Irish immigration to and from Chile may hold the key to reconstruct a family on the move. Chile is a very European country. Its residents had access to shipping lanes worldwide connecting them to countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Peru, New Zealand and Australia. The Irish came to mine nitrate, grow sheep, work in the shipping industry and be merchants. The founder and liberator of the country was Bernardo O’Higgins, the son of an Irish immigrant. He served as Chile’s first president, 1817-1823.
Places where the Irish and other Europeans are known to have settled, by town and region are as follows. This is not a complete list, but a foundational list:
Atacama Caldera, Copiapó
Bío-Bío Los Angeles
Coquimbo Coquimbo, La Compañia, La Serena, Ovalle, Tongoy
Llanquihue Puerto Montt
Magallanes Punta Arenas
Osorno Osorno, Riachuelo
Tarapacá Arica, Iquique
Valdivia Dagllpulli, La Unión, Valdivia
Valparaiso Caldera, Los Andes, Valparaiso
Both Catholic and Protestant Irish were in Chile. In a predominantly Catholic country, with few Protestant clergy, this raised the question of how to legitimize Protestant births/baptisms and marriages. In 1844, under Chilean law, non-Catholic births and marriages were legitimized by the Catholic priest who would be the acting “minister” acting “according to their rite.” These were registered in the local Catholic parish registers as disidentes(dissidents or non-Catholic) registers. These are on microfilm at the Family History Library. Irish Catholics would be found in the local parish registers alongside all other Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials.
The website “Society for Irish Latin American Studies”: www.irlandeses.orgis an excellent starting place to place these immigrants in their historical context.