New Hampshire has highest population of Irish, study finds

New Hampshire has the highest population of Irish in the nation. By Lynn Gilbert/Getty

By Stacy Milbouer

March 14, 2024

Hold on to your shillelaghs Granite Staters. This St. Patrick’s Day we can raise a green beer to being the most Irish state in the country. Eat your heart out, Boston!

The Northeast has the highest concentration of Irish Americans because this is where most settled when first escaping famine and social unrest in 18th-and-19th-century Ireland. According to “World Population Review,” New Hampshire leads the way with 20 % of our population of Irish descent. Massachusetts follows with 19%, Rhode Island, with 17%, Vermont, with 16 %, and Maine, with 15%. Hawaii has the smallest percentage of Irish descent, with 4 %.

It all began when the Scots-Irish, fleeing famine and social unrest, began settling in New Hampshire in 1719 with a large population eventually centered in what’s now Londonderry and Derry, named for the colonists’ homes in Ireland, according to the Londonderry Historical Society. The first potato ever grown in the United States was from Ireland and planted in Londonderry. Londonderry was also famous for its Irish linen, producing 25,000 yards annually. It was said to have been worn by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and was so valued, that other places tried to pass their fabric off as Londonderry linen. That stopped when the House of Representatives mandated that Londonderry-made linen have a label to ensure its authenticity. Two of the American Revolution’s renowned patriots were first-generation Americans of Irish descent, including General John Stark of Londonderry –  author of our “Live Free or Die” motto, and John Sullivan of Somersworth who served as a major general during the war and later as the attorney general and governor of New Hampshire, according to “Irish America Magazine.”

So this St. Patrick’s Day, New Hampshire folk should commit to the wearing of the green to celebrate our first-in-the-nation Irish identity. Erin go rah!



  • Stacy Milbouer

    Stacy Milbouer is an award-winning journalist and has covered New Hampshire for many publications including the Boston Globe, New Hampshire Magazine, and the Nashua Telegraph.



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