'Finding' the Irish in British Columbia using the 1881 Census of Canada




Jervis, Michael

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Until the mid 1970s, the image of the Irish Diaspora in Canada in the nineteenth century was that of a dichotomous group consisting of Irish Protestants, who worked their way up the economic ladder into mainstream society, and Irish Catholics, who never found their way out of poverty. However, with the emergence of quantitative analysis, this perception of the Irish came to be regarded as simplistic and anachronistic. New research found that the Irish in nineteenth century Canada were more diverse and complex than previously thought. In order to unravel this diversity and complexity, comprehensive analysis needed to be done at a regional level. In the late nineteenth century prior to the coming of the railway, British Columbia was a 'distinct society': a geographically isolated province anchored not by agriculture but rather resource extraction industries that attracted a largely adult male settler population. As such it provided a unique opportunity in which to study the Irish. My quantitative analysis of the Irish in British Columbia through the Canadian Census of 1881 suggests that within this 'distinct' settler society, Irish Catholics were 'ghettoized' in the workplace, in large part due to their religious affiliation.



Census, Irish, British Columbia, occupations, religion, nineteenth century