Friday, July 12, 2013

Ellis Island and the Peopling of America : featured library resource for July 2013

As the Congress struggles with the issue of immigration reform, we who are interested in genealogy are likely to view this issue with a long-term perspective, and feel that the contributions of immigrants form the bedrock of what America is. We are adding to the library collection a book entitled Ellis Island and the Peopling of America : the official guide.

Anyone wishing to know more about the topic of immigration in general would find this guide a useful starting place.  Sadly, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, to which this book was designed in part as an introduction, was damaged in the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, and has yet to reopen. (The Statue of Liberty, also damaged, reopened on July 4.)

The book starts with an interesting timeline of 5 pages, showing developments in U.S. immigration policy in parallel with historical events relating to immigration. Part 1 sets the stage by discussing migration in the context of world history, and defines 5 types of migration:

  • forced, 
  • voluntary, 
  • circular (e.g. seasonal laborers), 
  • chain (assisted by contacts already in place), and 
  • colonizing.

In Part 2 the book focuses on migration into the United States, touching on the many factors that encouraged waves of immigrants, and on the beginnings of immigration policy as well as public opinion. Part 3 deals specifically with Ellis Island in its heyday, and how the immigration experience has evolved today.

The largest section of the book is Part 4, containing historical documents about immigration and the immigrant experience that are referred to in the earlier chapters. At the end of this section are study questions that would make this book a useful educational tool. Part 5 on Resources contains references to books, including fiction, about immigration topics and ethnic groups.  Part 6 covers Films, Videos, and Filmstrips.

Our thanks to member Margery Campbell for donating this volume to the Library.  We hope you will visit the Library soon and have a look at it.

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