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The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America
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The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  147 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Between 1846 and 1851, more than one-million people--the potato famine emigrants--sailed from Ireland to America. Now, 150 years later, The Famine Ships tells of the courage and determination of those who crossed the Atlantic in leaky, overcrowded sailing ships and made new lives for themselves, among them the child Henry Ford and the twenty-six-year-old Patrick Kennedy, g ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 15th 1998 by Holt Paperbacks (first published March 28th 1997)
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Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
This isn't a book you sit down and get cozy with. It's a sad account of the horrific things that occured during the Irish Famine (or starvation, as the author points out). The things that people are willing to endure in order to escape hardship is almost as appalling as the things people are willing to do to those who are suffering those hardships.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Fascinating and well written account of the Irish Famine diaspora and the sailing ships that transported the disenfranchised Irish to the New World and beyond.
Cheryl Gatling
"There were no easy voyages for the Irish. The sea was a stranger to them, the ships were alien and, if America seemed like a dream, the Atlantic passage was all too often a nightmare." That's the short version. The rest of the book details all the things that could, and did, go wrong. In the peak years of the famine, people were so desperate to escape Ireland that any ship, whether small, old, or designed for cargo, was pressed into service, and ships sailed year round, even in the storms of wi ...more
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
A three-star rating seems a bit stingy but anything higher would be from nothing more than sentimentality. Like anyone of Irish ancestry, I found many of the stories of the Famine emigrants truly inspiring -- but ultimately unsatisfying. Several chapters seemed to be nothing more than a rehashing of the same "things were bad in Ireland, the ships were overcrowded, it was a rough crossing" tale. The more harrowing accounts of shipboard fires, iceberg collisions, and heroic rescues were definitely ...more
Sep 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Written in the narrative rather than scholarly style, this book is a quick read. The first part of the book concentrates on the reasons why so many left Ireland. The exodus from Ireland had started much earlier than the imposed famine. The Irish had become tenants in their own land due to policies of the English. Catholics were forbidden to own land and those Irish that owned land had to divide it amongst all their progeny. In order to survive the Irish grew potatoes on small plots but when the ...more
A helpful little book, if not especially exhaustive for use as reference material to those interested in the conditions aboard the ships ferrying immigrants during the Great Famine. It clocks in at only 250 pages, which is great for anyone in a basic run-through of the different kinds of ships involved in the exodus, the ports between which they travelled, and the practices of both the companies that owned them and the governments that oversaw them. Laxton, himself an Irishman, approaches the su ...more
Richard K
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A real account of what it was like for immigrants to escape Ireland during the famine years. I found the book well written. It was a wonderful experience to find this book although it provided facts about a historic catastrophe. The perils of poor immigrants traveling to America on famine ships were real from the sea as well as from inadequate provisions provided on the journey. Escaping their beloved homeland meant additional risk of starvation and disease. This book will captivate your interes ...more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Historicall narrative of the plight of Irish immigrants who left their family and beatiful country behind because of Irish oppression. Must read.

Merged review:

Historical narrative of the tragic circumstances that lead more than one million Irish to immigrate to America because of British oppression. Paints a stark picture that should make all long for a much overdue acknowledgement and apology from England to the Irish people.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Between 1846 and 1851 more than 1 million people, the famine emigrants ,sailed from Ireland to America. 5 years of research were conducted before this book was written. They sailed on old, leaky, overcrowded ships, many of the ships had previously been used to transport slaves. Those years are called the famine years ,but only the the potato crops failed . Food was plentiful, beef butter cheese etc. was being exported to England, while the Irish starved.
Jan 14, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a nice comprehensive look at the famine. Each chapter covers a different aspect of the journey's in the ships - what happened to them in Canada, why they chose Canada and the British taxes/politics that forced them to go to Canada. So, short chapters all with tidbits of anecdotes, statistics, and historical context make for an easy and informative read.
Reet Champion
This is a superb read. Laxton, and typos can be overlooked in view of the content, has done a grand job researching the famine ships. This book is written rather well and contains relevant documents. He also includes accounts of those who were involved with the 'famine ships' (i.e. passengers, crew, survivors, victims).
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
If you are interested in the Famine years in Ireland, or your Irish genealogy, this is a great book to get you started. There are some passenger lists, but just a handful. Great explanation of the famine (what famine?) in Ireland, ports of embarkation and ports where immigrants landed in the US. Very interesting story of the famine.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I happened upon this book while roaming the outer reaches of the library with my daughter. Though the book wasn't very well written, I enjoyed reading about an era I didn't know much about. Now I know that I am glad I didn't live in Ireland during the potato famine.
Oct 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Oh, the tragedies of the Irish Famine years...
Much of this book covers the horrible conditions and perilous journeys of the emigrant ships. There is also some interesting info of life in famine Ireland, and after arrival in North America.
Very sad, like a genetic-memory punch in the gut.
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book for its stories of the flight of Irish citizens to the US and other ports during the Famine years. It shed some light as to why my g-grandfather, although he traveled after this time, might not have wanted to talk about his life prior to his arrival in this country.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiographical
Good reference guide to tracing some of the people who left Ireland to come to North America. Some of the stories will leave you madder than hell and yet others will make you weep. Passenger lists there as well. Good tool for geneology.
Claudia Bourdon
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This was well-researched and informative. However, it read like a textbook and didn't capture my interest. I read it for a book club and did learn a lot, however, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone other than a history buff.
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
My son's fourth grade class was studying the Irish potato famine and I realized I didn't know much about it. The history of how this huge tragedy came about is pretty interesting and a good lesson. It had far reaching effects both in terms of time and people.
Apr 16, 2008 marked it as to-read
My great-grandfather came to the US just before the official date of the start of the famine. I want to read the book to understand the state of the country before the famine... Do you think this book will enlighten me, Susie?
Jun 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting viewpoint of the Irish famine and the ships that took emigrants to America and Canada. I was particularly interested in why Canada, because when tracing our Irish roots, our ancestors had come that route.
Sharon Snider
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a good history of the plight of the Irish during the potato famine. Great details about crossing the Atlantic and treatment along the way.
Charles Bell
Apr 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting history.
Sep 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Historical book full of mind-numbing facts & redundancy.
Aug 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
Skip this one. It's badly organized, chapters go in circles and many of the stories seem repetitive. A good editor could have saved this book.
Ariel Caldwell
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Doing some research for the NaNoWriMo novel I'm writing... this was a great overview and introduction. It wasn't dry and obviously made an effort to make the statistics personal.
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ireland
Great history of the FAMINE SHIPS that the immigrants took during the potato famine. . . gruesome conditions!
frank truman
rated it really liked it
Mar 14, 2017
Erica Greis
rated it it was ok
May 13, 2015
rated it liked it
Apr 16, 2012
rated it liked it
Jun 24, 2012
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