Why is the Immigration Story Important?

Our immigrant ancestors are:

  • The foundation of our roots in the United States.
  • Do not underestimate their sacrifices and contributions.
  • Consider their role in the factories and farms of the U.S.
  • Their work and lives were building blocks in the growth of their new country.

 Each immigrant has a unique immigration story. Record the narrative passed down by our parents and grandparents. Then dig out the details from all resources and match the historical reasons to the family oral history. Unlock more stories by looking at the documents, photos, family stories, and social history. Find out how do they relate. Do the work, add to your Family Histories, and honor your ancestors.

Remember, Genealogy Begins at Home!

You may have a treasure trove of family history hidden in desk drawers, file cabinets, and shoe boxes. Look for old papers, letters, and old photos your parents saved when they cleaned out the homes of your grandparents. This step is especially important if your parents or grandparents were immigrants.

Also, determine who was the caregiver when your immigrant ancestors died and pray that they saved the old paper in the shoeboxes. Once you find the caregiver or their descendants, contact them immediately to see what they kept. The caretakers may have sorted through the shoeboxes and saved the treasures you need. If you find documents with other relatives, ask for copies, and offer to share the results of your research.

If you are lucky, you will find their baptismal certificate, exit visas, and photos of your ancestors who stayed in Poland. These documents will contain more valuable information on your family history than any gold watches or jewels inherited.

Write down brief notes of the oral family stories and visit the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried to record the grave marker inscriptions and take pictures. At family gatherings, ask your siblings and other relatives to add what they remember about where your ancestors left.

Another critical step is to ask your siblings and cousins for their personal memories of their time with your grandparents. Carefully write their memories down and add their words to your family history. These are personal words that will be treasured by future generations.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars

Great News! Legacy Family Tree Webinars us celebrating their 10th Anniversary and are unlocking for free viewing of their top Webinar from each of the past ten years.

https://familytreewebinars.com/top10

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 “

Irish Immigration to America

Why did your Irish ancestors emigrate? The majority of Irish came to America during the Irish Potato Famine and in the years afterward. However, the reasons for the immigration was more complex than the starvation conditions they were suffering in Ireland before they left. Their reasons were based on conditions caused by British Penal Laws passed in the 1600s and 1700s. These laws set the stage for conditions that made possible the devastation the Irish suffered during and after the Potato Famine of the late 1840s.

The answers to why they left differ and are related to the sharp religious divisions between Irish Catholics, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and the Anglican English. These tensions seem to be the cause of many to begin leaving Ireland in the 1700s and early 1800s and appeared to magnify the well-known effects of the Irish Famine.

Religious and political freedom were among the early reasons. However, poverty, especially at the time of the Great Famine, was also high on the list of reasons to leave. The religious divisions and tensions in Ireland go back to the conflicts between Catholic Irish and their English Protestant rulers. The end of the Nine Years War in 1603 added another factor to the tensions when King James gave Irish lands to Scottish Presbyterian.

When the Irish lost the war, King James VI of England confiscated the land on the rebellious Irish lords. King James then recruited Scottish clansmen to populate the confiscated land. In 1609, he began the systematic resettlement of the Plantation of Ulster with recruited English and Scottish Protestant settlers. However, the English did not honor their early promises to the Scots, and soon the Presbyterian Scots felt the discrimination that the Catholic Irish felt. They began leaving Ireland for America and other countries about 1730.

The leading cause of the tension among the Presbyterian Scots and the Irish Catholics was the pressure from the English to support the Anglican Church. Only Anglicans could own land and be members of the local government. This situation produced much of the poverty that both groups suffered, and felt the need to leave. Over time the difference in economic levels became more extensive with the English or descendants of the English being very wealthy and all others suffering marginally to extreme poverty. The English landowners also encouraged growing of the potato, and it became the major food crop throughout Ireland. When the potato blight began, the English government did not bring in an economical substitute causing much of the starvation felt by the poor. Also, the fail of the potato crops gave the landlords reason to evict many of their tenants and convert the lands to pastures or larger fields that they harvested using farm implements.

Remember that each immigrant has a unique story. Our challenge is to dig out as many details of their immigration saga as we can for our family history. This search includes matching when they came and where they left for possible reasons occurring around them.

Our immigrant ancestors laid 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 Ireland. Do not underestimate their contributions. They performed vital roles in the development of America. Many of them cleared fields on the frontier and worked on the farms. Many of the Irish were unskilled and toiled constructing the canals and railroads or in factories. Their lives became building blocks in the growth of their new country.

Just added to Illinois State Genealogy Society Webinar schedule

Join us on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 8:00 PM Central for another free webinar – “Writing Your Family History: Mechanics and Flourishes”. Our guest speaker, Stephen Szabados will show you how to move beyond your beginning outline. You’ll learn how to work with a larger document and add the flourish, like photos and maps, to enrich your family’s history.

Webinar Registration Link:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1260907149400260622

After you register, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Polish Genealogy Websites

PGSA (Polish Genealogical Society of America) has compiled a list of over 45 websites that give us access to Polish records or information about local history and customs.

https://pgsa.org/polish-sites/

The importance of Organizing and Sharing your Genealogical Research

Start enjoying your Genealogy Research. Get organized!

There are many reasons why being organized is essential. My greatest joy came from finding more records and answering more questions once I became better organized. The positive feeling I had gave me positive re-enforcement and gave me more enjoyment from my hard work.

Initially, I collected personal papers, photos, and stories and then added the names and dates to the genealogy forms, such as family trees and group sheets. This basic data allowed me to find census records and other documents from online collections and archives. I was excited because I was filling out my family tree. When I tried to share this information with family members, they were usually confused and reluctant to take the time to read the documents. They were not excited about my research like I was.

Their reluctance made me rethink my approach, and I realized that the stories were more important than the documents. I then reviewed different reports available from various genealogy software but found none that was easy to use and understand by non-genealogists. They did not tell the stories.

Using Microsoft Word, I started recording my information in summaries for each direct ancestor. I listed each piece of information and story in chronological order in the summary. I also included photos, maps, and documents next to the text to help illustrate the information. I added other materials to the document at the end of the narrative. Sometimes, I included notes to myself to do future research when I could find time or resources. I highlight these notes by using red type.

My research efforts had many starts and stops, and this format enabled me to restart my research faster when I had time to return to it. The format allowed me to focus on what to do next quickly, and I could easily find the data I needed to do the next search. The format helped me correlate and analyze my research more efficiently. My research became more accurate.

The stories began to emerge from the gathered information, and the summaries were readable and increased the interest of family members. They suddenly asked questions and freely offered what they knew. The format also reminded them of many stories found deep in their memories. The exchange of information was amazing, and the family history grew.

Genealogy is not just the collection of names. Our ancestors were living human beings who interacted with the people around them. The documents and information we find contain stories about our ancestors. Our challenge is to review the information and see the stories hidden in the facts and then share them with our family. It is critical to organize our data in a format that can be easily read by all the members of your family, both present and future. Go beyond the names and dates and find the stories buried in the documents. Get organized. Find a way to write the stories and save them for your future generations.

Elements in my Family History Books

  • Organized and understandable
  • Goes beyond records, placing people in the context of their surroundngs
  • The facts and relationships are fully documented
  • Information accurate
  • Includes maps, charts, and photographs

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.