John Mannion


John Mannion
Historical Geographer
Biography and Background

1971Ph.D.University of Toronto, Canada
1965M.A.National University of Ireland, Dublin 
1963B.A.National University of Ireland, Dublin
2004Honorary Doctorate of Literature, National University of Ireland, Galway
1969-2005Professor of Geography, Memorial University, St. John's, NL
ResearchIrish Migration, Settlement, Trade, Newfoundland, 1700-1850
Irish-Newfoundland Identities, 1850-2000

I have been researching the background of the Irish-Newfoundland experience in the field and archives on both sides of the Atlantic most of my academic life. My first book compared Irish immigrant adaptations in a selection of Newfoundland outports to Irish communities in New Brunswick and Ontario. It focused on farming, kinship networks, property acquisition and inheritance, and material folk culture in the 19th century. Much of my work since then has focused on Newfoundland and has expanded thematically to include the broad patterns of Irish participation in the cod fishery from 1700, transatlantic shipping, the victualling trade, diet, the role of merchants and others in recruiting servants in southeast Ireland, transatlantic migrations, ethnicity, demography, social structures, patriarchy, and, more recently, religion, language, and acculturation. My approach is geographical and from that perspective I examine those aspects of the Irish-Newfoundland encounter that are culturally diagnostic, are mappable, or have landscape manifestations. The following articles are especially relevant to the themes of the collection:

2011 "Point Lance: An Irish Settlement in Newfoundland" in F.H.A. Aalen, Kevin Whelan, Matthew Stout eds. Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape (Cork. Cork University Press) 387-400.

1993 "Tracing the Irish: A Geographical Guide" The Newfoundland Ancestor: 9, 1, 4-18.

1989 "Old World Antecedents, New World Adaptations: Inistioge Immigrants in
Newfoundland" Newfoundland Studies 5, 2 (1989), 103-175. Also in W. Nolan, ed. Kilkenny: History and Society (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1990), 343-404, 681-685, and T.P. Power, ed. The Irish in Atlantic Canada (Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1991), 30-95.

The Irish migrations to Newfoundland, and the associated salt provisions trade, represent the oldest and most enduring connection between Ireland and Canada. Beginning around 1675 ships from the English West country called in to ports along Ireland's south coast to collect food and servants for the transatlantic cod fishery. These migrations were seasonal or temporary. Most Irish migrants were young men working on contract for English merchants and planters. They served for a summer or two, occasionally longer, and then went home. It was a substantial migration, peaking in the 1770s and 1780s when more than 100 ships and 5000 men cleared Irish ports for the fishery. The exodus from Ulster to America excepted, it was the most substantial movement of Irish across the Atlantic in the 18th century.

Virtually from its inception, a small number of young Irish women joined the migration. They tended to stay and marry overwintering Irish male migrants. Seasonal and temporary migrations thus evolved into emigration and the formation of permanent Irish family settlement in Newfoundland. This pattern intensified with the collapse of the old migratory cod fishery after 1790. An increase in Irish immigration, particularly of women, between 1800 and 1835, and the related natural population growth, helped transform the social, demographic, and cultural character of Newfoundland.

In 1836 the government in St. John's commissioned a census that exceeded in its detail anything recorded to that time. More than 400 settlements were listed. The Irish, and their offspring, composed half the total population. The great majority of Irish were Catholic, the English Protestant. Arriving generally before the Irish, the English occupied the better harbours. After 1800 the Irish tended to occupy coves and harbourless shores, for example the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, often poorer sites for fishing but offering somewhat better land for subsistence farming or winter logging. They also crowded into the larger harbours, particularly St. John's. See Fig. 1, Newfoundland, 1836.

Close to three-quarters of them lived in St. John's and its near hinterland, from Renews to Carbonear. There were probably more Catholic Irish concentrated in this relatively restricted stretch of shore than in any comparable Canadian space. It was the outcome of a long and complicated process.

