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Lowell, USA


The Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program

The University of Massachusetts, Lowell, USA & Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In March 2009 an Agreement of Collaboration was signed between Queen's University Belfast (QUB) and the University of Massachusetts in Lowell (UMass Lowell). As part of this agreement the Center for Irish Partnerships at UMass Lowell and the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) at QUB established a new archaeological research project -  the Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program (IAHAP). Led by Dr Frank Talty and Victoria Denoon (UMass Lowell) and Dr Colm Donnelly and Ronan McHugh (CAF) this is a transatlantic project that involves staff and students from both institutions participating in archaeological excavations at St Patrick's Church in the heart of what was once the Irish urban settlement within 19th-century Lowell and at a rural cottage in the townland of Crossan near Dromore in County Tyrone that is associated with Hugh Cummiskey, one of the leading figures within Lowell's early Irish community. The objective is to further our knowledge and understanding of life for the Irish emigrants in 19th-century Massachusetts, and the life of the Irish in 19th-century Tyrone.

Work commenced in Lowell in August 2010 and was followed by a second season in 2011.


Work on the Tyrone leg of the project at Crossan took place in 2011.


A further component of the program has involved the analysis of the grave memorials of the early Irish settlers buried in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Lowell (opened 1832), and is being undertaken by Dr Eileen Murphy and Dr Lynne McKerr (QUB) and David McKean (Archivist at St. Patrick's Church). In conjunction with information derived from the burial records this research will potentially provide insights on many social aspects of these people - where they came from, how and when they died and their attitudes towards their children, amongst others.


A third season of the transatlantic excavation programme is planned for 14th to 22nd July 2012 (Lowell) and 18th to 25th August 2012 (Tyrone).

A PDF presentation about the project is available to download here.

A PDF about the project from UMASS Lowell magazine (Winter 2011) is available here.

A PDF of a recent article on the Cummiskeys is available to download here [Donnelly, C.J., and Allmond, G., 2011: “The Cummiskeys of Crossan, Parish of Kilskeery, County Tyrone”, Directory of Irish Family History Research34, Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 4-5.]

The history of the Irish in Lowell and the ongoing work of IAHAP is charted by David McKean (Archivist at St Patrick's Church) om his website, IrishLowell.