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Irish History Forum Discussion:     Black Irish

I've run into several different people here in Virginia in recent months who said their Irish ancestors were Black Irish. Some even conceeded they didn't really know what that meant, but was something their grandparents referred to.

I found this online

The term Black Irish is a term used by some descendants of Irish emigrants to describe their ancestors. The term is found in Australia, Canada, grate britain and the United States. It refers to the possessing of very dark hair and eyes as opposed to the caricature of Irish people with red or blonde hair and blue eyes, a difference which is possibly due to less Scandinavian or Germanic ancestry being found in people on the west of Ireland [1]. The term is often accompanied by a claim that the darker features are due to Spanish descent.
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Origin

Although the term is often accompanied by a claim that the dark features were due to descent from survivors of the Spanish Armada, the genetic contributions of this group were likely to have been insignificant, as most Armada survivors were killed on the beaches, and most of the remainder were able to eventually escape Ireland after a short time. A few Spanish soldiers ended up serving as armed retainers (Gallowglass) for the Irish chiefs O'Rourke, Sorley Boy Macdonnell, and Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, so they might have lived in Ireland long enough to father children, but they were very few in number.

This Armada myth is likely to have been a corruption of the story of the Milesians (not to be confused with the ancient Greek people of the same name), the purported descendants of Míl Espáine (Latin:Spanish soldier), thought to represent Celtic speaking peoples from the northern Iberian peninsula who began to migrate to Ireland and Britain in the 5th Century B.C., the supposed ancestors of the Gaels. New genetic research does show a strong similarity between the Y chromosome of Basque males and Irish males with Gaelic surnames,[2] with a notable difference between the west of Ireland and the east of Ireland, in that those in the west of Ireland have less input from Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian populations (see below).

Other uses

The term "Black Scot" is also used, but to a lesser degree, to describe Scots and people of Scottish ancestry with dark features. Since many Scots share ancestry with the Irish, a common Celtiberian ancestry is often cited. [1]

Other explanations of the term "Black Irish" are connected with the immigrations from Ireland resulting from the famous potato famine of 1847 which turned the blighted potatoes black and as a result drove thousands of Irish to America's shore.

The term has also been used to refer to the offspring of Irish and African slaves in the Caribbean, and many Irish surnames can still be found in the region. Montserrat is the Caribbean island with the greatest levels of Irish heritage as it was forcibly settled by the English crown using Irish slaves. These Irish slaves were eventually replaced by West African slaves who took on the names and surnames of the prior inhabitants, much as African slaves in the United States took on the names of their owners.

In the United States, people with Native Ameraican or other tan-skinned ancestry may historically have called themselves "Black Irish", "Black Dutch" or "Black German" to explain their coloring.

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