From the outset, the Irish migrations to Newfoundland emanated from a small region in the homeland. No province in Canada drew its immigrants from so concentrated a space. The vast majority of migrants and emigrants came from Waterford city and its hinterland, specifically southwest Wexford, south Carlow, south Kilkenny, southeast Tipperary, southeast Cork, and county Waterford. New Ross and Youghal were secondary centres of embarkation, with smaller hinterlands. Waterford city and Ross were themselves the leading sources of emigrants, with the riverine port town of Carrick-on-Suir. Other river ports like Graiguenamanagh on the Barrow, Inistioge and Thomastown on the Nore, Clonmel on the Suir and Lismore on the Blackwater, were important sources of migrants. So were the rural parishes near these waterways. The map of the homeland, based on some 7500 emigrants, is the most detailed drawn for migration from any region in Ireland to Canada. The only notable pocket of migrants outside the southeast was around Dingle, in distant county Kerry. See Fig. 2, The Southeast Ireland Homeland For a nominal list of these emigrants, click here to view the document.

The compact geography of the Irish homeland greatly facilitates the search for cultural antecedents be they genealogical or general. Conversely, the historic concentration of the Irish in southeast Newfoundland simplifies the task of tracing descent on these shores. Pinpointing places of origin is also enhanced by the remarkable range of surnames involved. Amongst the oldest in Europe, Irish surnames were highly concentrated geographically. There were, for example, 275 immigrants with the surname Walsh/Welsh, and 255 named Power. Almost all were born between 1775 and 1825. Both surnames were Anglo-Norman in origin. Half of the Walshes came from south Kilkenny and over 2/3 of all Powers were from Waterford. The next ranking surnames were Murphy and Ryan. Both were Gaelic. Most Murphys came from a cluster of parishes along the Barrow-Nore Basin. The Ryans were west of there, in southwest Kilkenny, southeast Tipperary and north county Waterford.

Newfoundland holds a pivotal place in any broad examination of Irish migration to Canada and America. It was one of the first places on the continent to be exploited by them and the island was a stepping-stone to dispersions west, to the Maritimes, Quebec and New England. Genealogists are now retracing these migrant paths. There is an emphasis, shared by scholars, in the social origins and cultural antecedents of Newfoundland's historic Irish population. The extensive nominal records, and related data, form the basis of investigations by Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency. It is a stunning piece of work by NLSA. Over 160,000 scanned images of index cards; 7500 immigrants identified by place of origin ' parish, town, townland and county " in southeast Ireland, 1200 different Irish surnames, over 800 named places in Ireland, 700 different locations in Newfoundland. We believe there is nothing quite like it for any other ethnic group in 19th-century English Canada.


Our work on the historical geography of Newfoundland family history and genealogy began as early as 1967 with field and archival research on the distinctively Irish settlements of Logy Bay, Outer Cove, and Middle Cove, north of St. John's, and in the Freshwater Valley just west of the 19th- century port. This work was an integral part of my PhD studies at the University of Toronto. It was extended in 1968 to include the historic communities at Placentia and along the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay. Irish-Newfoundland genealogies reconstructed from that time are included in this online collection. We came to Newfoundland permanently in 1969 and our work on 'Tracing the Irish' has continued to the present. A substantial portion of the nominal data here was compiled while teaching at Memorial University of Newfoundland through the 1970s and 1980s.

My first thanks must go to the undergraduate students who reconstituted family trees as part of their coursework in cultural and historical geography at Memorial, and to the many informants in the field who generously shared their knowledge of Newfoundland family lore. Over the years the research project was funded by the Canada Council (later SSHRC) and by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Memorial. A research grant from the Canada Council to hire a graduate student, Edward Tompkins, full-time for eighteen months, 1978 to 1979, was a major boost to our venture. Ed's work is exceptional and his contribution populates many index cards in this collection. Our thanks also to the late Howard Brown whose copying of the Roman Catholic Basilica Parish registers per a research grant from ISER in 1973 was seminal. Other paid research assistants worked on the project in the 1980s.

Our work became known outside the university through public lectures, broadcasts and informal exchanges. By good chance it attracted the attention of Alton Hollett, Assistant Deputy Minister, Economics and Statistics Branch, Department of Finance, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Alton had been engaged with his colleague, Terry Quinlan, Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency (NLSA), and Dr. Sean Cadigan, Professor and Head, Department of History, Memorial University, in the Canada Century Research Infrastructure project. This involved the digitization of the nominal censuses for Atlantic Canada for 1911 to 1951.

NLSA joined forces with Memorial in making application for funding the digitization of the Mannion collection to the Emigrant Support Programme, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Ireland. Funding was secured over three years, 2015 to 2017. The project has been supported and administered by the Irish Embassy in Ottawa and by Memorial. Particular thanks to Sean Cadigan, currently Associate Vice-President (Academic) at Memorial, who has acted with Alton Hollett as co-lead of the project since its inception and to Robert Reid, Director, NLSA. Our thanks also to the ambassadors and staff at the Embassy, especially Ambassador Jim Kelly whose enthusiasm for the work was infectious. Three ministers from Dublin and their staff visited the NLSA and contributed to our discussions, as did the Director of the Irish Abroad Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Their warm support is deeply appreciated.

