The first people to migrate to North America crossed the Bering Straits around 20,000 years ago. That is what the scientists and history books tell us. Through these first immigrants evolved the Inuit and Native American cultures.
In the 1600’s we had people from England, Europe, and Spain settle our lands. In that time, we also had slaves brought from Africa and the Caribbean Islands.
In 1790, the first census revealed that there were 3.9 million people counted. The English made up the largest ethnic group. Other nationalities included the German, Scottish, Irish and Africans. The census excluded Native Americans.
In 1790, Congress passed the first Naturalization Act, which stipulated that “…any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States…”
In the 1800’s we had immigrants from China, Japan, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Canada. In 1892, most immigrants came through the doors at Ellis Island. San Francisco was another gateway for the Asian immigrants to our country.
The United States has become a “melting pot” of diverse cultures. People from other countries immigrated to America for many different reasons. They migrated for economic profit, religious freedom, and political persecution.
In the 1900’s, we had Jews fleeing Eastern Europe and Russia, and Armenians from Turkey. In the 1960’s refugees from Hungary and Cuba sought shelter in the United States from the Soviets.
You may be wondering what this article has to do with genealogy. If you think about it, all Americans are descendants of immigrants. These people came from different cultures and societies.
The diversity of our ancestors is what makes our family trees unique. My primary lineage includes English, German, and Native American heritage. I also have Scottish, Swedish and French Canadian blood in my veins.
When building your family tree, always remember that your ancestors were immigrants. They came to America with a hope for a new life. They worked and fought for the survival of their families. Their efforts made each generation grow and thrive throughout the years.
I always get excited when I find an ancestor who married into another cultural group. I will track that person’s family back in history as far as I can. I discover as much information as possible about that country, ethnic group or culture. Finally, I will incorporate this data into my family tree.
America is great, but it became that way because of the efforts of the immigrants. I know that I have not included all nationalities that migrated to America. If you wish to add one to this article, please use the Comments Section of this page. Thank you, Donna.
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash.