Italian Immigration to America - 1850s

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

Tracing Immigration and Migration

Tracing one's ancestors can be easy or it can be quite a chore, depending upon the quality of record keeping associated with the locations in which one's family members have lived.

Here is an example. I've traced some of my ancestors from a small cluster of distant "cousins" of the royal-stuart clan, their name being Tyrell, or Tirell or other variations. The descendants have a special club and web page to join. They were very distantly related to the Stuarts that make up the Royal Family in England; therefore, I am permitted to wear a small pin or dagger with the Stuart crest if I should choose to obtain a full Scottish kit (kilt and accessories). However, "Inglish" means "an Englander living abroad" or in my poetic opinion -- a stranger in a strange land .

The particular family called "English" (there are several) split, and a portion moved to Ireland, others to Scotland, others retaining the original spelling and staying in England. A great-great grandfather went to London and shipped out to America with at least one of his brothers in the early 1800s in order to make a better living. They progressed through the Eastern US to Ohio and some traveled onward, possibly all the way through to California, possibly working on America's new railroads. Others in my father's mother's family line came to North America in the earlier 1700s, or possibly before.

Little Italy

Little Italy in San Diego. Immigration spread coast to coast.
Little Italy in San Diego. Immigration spread coast to coast. | Source

However, my mother's family turns up a couple of birth certificates and many dead ends. I don't know what country was their origin, although it appears to be English moving through Germany and France to America, specifically WVa and Ohio, and Native Americans, specifically Mohawk Nation. My maternal grandfather was French and Mohawk, but his records are elusive. A relative likely translated languages at the historical Battle of Fort Pitt.

With the Italians, family tracing could be easier, because Italian immigrants often stayed together when they came to America, as you will read further on. I've included links to records of families, military records, etc. for you to use. However, free access to records avaiable only to members with a paid membership, such as those at Ancestor.Com are available at :

  • Public Libaries
  • University and College Libraries
  • State Libraries
  • The Library of Congress

Other records are open to the public at:

  • Church of Latter Days Saints Family Histories - in many US States
  • County Historical Societies

Another good source are the Vital Statistics Departments of the state and local governments/heralth departments where your relatives have resided, along with the local Catholic Church records, given the large number of Italians that have been Catholic.

Much success to you in your searching!

A WWI Era Italian immigrant makes her American breakfast with ESL lessons from the YMCA circa 1918.
A WWI Era Italian immigrant makes her American breakfast with ESL lessons from the YMCA circa 1918. | Source
Early Italian immigrants to the US via ship.
Early Italian immigrants to the US via ship. | Source

1850's America

From 1850 - 1930 in particular, the many Italians who came to America settled on the US East Coast. Here, they opened stores and restaurants that featured foods from home in their neighborhoods, often called "Little Italy." Ths was comparable to the various "Chinatowns" in the country - interesting and full of good food and cultural flavor.

Catholic records of Italian Immigrants in Amerca:

Between 1821 and 1850 the Italian immigration into the United States amounted to 4531.

Since 1850, the total figures by decades are as follows:

  • 1851-1860: 9,231 Italian immigrants
  • 1861-1870: 11,728
  • 1871-1880: 55,759
  • 1881-1890: 307,309
  • 1891-1900: 651,899
  • 1901-1908: 1,647,102

A further breakdown:

  • 1831-1870: 25,082
  • 1870-1880: 55,759
  • 1880-1890: 307,309
  • 1890: 52,093
  • 1891: 76,055

Total by 1908: 2,743,059

[This information is furnished by http://www.NewAdvent.com]

Although many Italians returned to Italy, some of their American-born children remained in America and were also considered Italian. The number of Italians in the US in January 1910 was roughly 2,250,000.

The US was the largest recipient of Italian immigrants globally. In the year 1850, about 4,000 Italians were reported in the US, but by 1880, some reports had the population skyrocketing to 44,000. By 1900 it may have been as high as around around half a million, depending upon whether first-generation Italians (the children born in America) were counted as immigrants -- some were in certain locations.

