Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Immigration to America

As I researched information for my nonfiction children's immigration book, They Came From Around the World: A Nation of Immigrants, questions continually popped into my mind such as:
  • How would I feel if my family had to move from place to place just to find food when the season changed?
  • How would I feel if my father and mother could not find jobs for months on end and the landlord raised our rent, the government raised our taxes, so…for our family to survive we decided to move to a completely different country?
  • How would I feel if in the middle of the night my parents awakened me and told me to quickly get dressed because our country had been overrun by people who were coming to hurt me?
Did you know everyone living in America are descendants of people who had to answer such tough questions as these with actions in order to survive? America was founded by courageous people, who came to our country for a better life. They came to America from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, China, Viet Nam, Greece, Poland, Japan, Cuba and the list goes on and on. They came filled with hope in their hearts.

Right now our country has so many problems that seem too huge to solve. I know I don't have the answers, but maybe if we looked back at some of the obstacles our ancestors struggled with and shared a little of our family histories, we might see how those who went before us overcame their problems and learned from them. Isn't it worth a shot? Isn't there a saying that goes something like this... if you don't learn from your history you are doomed to repeat it...?

I'll kick off this discussion with a little history of my ancestors and see which of the three questions I began this blog with fits their situation. My great, great, great grandparents Michael Beus and Marianne Combe emigrated from Piedmont, Italy in 1855. Their life in Italy seemed ideal. They lived high in the Alpin Mountains. Michael had served in the Italian military for twelve years. He later became a coal miner. He and his wife, Marianne, had eleven children. They converted to the Mormon church and were baptized in 1851. Because of their new belief they, and many other converts, were discriminated against. In fact, conditions became so bad that they feared for their lives and had to flee their homes and all their possessions to go to France. Of course, it was in the winter, so this was quite the journey filled with danger. They continued on to London where they were able to board a boat heading for America and freedom. They passed through the gates at Castle Garden, then traveled by rail to St. Louis, Missouri. From there they went to Florence, Nebraska where they stayed for several months while Michael worked to earn enough to take his family West. In July 1856 they joined the Edmund Ellisworth Handcart Company and headed for Zion. This journey, too, was frought with trials and heartache. On September 26, 1856 they traveled through Emmigration Canyon and found the Salt Lake Valley before them.
Which of the three questions I started with fits their story? Number three: they were awakened in the middle of the night and told to dress quickly because people were coming to hurt them.

In my research of immigration I found many other religious groups who had to flee their homelands: the Huguenots, the Jewish people of the Russian Pale, the Irish Catholics and so on and so forth. People also came for other reasons besides religion: to escape dictators, poverty, and etc.
I'd love to hear your ancestors' stories.

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