Our greatest debt is to Terry Quinlan who has directed the staff at NLSA in the challenging work of scanning, typing, cleaning, coding, and verifying over 86,000 handwritten index cards. The names of the staff are listed below. Sometimes they had to deal with difficult handwriting, unfamiliar geography (locate Affane in County Waterford), and Gaelic place names (spell Graiguenamanagh). Few had much knowledge of 18th and 19th- century Irish Newfoundland. We would like to think they learned something interesting here. Some actually reconnected with their roots. Our thanks to Jamie Dower, himself an Irish Newfoundlander, in guiding us all through the complex terrain of online dissemination,

And finally, our thanks to Ireland Newfoundland Connections in Ireland (INC), and in Newfoundland (NLIC). They have been stalwart supporters of this project from the beginning. In September 2014, Eamonn Murphy, Chair of the INC, attended a conference on heritage and culture at Tilting, a strikingly Irish community on Fogo Island. The conference was organized in part by Anne St. Croix, and attended by, amongst others, Alton Hollett and Robert Reid of NLSA. This meeting of interested parties was an important stimulus to the process of digitizing this collection. Their annual "Gathering", formerly the Festival of the Sea, alternating yearly between Southeast Ireland and Southeast Newfoundland, follows the narrative of the collection's twin themes of Irish migration and settlement, described in a special note below by Wally Kirwan and Eamonn Murphy.

May their yearly gatherings on both sides of the broad Atlantic continue to prosper.

Message from Ireland Newfoundland Connections

Ireland Newfoundland Connections Welcomes Release of Mannion Collection

On behalf of the Board of Ireland Newfoundland Connections (INC), we welcome and celebrate the release of the Mannion Collection. This remarkable project, with which INC has been closely associated from the early stages, has involved, through digitisation, securing the records of Irish migration to Newfoundland generated by John and Maura Mannion. It has also involved the creation of a web-based tool that facilitates the search and retrieval - on a freely available basis worldwide - of person and place data, with specialised mapping features and access to the digitised images of the original handwritten records.

With the release of the collection there is now available a uniquely historical and social body of knowledge not alone to scholars, but to the proverbial man or woman in the street and to families seeking transatlantic connections. The collection will thus confer not only rich benefits in cultural and social terms, but will underpin economic benefits for Ireland and for Newfoundland and Labrador through ''genealogical tourism'', one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism market, especially from Canada and the USA.

INC and its counterpart, Newfoundland and Labrador Irish Connections (NLIC) have been closely involved in an advisory capacity to the project. These community - based volunteer entities, firmly rooted in, and with Boards representative of, the five South-Eastern counties of Ireland - from which stemmed the migration to Newfoundland - and those areas of eastern Newfoundland where they settled and remain, co-operate closely to successfully run a 10-day annual gathering. This festival alternates between southeast Ireland and the Irish parts of Newfoundland. Over the 14 festivals to date, events have taken place in some 60 communities in Ireland and almost 40 in Newfoundland. Up to 1,200 participants have crossed the Atlantic at festival times, with many more travelling in both directions at other times as a result of the close connections forged through the festival. Throughout the period since 2005, the search for family connections has been a major motivator of these exchanges. The eagerly awaited release of the Mannion Collection will now give a powerful fresh impetus to these connections.

Wally Kirwan,

Eamonn Murphy, Chair, INC.

Nov, 2019


Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency

  • Alton Hollett
  • Robert Reid
  • Terry Quinlan
  • Jamie Dower
  • Barbara Jordan

Memorial University of Newfoundland

  • Sean Cadigan, Associate Vice-President (Academic)

Irish Embassy

  • Jim Kelly, Ambassador
  • Ray Bassett, Former Ambassador
  • Michael Hurley
  • Laura Finlay

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Emigrant Support Programme

  • Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development
  • Brendan Griffin, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport
  • Geoffrey Keating, Director, Irish Abroad Unit
  • Jimmy Deenihan, Former Minister of State for the Diaspora

