Church records are a valuable resource in finding your Christian ancestors in the 17th, 18th 19th and early 20th century. While you may not be a Christian you ancestors probably were.
This section of our website will give you a short history of Christianity in the United States and a discussion of existing church records and how to find them and.
Today, America’s Jewish community is largely c, meaning it is made up of Jews who trace their ancestry to Germany and Eastern Europe. However, the first Jews to arrive in what would become the United States were Sephardic — tracing their ancestry to Spain and Portugal. The following article looks at the three major waves of and Ashkenazic immigration to America.
Historians have traditionally divided American Jewish immigration into three periods: Sephardic, German, and Eastern European. While the case can be made that during each period, immigrants were not solely of any one origin (Some Germans came during the “Sephardic” period and some Eastern Europeans arrived during the “German” era, for example), the fact remains that the dominant immigrant group at the time influenced the character of the American Jewish community.
The first group of Sephardic settlers arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654 from Brazil. For several decades afterward, adventurous Sephardic and Ashkenazic merchants established homes in American colonial ports, including Newport, R.I., New Amsterdam (later New York), Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.
While the Ashkenazi Jews outnumbered the Sephardic ones by 1730, the character of the American Jewish community remained Sephardic through the American Revolution. Colonial American synagogues adhered to Sephardic ritual customs and administered all aspects of Jewish religious life. The synagogue did not, however, attempt to govern the economic activities of its (mostly mercantile) members. This was a departure from the Old World, where synagogues in places like Amsterdam, London, and Recife, taxed commercial transactions, regulated Jewish publications, and punished members for lapses in individual or commercial morality. In this manner, colonial synagogues set a precedent of compartmentalization — a division between Jewish and worldly domains — in American Jewish life.
Colonial American Sephardic synagogues also sought to combine modern notions of aesthetics with traditional Judaism, creating congregations that were rational and refined. Synagogues established rules of order so that services and meetings proceeded with the proper amount of deference and decorum. For example, colonial synagogues assigned seats for male and female members so that everyone knew their place in the congregation. This not only eliminated shuffling and bickering over seating each week, but also established a sort of congregational hierarchy in which the best seats went to the most prestigious congregational families (who, in turn, paid the highest dues). (In Europe, so few women attended services that there was no need to designate seats; American women, in contrast, regularly attended religious services.)
This theme — the reconciliation of modern manners with Jewish tradition — would also occupy subsequent waves of Jewish immigrants as Germans and Eastern Europeans struggled to build the Reform and Conservative movements in America.
German Jews began to come to America in significant numbers in the 1840s. Jews left Germany because of persecution, restrictive laws, economic hardship, and the failure of movements — widely supported by German Jews — advocating revolution and reform there. They looked to America as an antidote to these ills — a place of economic and social opportunity.
Some 250,000 German-speaking Jews came to America by the outbreak of World War I.This sizable immigrant community expanded American Jewish geography by establishing themselves in smaller cities and towns in the Midwest, West, and the South. German Jewish immigrants often started out as peddlers and settled in one of the towns on their route, starting a small store there. This dispersion helped to establish American Judaism as a national faith.
If German Jews had one city of their own invention, it was Cincinnati. German immigrants flocked to this area, which was considered a gateway to trade in the Midwest and West. Cincinnati became the seat of American Reform Judaism, home to the movement’s first American leader, Isaac Mayer Wise (an immigrant from Bohemia), and its newspaper and seminary.
In addition to promoting Reform Judaism in America, German Jewish immigrants created institutions as significant and longstanding as B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Committee, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
The Eastern Europeans
Eastern European Jews began to immigrate to the United States in large numbers after 1880. Pushed out of Europe by overpopulation, oppressive legislation and poverty, they were pulled toward America by the prospect of financial and social advancement. Between 1880 and the onset of restrictive immigration quotas in 1924, over 2 million Jews from Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Romania came to America. Once again, the character of American Jewry was transformed, as the Eastern Europeans became the majority.
The immigrants tended to settle in the poorer neighborhoods of major cities. New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Chicago, for example, all featured Jewish sections by the turn of the 20th century. Living conditions in these neighborhoods were often cramped and squalid. The immigrants found work in factories, especially in the garment industry, but also in cigar manufacturing, food production, and construction. Jewish workers supported the labor movement’s struggle for better working conditions. Yiddish culture, in the form of drama, journalism, and prose, flourished in American Jewish immigrant neighborhoods, and the plight of the immigrant worker was a common cultural theme.
The Eastern European Jews also brought with them certain ideological principles that would influence American Jewry. Many of the workers supported socialism or communism as a means of securing economic and social equality. In this manner, the Eastern Europeans established a strong link between American Jews and liberal politics.
In addition, Eastern Europeans brought with them unprecedented support for Jewish nationalism. They educated the American Jewish community on this topic, even if they did not appear among its early leaders. (Henrietta Szold, the founder of the women’s group Hadassah, credited her immigrant night school students for her introduction to the fundamentals of Zionism.)
Finally, Eastern European Jews ensured a more religiously diverse American Jewish population. The Eastern Europeans did not, for the most part, feel comfortable with Reform Judaism. Their insistence on maintaining tradition, albeit in a modern context, contributed to the establishment of Conservative Judaism and infused Orthodox Judaismwith new energy and purpose.
Large-scale Jewish immigration to the United States ended in 1924. Still, the contemporary American Jewish community remains very much a product of these founding groups.
Arab immigration to the United States
Arab immigration to the United States began when Arabs accompanied Spanish explorers to the US in the 15th century. During the Revolutionary War, horses exported from Algeria replenished the American cavalry and Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the independence of the United States in 1787 in what is known as the “treaty of Friendship”. However, Arabs did not start immigrating to the United States in significant numbers until the 19th century. Since the first major wave of Arab immigration in the late 19th century, the majority of Arab immigrants have settled in or near large cities. Roughly 94 percent of all Arab immigrants live in metropolitan areas, and nearly one third of all Arab Americans live in or around just three cities: New York, Los Angeles and Detroit.While most Arab-Americans have similarly settled in just a handful of major American cities, they form a fairly diverse population representing nearly every country and religion from the Arab world.
Hinduism in the United States
Hinduism is a minority religion in the United States; American Hindus in 2014 accounted for an estimated 0.7% of the total US population. In 2017, American Hindus accounted for an estimated 1.0% of the total US population, representing an increase of roughly one million people. The vast majority of American Hindus are immigrants from South Asia (mainly India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Myanmar), Indonesia (mainly Bali), the Caribbean (mainly Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and Martinique), Fiji, Africa (mainly Southern Africa and Eastern African), and Mauritius and other countries and their descendants. Additionally, the United States has a number of converts to Hinduism.
While there were isolated sojourns by Hindus in the United States during the 19th century, Hindu presence in the United States was extremely limited until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.