In large part, emigration from Ireland was precipitated by continuing troubles between, on the one hand, the native Irish and Old English (Cambro-Norman descendants), and on the other, the English Planters and those who wished to impose Protestant parliamentary rule over Ireland.
In 1601, the Irish chiefs lost a major battle against the English in Kinsale. A few years afterwards, in 1607, the northern Earls, unable and unwilling to live under English domination left for the courts and armies of Europe. Many accompanied them. This paticular event, now refered to as the Flight of the Earls, stripped Ireland of effective leadership for many years thereafter. At first slowly, then with more intensity, young men and families, following the example of the northern Earls, left their homeland seeking to improve their lot.
In the mid-1600’s came the Cromwellian land confiscations and then in 1691 the loss of a major battle by the Irish in Limerick. At this point in time, many officers and soldiers, now refered to as the “wild geese”, fled to the Continent in the hope of returning some day.
The last decade of the 1700’s saw the “transportation” of a large number of individuals to other parts of the world, brought on by the need to free-up space in overcrowded prisons and to reduce the amount of monies paid out in welfare.
The failed Rebellion of 1798 also resulted in more “transportations” for those who were lucky enough to be spared from a hanging. In the 1800’s, economic pressures in Ireland had reached the point where many more young men and families, seeing only a bleak prospect of making a living for themselves, opted to emigrate and to re-establish themselves elsewhere. The colonies in British North America and the newly independent United States looked particularly attractive.
In the mid to late 1840’s, failed potato crops several years in a row precipitated a massive outward flow of Irish people bound for America, however many of them never made it, dying on overcrowded, ill-equipped ships or while waiting in quarantine stations on the other side of the Atlantic.
After several centuries of emigration, Nolan families are now found in all parts of the globe. Based upon a recent survey done by Halbert’s Family Heritage, the largest number of Nolan descendants outside of Ireland is found in the United States, closely followed by Canada and Australia, then comes Great Britain and South Africa.