Ireland Newfoundland Connections

  • Wally Kirwan
  • Eamonn Murphy

Newfoundland Labrador Irish Connections

  • Bob Gillard
  • George Power


  • John Mannion
  • Maura Mannion

Special Thanks

  • Anne St Croix
  • Patrick Mannion
  • Keith Connors

NLSA Staff

  • Brian Abelseth, Noleen Anthony-Bruce, Leslie Barbour, Ashley Davis, Shirley Davis, Bradley Durdle, Brett Forsey, Gustavo Furlanetto, Sabrina Gould, Matt Hawco, Catherine Hodder, Jennifer LeGrow, Sandra McLean, Laurie Penney, Maxena Piercey, Levi Pike, Valerie Randell, Megan Rees, Sheila Rideout, Ronalda Steele, Rodney Wheeler

List of Publications:

2015 "Transatlantic Migration and Colonization on the Southern Shore" in Gerald L. Pocius, ed., Exploring a Cultural Landscape: Witless Bay. (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Folklore and Language Publications) 2-17.

2014 "A brief History of Quidi Vidi" in Gerald L Pocius, ed., Quidi Vidi Village (MUN, FLP) 5-17.

2013 "A History of Keels" in Gerald L. Pocius, ed. Living Spaces: The Architecture of the Family Fishery, Keels, (MUN, FLP) 5-7.

2013 "Population and Economy: Geographical Perspectives on Newfoundland in 1732" Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 28:2, 219-265.

2012 "Colonial Beginnings: Lord Baltimore's Irish Experience" in Patrick J. Duffy and William Nolan, eds. At the Anvil: Essays in Honour of William J. Smyth, Geographer (Dublin: Geography Publications, 2012), 151-185.

2012 "Migrants and Emigrants, Waterford to Newfoundland, 1700-1850: A Geographical Guide" in The Newfoundland Emigrant Trail (Waterford, 3-17, 41-50).

2011 "Point Lance: An Irish Settlement in Newfoundland" in F.H.A. Aalen, Kevin Whelan, Matthew Stout eds. Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape (Cork. Cork University Press) 387-400.

2010 "Migrations to Newfoundland from Southeast Tipperary, 1720-1850" Tom Nealon, ed. Tipperary Trails to Newfoundland, 1-21, 46-59.

2009 "O'Donel's Mission: Catholics in Newfoundland in the Eighteenth Century" Irish Journal of Newfoundland and Labrador Research 1,, 51-90. https:/

2005 "Genealogy, Geography and Social Mobility: The Family Background of Thomas Francis Meagher" in Thomas Francis Meagher: The Making of an Irish-American (Dublin: Irish Academic Press) 11-36, John M. Hearne and Rory T. Cornish, eds.

2005 "Colonial Beginnings: Lord Baltimore's Irish Experience" Journal of the Wexford Historical Society 20, 1-44.

2003 "From Comfortable Farms to Mercantile Commerce and Cultural Politics: The Social Origins and Family Connections of Thomas Francis Meagher Decies: Journal of the Waterford Historical and Archaeological Society 59, 1-29.

2001 "Irish Migration and Settlement in Newfoundland: The Formative Phase, 1697-1732" Newfoundland Studies 17, 2, 257-293.

2000 ""Notoriously Disaffected to the Government"" : British Allegations of Irish Disloyalty in eighteenth-century Newfoundland", Newfoundland Studies 18, 1, 1-29.

2000 "Victualling a Fishery. Newfoundland Diet and the Origins of the Irish Provisions Trade, 1675-1700", International Journal of Maritime History X11, 1, 1-55.

2000 "The Irish in Newfoundland" Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage,, 3 pp.

1999 "Transatlantic Disaffection: Wexford and Newfoundland, 1798-1800" Wexford Historical Society Journal 17, 2, 30-61. (Special Issue on 1798 Irish Rebellion).

1994 "Waterford and the South of England: Spatial Patterns in Shipping Commerce 1766-1777", International Journal of Maritime History, V1, 2, 115-153.

1994 "Waterford" in The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 5 (1994), 516-520.

1993 "Origins of the Newfoundland Population, 1836", Historical Atlas of Canada, Vol 11, (Toronto, University of Toronto Press) Plate 8. (With W.G. Handcock).

1993 "Newfoundland: An Irish Stepping Stone to North America" Am Braighe: Winter 1993-94, 20-21.

1993 "Tracing the Irish: A Geographical Guide" The Newfoundland Ancestor: 9, 1, 4-18.

