Background and Goals of the Project

This project originated from earlier work on the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank (EISB) records done by Tyler Anbinder. In "Moving Beyond 'Rags to Riches': New York's Famine Irish Immigrants and Their Surprising Savings Accounts" (Journal of American History, 2012), he found that the Famine immigrants saved more money, and did so more quickly, than most scholars had previously imagined. But he wondered why certain immigrants groups (in certain occupations, or from certain parts of Ireland) seemed to save so much more than other Irish immigrants, and realized that finding the answers would require much more extensive research and a team of scholars. Anbinder enlisted the aid of Simone Wegge, an expert in economic data analysis and immigrant networks, and Cormac Ó Gráda, one of the world's leading authorities on the great Irish Famine and the emigration that resulted from it, and the three of them created this digital history project.

Goals of the Project

We have several goals we hope to accomplish with this digital history project. First, we hope to make documents related to the huge Irish emigration to America more easily accessible to students and scholars so they can make their own discoveries through their own research. Second, we seek to expand the variety of "digital history" projects available to the public, especially in the realms of immigration and economic history. Third, we hope to give students and scholars the ability to do history rather than merely read it. We believe that diving into the original documents helps anyone gain a much better understanding of the lives of the Irish Famine immigrants. Fourth, we hope the documents and data provided here will help scholars better understand which immigrants managed to save, which did not, and why. Finally, we hope these documents, combined with the savings data we have transcribed (see The Data) will let students and scholars critically assess the value of the "rags to riches" paradigm that is so often used to assess the "success" of immigrants throughout American history.