Some Famous Italians in the 1850s

  • Pellegrino Artusi - Gourmet writer, b, 1820, who made Italian Cuisine famous.
  • Ernesto Basile - Architect, b. 1854
  • Enrico Bernardi - Engineer
  • Nicola Bettoli - Architect, d. 1854.
  • Luigi Canina - Archaeologist, d. 1856.
  • Giosu√® Carducci - Won A Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • Antonio Corazzi - Architect
  • Eleonora Duse - A famous actress known for versatility.
  • Ruggero Leoncavallo - Composer of Pagliacci.
  • Enrico Mazzanti - Cartoonist and engineer.
  • Luigi Negrelli - Planned and designed the Suez Canal.
  • Gioachino Rossini, "The Italian Mozart"
  • Giuseppe Verdi - Most prominent composer of operas in teh century.

Selling good breads on the street corner.
Selling good breads on the street corner. | Source

Characteristics of Italian Immigrants

Italian immigrants actually represented specific regional/ethnic and job titles. These immigrants also came from specific regions of Italy and worked in specific fields and job titles in the home country. They brought their skills with them and stuck to the same occupations overall in America.

Italian business owners and workers moved to large metropolitan areas in the US where there were high-demand markets and adequate labor pools that needed additional workers. They settled in New York City successfully. More than half of the Italians from Molise and Abruzzo (working-class regions) took their usual jobs in construction and excavation and related industries in Pennsylvania.

Most of the Italians that came to America had lived in rural Italy, but in moving to the US, they located in the big cities. Most went to the biggest cities in the Northeast US, because they did not have enough money to travel westward. They stayed around where the passenger ships droipped them off at Ellis Island. Thus, many settled in New York City, large cities in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania.

Most Italians settled with other people from Italy and even from their own native villages, so friends/relatives could help with housing and food. These cohesive settlements were called "Little Italies." This explains the high concentration of Italians in certain parts of the US, while there are few in other parts.

It appears that Sicilians moved to New Orleans, the Neapolitans and Calabrians to Minnesota, and northern Italians to California.

However, most Italians settled in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

So, relatives that came over from Naples may have settled in Minnesota. That could be a good place to look for records.

Italian Language Groups

Source
Hurdy Gurdy and Singer - Full of joy!
Hurdy Gurdy and Singer - Full of joy! | Source

Researching Italian Surnames

For Italian surnames, you may find and order a Coat of Arms for the name from:

Collegio Araldico

  • Via Santa Maria dell'Anima 16
  • 00186 Rome, Italy

National History Day- Italian Immigration

Famous Italians...His Dog Elroy... Hanna/Barbera (Italian)

The Jetsons (Old TV Collectibles)

Italian Items of Interest

Italians introduced America to certain types of pizza and pasta that many people love. Then there is opera.

The Metropolitan Opera rose to become one of the best opera companies globally under its manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza (1869-1940) who brought singers Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle, Amelita Galli-Curci, Beniamino Gigli, and Ezio Pinza and conductor Arturo Toscanini. Gatti-Casazzi managed the Met from 1908 to 1935. Then there is Pavarotti.

I heard and saw "A Streetcar Named Desire" as an Italian opera - very interesting.

Hollywood also owes much to Italy:

  • Hollywood's first "Latin Lover" was Rudolph Valentino.
  • Frank Sinatra was known as "The Voice".
  • The legendary Carmine and Francis Ford Coppola included four Oscars in 1975 for The Godfather, Part II. Nicholas Cage is Francis's nephew.
  • Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Durante, Frank Capra, and Joseph Barbera ( Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and other cartoons), are all Italian.

And of course the Food Network: Rachel Ray, Giada DeLaurentis, Iron Chef Mario Batali and others.

From the pizza, pasta, bread shops and cottage industries in Little Italy circa 1850, Italian and Italian Americans have become famous singers, writers, poets and artists, as well as top business people in the 21st century.

The last member of the Captain Kangaroo TV show cast died at age 86 in 2013. Mr. Cosmo Allegretti played the part of the popular Dancing Bear and acted as a puppeteer for many other of the characters, including Grandfather Clock.

On the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island

Source

Emma Lazarus - The New Colossus

Emma Lazarus was a secular Jew with Spanish ancestry when she promoted America to the fullest for immigration and opportunity to all nations, not only to Italy or Spain or Israel.

In her home of New York City, she had the opportunities of learning music and several languages in childhood, as well as gaining skills that led her to an early mastery of music, writing, and translation (including Hebrew).

