Czech and Slovak 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 Czech and Slovak ancestors immigrate?
  2. When did they leave?
  3. How did they get here?
  4. Where did they settle?

Czech:

  • 1585 – Joachim Gans was a Czech mining expert who was part of the 1585 expedition that attempted to establish a settlement at Roanoke Island before Jamestown was settled in 1607.
  • 1640 – Augustine Herman(1621-1686) was a surveyor and skilled draftsman and arrived in New Amsterdam in 1640 as an employee of the West India Company
  • 1735 – The first large group of Czech immigrants began arriving in 1735 with the coming of a group of Moravian Brethren in Savannah, Georgia.
  • Late 1840s – The mass immigration of Czechs slowly began in the 1840s due to political and economic problems after the failure of the revolutions of 1848 in Europe.
  • 1850s – The magnetic pull of Chain Migration:
  • Increased the number of Czech immigrants arriving in America as letters home gave a glowing picture of the availability of jobs and cheap land.
  • This group was from the rural areas that were affected by a poor economy and the lack of jobs.
  • Immigrants were both single men/women and married couples who had to leave to find a better life.

Slovak:

  • 1695 – The first known Slovakian immigrant was Isaac Ferdinand Sharoshi, who arrived in 1695 to join the Mennonite religious community in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
  • 1770s – Two other Slovak immigrants were Maurice Benyovszkyand Jan Polerecky who were soldiers in the American Revolution. They fought under General Pulaski during the siege of Savannah.
  • 1867 – Mass Slovak emigration began after the American Civil War when the Hungarian nobles were granted their autonomy from their Austrian ruler and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed in 1867. By this agreement, the Austrian monarch gave the Hungarian nobles freedom in local matters.
  • Pre-1914 – Most Slovak immigrants who arrived before World War I could not read or write. They came from rural farming areas where the Hungarian government discouraged the development of literacy among the Slovaks. Most became industrial laborers. In America, parents encouraged their children to seek secure jobs rather than professional work, which required higher education.

 Push/Pull Factors:

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.

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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