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Irish Domestics

The Great Hunger or the Great Irish Famine of 1845 - 1851 caused mass migration, as about 1.5 million people fled Ireland, mostly to North American eastern coast ports.

By 1850, there were just over 300 Irish-born people living in Yates County with the vast majority living in the village of Penn Yan. Ten years later the number of Irish-born people in the county more than doubled to over 700 or about four percent of the total population, the greatest concentration still in Penn Yan.

They brought much needed unskilled labor to the area that was rapidly developing agriculturally and industrially. The 1860 census reveals that 80 percent of the 302 Irish-born men listed "farm laborer" or "day worker" as their occupation and that all but two of the 125 Irish-born women listed "domestic servant" as their occupation.

Early Irish immigrants to Yates County were considered foreign and their Catholic religion in a strongly Protestant area was met with disdain. Eventual acceptance came only after their participation in the Civil War.

The Oliver family employed several female servants throughout their years on Main Street. Visit the Oliver House Museum and learn what it must have been like for Mary Finnegan, age 19, or Kate Sweeney, age 15, to be servants in the Oliver household in 1860. See a few small artifacts that made the journey with these young ladies across the Atlantic.

The above was taken in part from the article "The Irish in Yates County" written by Richard MacAlpine that was originally published in "Yates Past."


The Healers

For 100 years the Oliver doctors treated injuries from train, sawmill and farming accidents, burns, and diseases such as dropsy, catarrh and apoplexy. The exhibit focuses on their training, treatments and daily life as highly respected members of the Yates County community. On display are Dr. Andrew Oliver’s desk with daily ledger, the medical library, and examples of tonics and treatments used to heal the sick. The doctors’ legacy as noble benefactors of a suffering humanity lives on in this extensive display.


New at the Spencer Research Center

Yates County History Center members can visit Ancestry.com for free by using our guest computer in the Spencer Research Center, Caroline Underwood Museum.

Discover your family's history! Become a YCHC member today!


History Meets Media

Yates County History Center often helps local students with their local history research projects. Did you know that for a few years now, thanks in part to a grant, AP History students from Penn Yan Academy have had the learning opportunity to select a local history subject of their choice, research it and create a documentary? Below are a couple examples.


"Over There" and Over Here: Yates County In The Great War (1916-1919) is the newest addition to YCHC Heritage Books & Gifts.

Inspired by the 100 year anniversary of the Great War, each chapter is a bimonthly look at the progress of the war and how the local community reacted to it starting in November of 1916 when the United States was trying to maintain neutrality. The final chapter describes the enthusiastic welcome home celebration for local servicemen on the 4th of July 1919.

Visit YCHC Heritage Books & Gifts today and find more treasures on local history!

Don't miss this great opportunity to add the freshly reprinted atlas, New Historical Atlas of Yates County New York Illustrated Everts, Ensign & Everts 1876, to your historic library. Enjoy the look of the original with the strength of a newly created book!

Nearly identical to the original, this 114 page hardcover book is slightly smaller at approximately 14" x 17", contains 28 individual colored maps of each of the townships, villages and hamlets within Yates County's borders and many line drawings of places and people as they were in 1876.

Heritage Books & Gifts has it on sale now, below cost, for only $100 plus tax.



Yates County History Center helps people come to understand and appreciate the importance of local and family history. Our work and present level of programming is supported largely by financial support through membership and contributing donors. Become involved!



Check us out Amazon shoppers! AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Yates history! Every time you shop at smile.amazon.com, with Yates County Genealogical & Historical Society as your charitable organization, Amazon will donate a small percentage of your purchase amount to the Yates County History Center.



NYS Historic Newspapers has become the repository for over 100,000 pages of YCHC's historic newspaper collection. In the coming months more and more of them will become available at NYS Historic Newspapers for searching

The guide General Comments and Search Examples will help you get started searching these valuable resources.

Help us locate missing issues of newspapers.


Yates County History Center
107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Phone 315.536.7318 | Fax 315.536.0976
Email YCHC | Email Webmaster
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | Copyright © 2019

A community museum where every story matters!