As an elementary school first grader, I learned the words of the Lazarus sonnet The New Colossus as a song. We sang it, all six grades together, at holiday assemblies and for visiting dignitaries. In addition, it was always presented by our capital-city's youth choir in annual music festivals each spring, the words of Liberty herself particularly moving:

"Give me your tired, your poor.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

Send these, your homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


I never forgot the words of that poem that stands with our Statue of Liberty, the Colossus of Rhodes' counterpart in the New World. Indeed, she is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this Liberty. The Colossus guarded an ancient Grecian waterway, while Liberty stands watch at our gateway and welcomes the stranger home.

America and American democracy are wonders in themselves, despite the sometimes misuse and misunderstanding of it liberties. While not all of the free have learned the responsibility of the gift that is America, this land still deserves such a tribute as that Emma Lazarus provided in her poetry.

Millions across the globe are still tired and poor, huddled in oppression, and yearning to breathe free. The New Colossus has on its plaque the mezuzah that protects and blesses the entrance into the House of America with the sacred texts of Hope and Freedom. Emma Lazarus was the evangelist of America and Liberty as an example to the world.

© 2007 Patty Inglish

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Comments and Experiences 41 comments

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Patty! I can just feel the anticipation of the unknown in the faces of those newly arrived... in your top picture.

Great HUB as always

regards Zsuzsy


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Z! I see what you feel in that picture. I could pack up and move to another counrtry I think - likely Canada. Might keep dual citizenship though. :)


gabriella05 profile image

gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

Hi Patty This is an amazing true historical event I have enjoyed every bit of it. I know now that my Grandmother surname must have ben changed, and that is the reasn that I cant find them

Thank you very much


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 9 years ago from Georgia

Wow great hub! Full of info!


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

This hub has great appeal.

Thank you for a great hub


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the good comments everyone! it is my pleasure to write for you.

gabriella05, maybe your gram's surname is like some longer ones that could have been shortened? If you talked among older Italian folks, perhaps they'd have an idea about this.

manoharv2001 - America is broken in a few places, but still good. I think we are in our adolescense as a country, still learning, sopmetimes thinking we know everything. :)

Whiteney05 and MrMarmalade, you are very welcome visitors and thanks for the support.


Misha profile image

Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

Any hub of yours I read fascinates me with the wealth of interesting information and great delivery. Thanks :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America Author

Thank you Misha! :)


teeray profile image

teeray 9 years ago from Canada

When does your history class start? Can I enroll?


gabriella05 profile image

gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

Hi Patty. Yes that a good idea I will ask

Thank you very much


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America Author

teeray! - I think the best classroom seems to be the internet when you have access to databases in univerisites and museums about the world. :)

gabriella05 - I wish you success on your quest! I'm going to one day take the maternal line DNA tests to qualify for Iroquois tribal membership, since I can't find those records.


Marco_Man profile image

Marco_Man 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Love this Hub, I'm taking a look at a few of your links as we speak. My grandfather/Nonno had a cousin who moved to New York back in the 1950's.

Awesome Hub,

Thanks.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Hi Marco_Man! I hope this Hub was able to link you to some family history and am glad you think it may be useful. Best of success to you!

Patty


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

To Italy? I don't know off hand, but you can plug it into YahooTravel and find out.


Sandilyn profile image

Sandilyn 8 years ago from Port Orange, FL

You have a great hub!

I am a genealogist so I do know a few things about this topic, although I do not write about them on here.

I like your links because most people can not afford to pay the high costs of ancestry.com and most libraies do have it. Another great choice is Heritage Quest. Don't overlook the Allen County Public Library. They are online and have a very large collection. Also for free.

Have you ever heard Dr. Schweitzer talk? Anyone that is into genealogy should. He is excellent. I had him for an all day seminar last year that I hosted. You can find him on the web along with videos and books.

My link will take you to my email if you wish to contact me and we can talk more genealogy. Just put genealogy in the subject line so my staff knows that it goes directly to me.

Once again, great hub!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks very much for the comments and good tips Sandilyn! I will definitely look for material by Dr. Schweitzer. I will email you soon as well.


