Friday, January 15, 2010
An Introduction to the Immigrant Ancestors Project: An Emigration Perspective to Immigration
Between 1821 and 1924, the world saw one of the greatest migrations ever, as approximately fifty-five million Europeans emigrated. The vast majority went to the Americas-- 33 million to the United States, 5.4 million to Argentina, 4.5 million to Canada, 3.8 million to Brazil and the rest in smaller, but significant numbers to countries from Mexico to Chile as well as to Australia and other Pacific rim countries. These immigrants, emigrants--migrants all--melded with indigenous and previous immigrants to enrich and forever change the recipient countries and their cultures. While Ireland, Germany, Italy, and England top the list in terms of numbers departing, every country in Europe contributed to the flow. These statistics and associated studies are only a black-and-white sketch of the rich tapestry of individual experiences that make up this great migration.
Arrival records: Only a Part of the Story
For those tracing the story of an individual immigrant, even the best passenger lists tell only part of the story, and most do not even do that. Over half of those in the United States do not give key details such as place of birth, and few give story details such as reasons for emigrating. In Latin America, even where arrival records are preserved, the information given is less. For example, in passenger lists for the years 1891- 1930 for the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, during only four years was the place of birth for the immigrant given. For all of these reasons the European records of emigration, which are at the heart of the Immigrant Ancestors Project, need to be consulted to give a more complete understanding of the emigration process and its individual stories.