European Ancestors – Migration Series (32) Thinking about Migration to the USA

European Migration Series
© Julie Goucher, August 2022

This post is part of a series about European Migration. You can read the complete series HERE

People do not always migrate in straight lines. By that I mean on one continuous journey.

Researching across continental Europe is always a little tricky because of Empires and the reach of those Empires, the topic of ports, and the considerations that migrants took in choosing the port along with the destination. Finally there are the topics of wars and political influence. All of these potentially impacted the route taken as did other factors such as religion, cultural matters, and in terms of political those that were anti-establishment.

When migrating, migrants often travelled in groups, the group might be representative of family, friends or those who were from the same town etc. Choosing the ports was important, focus might have been on the cheapest versus the nearest, therefore cost was a consideration. The other consideration would’ve been the destination.

The following is a list of some of the ports which might help you:

Ports in the United States were New York, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, though these are not exhaustive. In UK ports were also important, from Liverpool you could sell to the United States, Canada and Australia.

Other ports in the UK Glasgow, Hull, Bristol, Plymouth, Falmouth, Padstow, Bideford, there was Cork and Belfast.

European ports were Bremen in Germany, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium, Hamburg in Germany, Gottberg in Sweden, Le Havre in France. In France additionally is Marseille, Boulogne and Calais.

In Italy there is Naples and Palermo there are many more ports especially on the east coast of Britain that would’ve linked up to countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.

The topic of ports is divided into two broad elements:

  • Immigrant ports
  • City of immigrants

The first group is people who travel from their home location to the port where they settle while they wait for the ship. In some cases it wasn’t about the destination it was more about securing a berth on a vessel. For some, the decision of where they were going was not made until they arrived at the port. The decision was focused on where the next ship was going, and when.

The second group looks at the immigrants themselves. The city of immigrants is more about the arrival of migrants. Effectively a ship docked, the migrants got off and they settled. There was no movement to a settlement elsewhere though that may have come in time. An early example of this is, in 1683 a group of Dutch and German migrants arrived in Philadelphia and settled in the town that is now called Germantown later migrants may well have joined that settlement or may have gone elsewhere.

Into the 19th Century, many of the migrants who settled in Philadelphia had typically arrived at another port, New York is 90 miles to the north-east.

Remaining focus on United States, we see migration in three waves:

  1. First wave was between 1820 and 1880  – by 1880 115,000 immigrants had arrived in Boston which was a third more of the population. The migrants were mainly especially between 1840 & 1850. The Irish who made up about 90% of the population, there were also smaller groups of Germans, Canadians, Scots, and those from Britain.
  2. Second wave between 1880 and 1921 – During this period the city of Boston for example doubled in size with 40% Of the residents were migrants according to the 1910 census.
  3. Third wave took place from 1965 onwards. In this period we see a significant change in the migrant groups arriving using Boston, as an example migrants came from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, China, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, India, El Salvador, Vietnam is and Guatemala. What is this list may seem out of the constraints of Europe if you look at the locations you will see that those countries are very much linked to other countries within Europe who’s had empires such as India as part of the British Empire, Caribbean linking to France, Latin America linking into Spain and Portugal.

It is quite possible that migrants from Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain settled in destinations such as Latin America, Vietnam and the Caribbean and then undertake migration into the United States, effectively double migration might have time span of at least 50 or 60 years. It is during this period we see the decline of migration by boat and an increase in by plane.

During the period of 1921 to 1965 we have what is known as the restriction years. Groups such as the KKK were very much against migration of Catholic and Jews. The National Origins Act of 1924 was looking at migration through a quota system generally felt favouritism with those from England, Ireland ,and Germany.

Migration Numbers indicate in 1921 there was 800,000 migrants, by 1930 this had fallen to 150,000. It coincided with slow economic growth and by 1934 a quarter of the workers were unemployed. The Second World War at least temporarily revived the economy through shipbuilding munitions and the production of other military goods.

Post-World War II the United States is admitting War brides, Jewish refugees affected by the Holocaust, and others fleeing communism from Eastern Europe, China and Cuba.

Something else to consider is to focus on the arrival ports. as well as the departure ports,

As you can see the topic of migration and ports it’s not a small one, and the European Migration Series is going to be a long series, some of the posts might be on consecutive days, while others might be a week or so apart. The series is currently scooped out on a rather large pile of index cards, and is subject to be tweaked over the coming weeks. Different migration groups likely share commonality with other groups, regardless of the catalyst for migrating, how they migrated, when they migrated, why they migrated and where they migrated to.

The posts are going to cover a wide range of reasons, locations, timespans, individuals and resources etc. The commonality might mean there is going to be some overlap and going forward, I will attempt to keep posts short and concise.

What to do next? To get the most out of the series, or for European research guidance there are a few things I recommend:

  1. Subscribe via email, Facebook or Twitter follow, then you will be alerted to new posts when they publish
  2. Leave comments or questions on posts – I might answer questions at the bottom of the post, create a separate Q & A or do both
  3. The European Ancestors section on the menu bar has a link for this series and a variety of other posts – what is currently published is a mere fraction of what I have.
  4. Consider taking the Pharos European Ancestors course (750)

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in European Ancestors, European Migration Series, Europeans beyond Europe. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to European Ancestors – Migration Series (32) Thinking about Migration to the USA

  1. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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