Coffin Ships” were infamous vessels which brought immigrants from Ireland to Canada (not America) during the Potato Famine (1845-52). These were death ships. The death rate could easily be 30% for some of these voyages. Although there was technically British regulation for passenger ship standards, these were often ignored by the shipping lines and the captains. British regulations were much better by 1867. The American shipping industry had tightly regulated standards.
The plight of the passengers was due to poor sanitation, overcrowding, lack of food and water. When people died, burial was at sea. The logical question is why people would take a British ship over an American bound ship. The answer was costs. The British ships were all these people could afford.
I took a tour of a reconstructed Coffin Ship known as the Dunbrody Famine Ship docked at New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland a few years back: www.dunbrody.com it’s a full scale reproduction of an 1845 sailing ship. I can still get the shivers. Then the tour guide described the crowded sleeping bunks. Someone on top bunk would get dysentery, and the sickness would run all the down to the bunks below. I understood!
I understood what these people went through, and caught a glimpse of what they became upon immigrating. So many valued education, were active in politics, and pushed their way up the social ladder. Perhaps, this is the real legacy of the Coffin Ships. The survivors clawed their way to become anything other than what they had been reduced to on the Coffin Ships.