Our Immigrant Ancestors Were Heroes

Our immigrant ancestors were heroes. Their names will not appear in history books, but their efforts impacted American history, and without their sacrifices, our country would not have developed as it did.

They were mostly farmers who felt they had to leave Europe. Some left due to religious persecution. Many immigrated to survive the poverty they were enduring. If they were married, they left to find food for their children. If they were single, they left to find work because there was an excess of farm labor and no room for them on the family farm.

In the 1600s, the American colonies offered freedom from religious persecution. In the 1700s, the colonies offered land, jobs, and the opportunity for a better life. In the 1800s, the United States needed immigrants even more as their westward movement demanded more farmers, and the growth of their factories required more workers.

As the U.S. became the leading industrial power in the world, the rapid growth of heavy industry had a ripple effect on other sectors of the U.S. economy – mining, heavy equipment, petroleum, manufacturing, and the food industries all saw rapid growth. This increase demanded more workers, and the massive spike in immigration from Europe in the early 1900s gave the need for considerable increases in manpower.

The first immigrants were seeking religious freedom. They arrived with little money and few belongings. However, many were excellent farmers, worked hard, and most were successful. They established many towns in the eastern colonies and were among the first pioneers to move across the Appalachian Mountains. Later, immigrants found farms in the Midwest and continue to build strong roots where ever they settled. During the industrial revolution, our immigrants filled critical positions in factories and mills.

My 4th great-grandfather arrived in 1770 as a redemptioner (an indentured servant), learned a trade (miller), and was one of the early pioneers in Kentucky and Indiana. He and his children help build the communities where they settled with their farming efforts and also furnishing the vital service of milling the grain of their neighbors. After eight generations, he has about 400,000 living descendants. Many of his descendants are farmers and blue-collar workers. Some are also professionals such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, architects.

Our immigrant ancestors are the foundation of our roots in the United States. Our lives would be much different if they did not endure the challenges of emigration from Europe. Do not underestimate their contributions. They may have left us some material wealth, but the most significant contribution they left is their role in the factories and farms of the United States. Their lives were the building blocks in the growth of their new country, and their immigration influenced the quality of our lives today in the United States.

Remember that they made many sacrifices for us and helped build the United States. Hopefully, what you have read in these pages has given you a few clues to expand your vision of your ancestors so you can leave your descendants with more memories of their heritage.

 

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