More than 32 million people in the U.S. – about one in 10 – claim some kind of Irish ancestry, according to the U.S. Census. In 31 states, Irish is ranked within the top three ancestry groups that people report. (Read about the most distinctive ancestry in every state.)
The Irish have been coming to America since before the Revolution. Most of the earliest arrivals were so-called Scotch-Irish from the Protestant north of Ireland, and they settled primarily in the Appalachian Mountain region of Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. (Some 20 U.S. presidents could claim some Scotch-Irish ancestry, from Andrew Jackson all the way to, yes, Barack Obama.)
In the mid-19th century, mostly Catholic immigrants, uprooted by the potato famine, came to America from the southern and western parts of Ireland and filled the burgeoning neighborhoods of eastern cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and the emerging Midwestern colossus of Chicago.
These immigrants provided the human capital that built the infrastructure of great American metropolises and the workers who powered the industrial transformation of America. It’s estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish came to the United States during the Irish diaspora between 1820 and 1930. (Can you solve these real “Jeopardy!” clues about Irish history?)
To identify the 35 most Irish cities in America today, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a ranking created by LawnStarter, a lawn-care start-up that conducts research into city and state amenities on a regular basis. Drawing on sources including the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, the Irish-American Heritage Museum, Mark Holan’s Irish-American Blog, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the site ranked 200 of the largest American cities across four key categories, differently weighted, to arrive at an overall score for each one’s “Irishness.”
The factors considered were: population (share of Irish descent), community (number of state and local Irish organizations and Irish cultural meetup groups), cuisine (number of Irish restaurants and bars or pubs), and events (number of St. Patrick’s Day and other Irish cultural events).
The final ranking includes cities in 19 states, with three – New York, Illinois, and Florida – placing three cities each on the list. Three of the nation’s largest cities – New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago – turn out to be the most Irish of all.
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