Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, February 7, 2020

Stymied by the Immigrant: Part One

Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York.
Whatever their motivation, the two American continents have been the object of immigrants for tens of thousands of years. As genealogists, of course, we focus only on the last four hundred years or so but the process of immigration and the reception the immigrants received when they arrived affects the ancestry of every person living in North or South America today. It is inevitable that the first immigrants in any part of the land claimed ownership and resented and opposed the arrival of any subsequent infusions.  This almost automatic opposition is so territorial that it is common today for smaller communities to oppose almost any expansion by an increased surrounding population. See for example, "Herriman City Council Members Oppose Proposed Olympia Hills Development at County Public Hearing."

Huge cultural, economic, social, and political forces divide the present population of the Americas that originated from the motivation or lack of motivation for coming to the Americas of their immigrant ancestors. Included with this automatic stratification by mode and motivation for immigration is the additional acquisition of entitlement acquired by those who came voluntarily and with extensive economic resources. For example, opposition to further immigration began almost immediately in the first European colonies primarily because of the nationalist sentiment of the colonists who resented the arrival of immigrants from countries or areas viewed as traditional enemies or undesirables. So, Engish colonists automatically resented and opposed colonists from Ireland or Germany and the so-called native inhabitants, who were only more established immigrants of the Americas, had a mixed reception for the first Europeans.

As genealogists, we tend to look at our own immigrants as somehow isolated from the general population of immigrants that were either in the Americas already or came at about the same time with the same motivation. For example, the Irish immigrants who came in the early to mid-1800s almost all came with the same motivation: starvation in their native Ireland and their arrival in the United States was almost uniformly opposed in some cases with violence.

When we understand and appreciate the challenges and difficulties of each immigrant, we can also begin to understand why records containing information about their place of origin may be difficult or impossible to find. Usually, the existence or absence of information about the origin of the immigrant depends on the immigrant's economic status. Subsequently, you can usually find your rich ancestor immigrants and cannot find your poor ones and since the poor vastly outnumbered the rich, finding and identifying the origin of our collective ancestors is major obstacle to extending family lines. Additionally, once the place of origin is identified, there may be additional challenges in discovering and accessing the records in the homeland.

In this series, I will be discussing some of the specific issues that confront genealogists in determining the origin of immigrants. Meanwhile, I suggest you may want to start learning about the immigration research challenges by watching this recent video from Joseph B. Everett, MLS, AG from the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel

Researching Immigrants to the United States - Joe Everett

You may also want to investigate the many other videos on the BYU YouTube Channel that talk about immigration.

No comments:

Post a Comment