J Cassidy Project Proposal

In the nineteenth century immigration to the United States progressively increased and compared to the previous centuries the locations that these new arrivals arrived from shifted both geographically and more concerning to more prejudicial elements in the US religiously. While anti-Semitism toward Jewish immigrants were definitely present this trend was most active in the last decades of the century and a trend that stretched further back was the apprehension about Catholic immigration to the United States particularly the Catholic immigrants from Ireland. The theory they based their ideology was that these waves of Catholic immigrants would overwhelm the native protestants and fundamentally alter the culture of the United States (and also establish a Catholic theocracy but as that obviously did not happen this paper will just focus on the population shift) and with the population data available including the 1855 census, the 1915 state census, and finally NY religion by county to determine if this prophecy came to pass (without their bias that such a population shift would be inevitably bad). The census data consists of excel spread sheets with the critical national origin data and the religion piece consists of spreadsheet data which will be mined for data relating to Catholicism. To gauge this theory the censuses will be gauged to determine the number of Irish immigrants and compare how much of a percentage of the overall area population to show immigration to the area from Ireland and then use the religion by county map to show how Catholicism spread across New York as a test case for the rest of the US.


The first question is why Irish immigrants to test this theorem and how it is or is not a stereotype to categorize said immigrants as inherently Catholic and that Irish immigration begins in the nineteenth century, both of these two facts in a vacuum are of course false but in context they hold a number of truths. In regards to the Catholic nature of the Irish the timing of said immigration is crucial, prior to the mid nineteenth century Irish immigration to the United States absolutely existed and these first Irish Americans have notable contributions to the colonial period as well as early American history there was a massive demographic as well as numeric shift at the mid point of the nineteenth century. In the 1840’s the potato crop in Ireland was hit by pestilence which lead to the Potato Famine which devastated the population with both death from starvation as well as prompting a mass exodus of individuals from Ireland primarily to Great Britain and the United States. In regards to geography this exodus included individuals from across Ireland which is important because in Ireland religion and geography are closely linked, Northern Ireland which following the partition of Ireland when the country gained its independence from Britain became the country of Northern Ireland (I think it was a little unorthodox but to each their own). How religion plays into this is that the northern areas of the country have majority protestant populations as opposed to the overwhelmingly Catholic southern portion of Ireland. How this ties back to America is that prior to the Potato Famine many of the first Irish immigrants came from the protestant north but the famine saw masses from the Catholic south depart for America marking the influx of Irish Catholics and also explaining why the data sets I chose to use being in the 1850’s and why I choose Irish immigrants as opposed to other largely Catholic populations such as Italians or Poles as Irish immigration began earlier and thus yields a wider data set to compare.


With the reasons behind my choice of figures established as well as the original question that lead to my choice in data sets and methodology what is left is to present how the data will be used to present the findings for the analysis. The two data sets that matter to the analysis are the Irish population seen in the censuses and the Catholic population within New York and to present these the two items that will cleanly and effectively lay out the conclusions are a series of charts show dispersion of population percentages and then a timeline graph showing the rates of immigration overtime which might require looking up additional immigration statistics but this will be determined later. Finally what the religions data set may reveal is how Catholic immigrants moved from the coastal entrance centers to the United States which for our state would mean New York City to the rest of the state.

One thought on “J Cassidy Project Proposal

  • April 19, 2016 at 2:17 am

    First off, be clear in all your writing about who you’re talking about and who your pronouns refer to: for much of your first paragraph, it’s unclear who “they” is and therefore who was concerned about Jewish/Catholic immigration.

    If you’re interested in the question of immigration, the 1855 and 1915 censuses are not the ones to do it with; 1855 doesn’t contain any immigration metadata, and the 1915 census is too small to have many people of foreign birth (it’s a sample of ~1200 in a city population of 30k). If you’re interested in immigration in the 19th century, start with the 1880 census. In general, though, remember that DH questions start with data and ask questions about the data, rather than starting with a question and looking for data, which is in large part what you’re doing here. Think of it more like archaeology, where you’re digging to figure out what’s in there and then making a narrative around what you find.

    Your final paragraph re: the change over time in religion is a good one, but keep in mind the time frame limitations of your data: the census only collected church info for a narrow window of years, so that’s going to put boundaries on the questions you can ask of it.

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