In the years following 1845 New Brunswick experienced an influx of Irish immigrants due to the failed potato crop in Ireland. The wave abated by 1851 but is commonly remembered as the sole contribution of Irish to New Brunswick. Yet thousands of Irish were living in New Brunswick prior to these events.
In 1851 and 1861 New Brunswick conducted full censuses which were to become invaluable records documenting the makeup of the province. In particular these records highlight the “Irishness” of the province, bringing to light a substantial number of Irish persons who made their home in New Brunswick prior to the famine in their homeland. Unlike previously gathered statistics, such as those from 1841, these returns enumerated the birth place of immigrants living in New Brunswick, identifying those born in England, Scotland, Ireland, “other British possessions” and “other countries” along with their date of entry, making it possible to evaluate the numbers of Irish emigrants entering prior to and during the famine. The 1861 census also contains information on religion which was not recorded in 1851. Wherever reasonable, information recorded in one census record for an individual, but not appearing in their record in the other census, has been added to the latter. For example, religion recorded in the 1861 census, where it was possible to identify the same person in the 1851 census, has been entered in their 1851 record.
These Irish records have been transcribed, indexed, and made available online for ease of access. Statistics for the population makeup of New Brunswick by county in 1824, 1834, 1840, 1851 and 1861 are also illustrated through graphs and pie charts.
To learn more about Irish immigration to New Brunswick and the creation of the database, in particular how the 1851 census records were compiled, read P.M. Toner’s essay “The Irish of New Brunswick at Mid Century: The 1851 Census.”