St. Patrick’s Day and the Wearing of the Green…

…Irish were often called “fighting” Irish. And I want to share two sources lists with you:

l. Court Records: the place where the Irish were unafraid to go to defend and uphold their sense of right.
Manz, William H. Gibson’s New York Legal Research Guide. 3rd ed. Buffalo: William S. Hein, 2004.

Remington, Gordon L. “Divorce Records, New York Style,” APG Quarterly 12 (1997): 90-91.

Rosen, Deborah A. “Courts and Commerce in Colonial New York,” American Journal of Legal History 36 (Apr 1992): 139-63. Rosen read every jury trial and all the court minutes for the New York City Mayor’s Court, 1690-1760. She concluded the Merchants had a pre-relationship to those they sued. Their knowledge and experience allowed them to protect themselves from ruin.

Surrency, Edwin A. A History of American Law Publishing. Dobbs Ferry NY: Oceana, 1990. Legal directories were published from 1854 on.

_________. History of the Federal Courts. 2nd ed. Dobbs Ferry NY: Oceana, 2009.

Von Behren, Megan. “New York City and New York State Legal Documents from the 18th and 19th Centuries,” NYG&B (now New York Researcher) (Spring-Summer 2001). Published as a research aid on

2. The American Revolution, its Local Groups and their often “Secret” Partnerships? We don’t have an actual count of the Irish who participated in the American Revolution–we do have the names of several dissident groups that have the term “…boys” in their titles.

[Boys was a designation given to local militia units who saw a need–legal or not–and filled it. The term is an Irish one. Many Scots-Irish considered themselves to be from Ireland, even when they knew their ultimate origins were in Scotland.]

Committees–of Safety and of Correspondence. These committees met in the morning as British jurisdictions; they met again in the afternoon as Colonial jurisdictions enacting all the same business–they probated wills, recorded deeds, performed marriages, collected local fees, and rendered oaths of allegiance.

Minutemen–local militiamen who could be ready to fight at summons with weapons and ammunition.  The most famous were those who mustered at Lexington and Concord. Most colonies had organized their own minutemen by the end of 1774.

Associators–formed in 1774 of those adult males who took the oaths of allegiance to support their local and colonial governments against the King.

Sons of Liberty–merchants, mechanics, clerks, warehouse men, storekeepers, printers, and other urban populations who organized and took oaths of allegiance.  Their wives formed Daughters of Liberty groups who agreed not to buy British goods–especially tea and wine. Meetings were announced in newspapers with a code as to date, time, and place. Or flyers that were circulated and posted through the towns and cities. They often formed their own militia groups to fight.

Liberty Boys–lower class laborers in towns and cities in New York. Can be identified as early as 1764. See Roger Champagne, “Liberty Boys and Mechanics of New York City, 1764-1774,” Labor History VIII (1967): 115-35.

Local Militias and Train Bands–On July 9, 1776 some 20,275 men heard the reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York–about half of them were under 18 years of age. General Washington said, “They are but lads…” This was just one of many such readings in Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Baltimore. Militias in cities were called “train bands.” They fostered rebellions against illegal acts, riots against customs duties, and revolt at enforcement of the laws against smuggling. Virginia exempted from these militias (Law of 1738):  ministers of the Anglican (Episcopal) Church, students and college staff of William and Mary, overseers of plantations, millers, iron and metal workers–considered essential industries during the Revolutionary War. See The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783 by John E. Selby (Williamsburg VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988) p. 164, Map of Commerce and Manufacturing in Virginia, 1775-1783.

Wagoners–men who drove supply wagons during the War. Drivers were often conscientious objectors–Quakers, Mennonites, and others who refused to fight or take the oath of allegiance (later they were allowed to affirm their support). They demonstrated their support of the Revolution by serving the military as well as local commerce.

Green Mountain Boys–under Ethan Allen and his officers marched through Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.

Paxton Boys–frontiersmen in Pennsylvania, of Scots-Irish background.  After the end of the French and Indian Wars and Pontiac’s Rebellion (ended 1764), they fought the Indians on the Pennsylvania frontier.

[Boys was a designation given to local militia units who saw a need–legal or not–and filled it. The term is an Irish one. Many Scots-Irish considered themselves to be from Ireland, even when they knew their ultimate origins were in Scotland.]

Privateers–operating out of French Channel and open American ports, they brought supplies and volunteers from other countries, who were willing to fight on the American side.  From these privateers and their ships, the first Continental Navy was recruited in 1775. Local mariners along coastal rivers also participated. Their cargoes and crews were investment opportunities for local citizens–especially widows who purchased small investments for a substantial reward.

Provincials–Americans who enlisted in British army units, sometimes called provincial regulars to distinguish them from Tory units and other British regiments. The British Legion was a cavalry unit of men from New York and Pennsylvania organized to fight under Colonel Tarleton in the South.

Your favorite New York genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS I hope to find an Irish ancestor of my own–stay tuned!


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