Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The 'Not-So-Once-in-a-Lifetime' Immigration Trip

When we think of our ancestors stepping on a boat and taking an enduring trip across the Atlantic that could take weeks or even months before stepping off again in a new land, a place of unparalleled opportunity, we tend to assume that this was a one-way journey, leaving behind their home country, culture, and sometimes even family. But actually, by around the turn of the century, it was not unusual for people from certain cultures to make several trips back and forth between their home land and America. For Italians, this was especially true.

The Lahn, the ship which Angelo returned to the U.S. on
in 1903.
Over two million Italians immigrated to America during the 1910s, with a total of 5.3 million between the years 1880 and 1920 but about a third of them actually returned to Italy after an average of about five years of working in the United States. They went to America for the work and would return to Italy, sometimes briefly, sometimes permanently, for various reasons. One reason was for marriage. Many Italian males who were working in the US would return to Italy to find a bride who would later follow him back to America. This was probably because many Italian immigrants were males looking for work and although some of them were in the process of moving their family, including unmarried daughters or sisters, over to the U.S. with them, many had not. Many were young, unmarried males and the "dating pool" of unmarried, young Italian females was probably much bigger back home in Italy. My 19 year old Italian 2nd great grandfather Angelo Scioli found himself in this situation when he traveled from Philadelphia to Monteroduni where he married Josephine Biello in January of 1903. Angelo quickly returned to Philadelphia and Josephine joined him there later in the year.

So it's important to remember that our ancestor's immigration was not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime trip and that by this period of time, it was not unusual to see a few back and forth travels, especially among Italians. Keep this in mind during your research so you're not overlooking passenger lists and immigration records or looking for a marriage record in the wrong country.

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