This month I've been researching the family of William McGinnis, my 3rd great-grandfather and one of my father's most recent immigrant ancestors to arrive in America. Although the details of his story are a mystery to me, his struggle should not be forgotten. He sailed to New York around 1849 in the latter part of the Great Irish Famine. He had survived "Black '47", the year considered to be the most devastating, when many thousands of men, women and children died from starvation in Ireland. William was counted on the census in New York in 1850 and in 1855, on the New York State Census, he indicated he had been in the town for five years. He may have lived in New York City for a time, before traveling northwest into upstate New York.
A search of the Irish Famine Index of survivors who fled Ireland and came to America (Find it on FamilySearch) produced two possible matches, shown below. Visit FamilySearch to try a search for your Irish relatives. (MyGenealogyAddiction.com is not affiliated with FamilySearch. You may need to create an account on their site to access records on FamilySearch).
The first possible match is an entry for "William Mcginniss", age 20, a shoemaker born abt. 1827 who departed from Liverpool aboard the ship "Sheridan" and arrived in New York City on December 22, 1847. It appears there were no other McGinnis passengers on the ship. (Tip: To determine this, I modified the search to find passengers with last name "McGinnis". I then clicked "Immigration" and entered the year, 1847. I think browse the list for passengers who traveled on the same day and ship).
The next, and more probable match, William Mcginnis, age 21, a laborer who departed from Liverpool about the ship "Constitution" and arrived in New York City of January 16, 1849. The index estimates his birth year as 1828, but he arrived January 16th, early in the year. Therefore, he most likely turned 21 in 1848, which would make his birth year 1827, the same my ancestor, William McGinnis. There was also a 16-year old boy named John McGinnis on the ship. Whether or not they traveled together is unknown and a search for John McGinnis born 1833 produced results in Schuyler, New York, but whether or not this was the same John has yet to be determined.
I found no record of Susan McGinnis, the woman counted in the same home as William on the 1850 census, I did, however, find a possible match for Rosa McGinnis, the unmarried woman who was in the same home as William on the 1855 Census. At the age of 14, she sailed on the ship "Iowa", from Glasgow to New York City, arriving August 16, 1850. It appears there were no other people carrying the McGinnis name on the ship.
You might also be interested in this documentary on the Great Irish Famine.
"United States Famine Irish Passenger Index, 1846-1851," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDXX-YWF : 27 December 2014), Wm. Mcginniss, 22 Dec 1847; from "Famine Irish Passenger Record Data File (FIPAS), 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851," database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (http://aad.archives.gov : accessed 2012); citing "Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Center for Immigration Research 1976-2002."
"United States Famine Irish Passenger Index, 1846-1851," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDXV-DGP : 27 December 2014), Wm. Mcginnis, 16 Jan 1849; from "Famine Irish Passenger Record Data File (FIPAS), 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851," database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (http://aad.archives.gov : accessed 2012); citing "Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Center for Immigration Research 1976-2002."