Lidian profile image

Lidian 8 years ago

Great hub! I am also a genealogist, descended from the first Italian in the New World, Pietro Caesare Alberti, which is the extent of my Italian ancestry...but I found your hub quite informative and helpful...Italiangen has got some great resources for all NY-area genealogists, too (such as the bride and groom indexes)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Glad to meet you! Italian immigration is a fascinating study. What do you know about your ancestor? - that would be a grest Hub by itself. :)


rosaRIO 8 years ago

hi, I look for someone of name mountain. I leave my e-mail rosario.monte@libero.it


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Perhaps someone will recognize the name and contact you from here. Best wishes!


newcapo 7 years ago

Patty- this is such an interesting read, and so timely. By coincidence, earlier this evening my wife and I were watching ROME and now I've got the movie "1900" with Robert De Niro set in Italy. I grew up near Boston, MA and parts of the city had only Italian restaurants--some of the best places I've ever eaten.

Great hub!


solarcaptain profile image

solarcaptain 7 years ago from california

I loved this hub. My last name is King but my grandmother was a Maxwell

so I'm proud too, just as you are for your heritage.

thanks again for your great hubs.


Fran Madden 7 years ago

Thanks for the photos. I'm always drawn to vintage photographs, especially with urban or immigrant themes.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the comments, Everyone! I particularly love the old photos, too.


Sewing-Embroidery 6 years ago

This is so interesting. I'm doing rather the opposite. My family has been in America for generations. But I've been living in Italy for the past 12 years. I love Italy -- the people are so warm and friendly, the art and handicrafts, history, and of course ... the food!


toneyahuja profile image

toneyahuja 6 years ago from India

great information on Italian immigration to America 1850's. I am finding immigration laws and procedure for NZ immigration. http://www.mynzimmigration.co.uk


Hannah  5 years ago

Hey! Im doing an essay of Italian immigration and this was perfect for helping to find info! Thanks so much(:


Natalie 5 years ago

was goood


United States Immigration 5 years ago

This is great info. Everybody can learn from this. Thank you so much Patty.


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful Hub. GBY


htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Thanks and Great post


francisid 5 years ago

people rarely have the ability to appreciate what they got.i envy americans for having so many culture right before their eyes..there isn't a need for books anymore to study them!

great hub!


Philippinewander 5 years ago

Don't let the username fool you! I am a second generation Italian, Ricci, is my surname. I love all the information made available here, grazie, molto grazie.

Oh the username...I lived in the Philippines for approximately five years


russian 5 years ago

russia is better. we have polar bears there. so owned


felic 5 years ago

that's pretty cool man:)


AlexDrinkH2O profile image

AlexDrinkH2O 3 years ago from Southern New England, USA

Thank you! My ancestors settled in Massachusetts and (especially) Rhode Island - if you ever come to Providence, check out our own "Little Italy" on Federal Hill. Voted up and shared.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks! I will certainly check it out!


Lorenzo 3 years ago

''USA received the greatest part of italian immigrants''...that's false, Brazil and Argentina received the greater numbers of italian expatriates.

Italian-brazilians are nearly 30 million people and italian-argentines are 60% of the total population.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Lorenzo - You appear incorrect. We are not speaking of 2010 era numbers of Italian descent. We are speaking of actual immigrartion:

*Italian Immigrants from 1800s to 1920*:

USA: 2.74 million

Argentina: 2.3 million

Brazil: Between 1.4 to 1.8 million


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 15 months ago from Placentia California

My wife and I are both first generations Italians. My father comes from the province of Puliga and my mother comes from Alta Muran. My wife's mother comes from Puliga and my Wife's father comes from Bari. Our families emigrated to Los Angeles in the 1920's. My grandfather on my dad's side came early and worked in the LA Brickyard, which is now Dodger Stadium. My dad came a little later, he was 14 when he arrived here to work in the brickyard as well. After my dad was settled with his aunt and uncle, my grandfather went back to Italy and never returned to the U.S. Gosh, I could go on forever about this. I could write a hub about this, I didn't realize that until just now. Anyway, you left out one very important Italian in America. His name was Amadeo Giannini. He founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, which latter became the Bank of America. Great hub, thanks for writing it. It truly has given me inspiration to write a hub about our family history.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

Thanks so much for the additional information. It was a joy to read your contribution! I'll read any Hub you write about it.

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    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,760 Followers
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