1992 "Vessels, Masters and Seafaring: Patterns of Voyages in Waterford Commerce, 1766-1771" in W. Nolan & T.P. Power, eds., Waterford; History & Society (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1992), 373-402.

1990 Historical Atlas of Canada, Vol. III (Toronto: University of Toronto Press)
Plate 23 (Point Lance).

1989 "Old World Antecedents, New World Adaptations: Inistioge Immigrants in
Newfoundland" Newfoundland Studies 5, 2 (1989), 103-175. Also in W. Nolan, ed. Kilkenny: History and Society (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1990), 343-404, 681-685, and T.P. Power, ed. The Irish in Atlantic Canada (Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1991), 30-95.

1988 "The Maritime Trade of Waterford in The Eighteenth Century" in W.J. Smyth and K. Whelan, eds. Common Ground: Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press), 208-33.

1988 "Migration and Upward Mobility: The Meagher Family in Ireland and
Newfoundland, 1780-1830". Irish Economic and Social History xv, 54-70.

1988 "Henry Shea (1767-1830): A Tipperary Trader in Newfoundland". The Tipperary Journal 1, 182-91.

1988 "The Nevins Family, 1800-40" Decies' 37, 1, 8-19.

1988 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Thomas Meagher (1764-1837), merchant and shipowner, Tipperary and St. John"s, vii, 597-598.

1988 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Pierce Sweetman (1770-1841), merchant and shipowner, Wexford and Placentia, vii, 840-842.

1988 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Patrick Morris, (1789-1849), merchant and shipowner, Waterford and St. John"s, vii, 626-634.

1987 Historical Atlas of Canada Vol. 1. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press),

Plates 21 "The Migratory Fisheries" with C. Grant Head

22 "The 16th Century Fishery" with Selma Barkham

23 "The 17th Century Fishery" with Gordon Handcock

25 "The Newfoundland Fishery, 17th Century" with Gordon Handcock and Alan MacPherson

27 "St. John"s"

Plates 21, 25. Reprinted. Concise HAC, 1998.

1987 "Kilkennymen in Newfoundland" Old Kilkenny Review, 3, 4, 358-63.

1987 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Henry Shea (1767-1830), merchant, Carrick-on-Suir and St. John"s, vi, 709-712.

1986 "Irish Merchants Abroad: The Newfoundland Experience, 1750-1850" Newfoundland Studies 2, 2(1986), 127-190. Also published as "A Transatlantic Merchant History: Richard Welsh of New Ross and the Sweetmans of Newbawn in Newfoundland, 1734-1862" in K.Whelan, ed., Wexford History and Society (Dublin, Geography Publications, 1987): 373-421, 543-547.

1986 "Patrick Morris and Newfoundland Irish Immigration" in Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays, C.J. Byrne and M. Harry eds. (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing), 180-202. Also published in Canadian Journal of Irish Studies X11, 2 (1986).

1985 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): John O'Brien (1791-1857) farmer, Kilkenny and St. John"s, viii, 658-660.

1983 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Toronto: University of Toronto Press): Archibald Nevins (1782-1812), merchant and shipowner, Waterford and St. John"s, v, 623-625.

1980 "The Waterford Merchants and the Irish-Newfoundland Provisions Trade, 1770-1820". L.M. Cullen and Paul Butel, eds. Negoce et industrie en France et en Irlande aux XVIIIe et XIX siecies (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1980), 27-43. Reprinted in Canadian Papers in Rural History III (Gananoque: Langdale Press, 1982), 178-203, D.H. Akenson, ed.

1980 "Multidisciplinary Dimensions in Material History" in Barbara Reily, ed. Canada"s Material History, A Forum (Ottawa, National Museum of Man), 21-25.

1977 (Ed) The Peopling of Newfoundland: Essays in Historical Geography (St. John"s. ISER). Reprinted 1986, 1990, 1996. Introduction, 1-13; "Settlers and Traders in Western Newfoundland", 234-275.

1976 Point Lance in Transition: The Transformation of a Newfoundland Outport (Toronto, McClelland and Stewart). Adapted in People, Places, Patterns, Processes: Geographical Perspectives on the Canadian Past (Toronto, Copp, Clark, Pitman, 1990), 301-328, Graeme Wynne, ed.

1974 Irish Settlements in Eastern Canada: A Study of Cultural Transfer and Adaptation (Toronto, University of Toronto Press). Reprinted, 1978.