In the 1800ís Ireland was ruled by the British under the Act of Union, which applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. The country was becoming over populated and starvation and poverty was rampant. Anglo-Irish families owned most of the land, making it difficult for the Irish Catholics (who made up 70% of the population) to gain capital.
This is when the terrible events of Potato Famine began. While potatoes used to be a supplementary item in the Irish diet a century earlier, it quickly became a staple for the destitute all year round. With such dependence on one crop it made the arrival of blight very dangerous. Blight is a plant disease caused by water mold, which ruined several consecutive years of crops. Without food or proper quality of life, the Irish began to emigrate so they could enjoy life in North America.
The county of Tyrone, where Aunt Pollyís family was located, seemed to be the least effected by famine of all 32 counties in Ireland in the 1800s. However, over 60,000 people were lost to either emigration or, more often, death. What saved Tyrone from more tragedy were workhouses for the poor and fever hospitals for the sick, which reduced the death tolls.