Polish Immigration to America – a basic outline

We need to find the answers to the following questions to unlock some elements of our family history:

  1. Why did our Polish ancestors immigrate?
  2. When did they leave?
  3. How did they get here?
  4. Where did they settle?

1608 – Polish craftsmen were among the workers recruited for Jamestown to manufacture:

  • Glass for export
  • Tar and resins needed to repair the ships.

Partitions (annexation) by Prussia, Russia, and Austria from 1772-1795 removed Poland from the map of Europe. Emigration did increase at this time, but partitions set in motion events that increased the Polish nationalist pride which along with economic and political problems caused the wave of emigration that start about 1850.

1850 – 1914 – “za chlebem …” or ”… for bread…”

It was not easy to immigrate to America. Those who left saw immigration as their only chance to escape the poverty of their life in Poland. In the last half of the 1800s and the early years of the 1900s, the forces motivating the Poles to leave their homeland can be divided into “Push” factors and “Pull” factors.

 1850s – From the Prussian Partition starting with from Silesia (Families emigrated)

1880s – Austria – the Galician Misery- (Single men/women or young, married couples)

1890s – Russia – (Single men/women or young, married couples)

Push factors were forces that drove them out of their home countries such as:

  • poverty
  • a shortage of land
  • the military draft
  • political or cultural repression
  • religious discrimination

Pull factors were:

  • the promise of jobs in the new lands
  • cheap farmland in America and Canada
  • the magnetic pull of “chain “

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