From 1848 - 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland - over 2.5 million departed from Cobh. The genealogical record finder on the Official Website of Cobh Heritage Centre has been designed for people interested in tracing their ancestors but have no knowledge of genealogical records. As mentioned, from 1848 - 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland - over 2.5 million departed from Cobh, making it the single most important port of emigration. This exodus from Ireland was largely as a result of poverty, crop failures, the land system and a lack of opportunity. Irish emigration reached unprecedented proportions during the famine as people fled from hunger and disease.
Queenstown it was for some decades before reverting to its old Irish name in 1922 - the Cobh (cove) of Cork. Is there anywhere in Ireland more full of poignant memories than this embarkation point for America? From here hundreds of thousands of mostly hungry and penniless Irish men and women left to build a new life, especially in the Famine years of 1844-48. Many thrived and prospered, but many died on the journey in the terrible travelling conditions of the time. It is a pleasant town; its streets climb the steep slope of a hill, the top of which is crowned by the very fine St. Coleman's Cathedral which has a carillon of 47 bells.
Cobh is situated on Great Island, one of the three large islands in Cork harbour which are all now joined by roads and bridges - Little Island and Fota are the others. The harbour is one of the largest and safest anywhere, being capable of taking the largest vessels afloat. The great Transatlantic liners used to come in up to the 1950s.
On the quayside there is a memorial to the victims of the Lusitania, many of whom are buried in the old church cemetery. The ship was sunk off Kinsale in 1915 by a German submarine, an action which was responsible for bringing the United States of America into the Great War, the survivors were brought back here. Another unhappy association is with the Titanic, 'the safest liner in the world'. Queenstown was her last port of call on her fateful maiden voyage.
The Queenstown Story is based in the disused portions of the railway station at Cobh. This highly imaginative visitor attraction tells the story of emigration from Cobh in the period of the famine in 1845 up to the era of the great Liners in the 1950s. The historical role which Cobh harbour has played as a port is also illustrated. At Cobh, one looks over Haulbowline and Spike Islands, formerly the base of the Irish Naval Service. To the east, Cork Harbour leads to East Ferry. Roches Point can be seen to the south. To the south west is the yachting centre of Crosshaven.
Many famine emigrants went initially to British North America (now Canada) because of fare structures and government regulations, but the majority subsequently settled in the United States. The famine resulted as a consequence of widespread potato crop failure. Failure of the crop was not unusual in Ireland so the partial failures in 1845 did not cause particular concern. In 1846 the potato crop failed completely and in the years 1847-1849 there was either total or partial crop failure of whatever potato crop could be planted. Escape was seen by many as the only chance for survival : between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people emigrated from Ireland This was more than had left the country in the previous half century. Located outside the Cobh Heritage Centre is the statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers. Annie Moore became the first ever emigrant to be processed in Ellis Island when it officially opened on 1st January 1892. Annie and her brothers sailed from Queenstown on the SS Nevada on the 20th December and arrived after 12 days of travelling in steerage. The statue outside Cobh Heritage Centre was unveiled by President Mary Robinson on the 9th February 1993. A similar statue of Annie can be found in Ellis Island, New York which represents not only the honour of her being the first emigrant to pass through Ellis Island but also stands as a symbol of the many Irish who have embarked on that very same journey.
This extract has been taken from the official website of Cobh Heritage Centre and CorkGuide.ie.