Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Great Migrations to the United States

The history of the United States is made up of a series of migrations. For the genealogist, this information is important because by knowing when a group of people migrated to the United States, we get a starting point for your study of our own family’s immigration to this country.

The first large migration to the United States came from England. It is not the Pilgrims; it is the next wave of immigrant. Their journey is known as the Great Migration and is tracked in a series of books. If you have colonial New England roots but are not among the Mayflower descendants, chances are you are eligible to join the Winthrop Society. The settlers who came in the Great Migrations were many of them, followers of John Winthrop who was a Puritan. During the 1630’s 21,000 migrated from England to found their ‘City upon a Hill”. To find out more about the Great Migration you can visit this website.

If you are of Dutch ancestry or have found what appears to be a Dutch name in your ancestry one place to begin your search is in New York City and the Hudson River Valley. Between the 1620’s and 1664 there was a growth in the Dutch population of the area which was at the time owned by the Netherlands from 2000 to over 9000 inhabitants. You may very well find your ancestors among these hardy immigrants. There were almost no Dutch immigrants for the next two hundred years so it is worth looking at this website for help tracing your Dutch Ancestors.

The next major migration to the United States was the almost one million Irish who arrived here to escape the famine that would kill a million poor souls who couldn’t migrate. To try to find your ancestors among the thousands on the ships that came to New York and other east coast ports, NARA has a searchable list. with over 600.000 records. These immigrants were not well received by the locals who by this time between 1847-1851 had forgotten that they too were descended from immigrants.

While not quite reaching the one million mark, between 1840 and 1930 over 900,000 French Canadians left their homes in the north and moved south to take the factory jobs that most of the Americans didn’t want. In New England there are large pockets of French Canadians to this day that have retained some of the heritage and their language. The St Albans border crossing records may help you to determine when your French Canadian ancestor came to the US. They can be accessed on Ancestry.com

In the 19th century there were great migrations from Germany and from Scandinavia. Many of these emigrants moved to the northern Midwest to settle in Chicago, Minnesota and Wisconsin. To this day, the ethnic influences are strong in that area. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Germans from the 18th century who came to the United States for religious freedom are still practicing the old ways and are called the Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish.

There were many large migrations from Europe in the late nineteenth and early 20th century, from Italy and from Poland. Many Chinese came to work on the railroads in the western United States in the 19th century.

Knowing these patterns of migration can be a big help in your genealogical research. It can help you to know where to look when you have come to a dead end. These are just a few of the stories that our ancestors have to tell us.

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