the nine ships that awaited them. A total of 2,024 people were crowded onto those nine ships causing ships fever which resulted in several deaths during the voyage."
Before the winter of 1825 had arrived, virtually all the immigrants, excepting, of course, those few who remained behind to form the village of Scott's Plans, were located on their lands. Supplies provided to each family were: One pound of salt pork, one pound of flour per day was given to all settlers over the age of 14 for the next 18 months with half rations for those between 5 and 14, quarter rations for those under five years; one peck of seed corn, 3 bushels of seed potatoes, a cow, a handsaw, a kettle, an iron pot, an auger, axes, 100 nails, two gimlets, and three hoes. A log cabin , constructed at a cost of $10, was built and a small clearing made for each settler on his grant. 415 grants of land were issued. In all, 1,859 Irish people settled in the Newcastle district of Ontario, 67 settled in Bathurst district, 30 remained with friends at Kingston, 5 were absent at Cobourg, and 145 died at sea and in Canada. Including those 15 born at sea, and the 54 born in Canada along with the 15 who joined in Canada, the total cost of emigration was 21 pounds shillings or approximately $30 US today.
The list of emigrants are available through interlibrary loan by requesting the following:
"The Peter Robinson Settlement of 1825" by Bill LaBranche is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. (US/Can 971.36 W2l). Fifty pages of emigrants are listed showing families , the ships upon which they sailed, the township in which they settled and any notes Robinson may have felt should be included. The passengers lists are also available on microfiche through the LDS Church (LDS film # 0496915) and list among other things, the names and ages of parents and children, the townland where they resided in Ireland and the township where they settled in Peterboro. In Peterborough Newspapers 1837-1856 transcribed by William Amell of Peterborough in 1982 (LDS US/Canada 971.368 V2a) 17 additional families are listed who received land grants, but were not mentioned on the ship's list. Only one of these gives a place of origin in Ireland however, all show the town where the land grant was situated.
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