June 15, 2017

New information about the First Wave of immigrants from Ukraine to the U.S.

Print More

The only available statistical source on the First Wave is the Annual Reports of the Commissioner General of Immigration for 1899-1930, discussed by Yulian Bachynskyj, Wasyl Halich and Myron Kuropas. Given that the territory of Ukraine was divided among several countries and that most immigrants were not familiar with the concept of “Ukrainian” nationality or identity, it is difficult to estimate the number of Ukrainian immigrants during that period. The number of 268,311 immigrants from Ukraine in the Immigration Reports is based mainly on immigrants registered as “Ruthenians,” and it does not include Ukrainians who may have been registered as Austrians, Russians, Poles, Slovaks, Magyars or Croats.

A few months ago, the U.S. Bureau of the Census released the full U.S. 1920 census that contains detailed information about immigrants from Ukraine between 1820 and 1920. We have downloaded this census and are analyzing it to determine what information it can provide about the first immigration wave. Our preliminary analysis shows that the 1920 census data has advantages and disadvantages.

On the negative side, the census has no questions on ethnicity, nationality or ancestry; thus, one cannot estimate adequately the number of Ukrainians living in the U.S. in 1920.

The advantages, on the other hand, are numerous. First, data on year of immigration, place of birth of the person and his father and mother, as well as mother tongue, provide ways to estimate the number of immigrants. Second, since 100 percent of the 1920 census data is available, there is complete information about each person counted in the census. We have detailed information about each immigrant from Ukraine, such as the year of birth, year of immigration, number of years in the U.S., place of birth of the person and his parents, place of residence (state, metropolitan area and county), sex, age, marital status, relationship to the head of household, type of family structure, level of education, citizenship, knowledge of English, labor force status, class of worker, occupation and home ownership. Third, one can produce a very detailed profile of the immigrants by cross-tabulating all these variables. Fourth, though the state of residence in the immigration statistics is very imprecise, as it is the intended state of residence at time of arrival, the census provides their current residence down to city and county.

screen-shot-2017-06-15-at-5-42-59-pmAlthough, due to the non-existence of Ukraine as a state and problems with Ukrainian identity, the census data have limitations, we were able to extract new and unique information. Here we present some very preliminary results about immigrants who declared “Galicia” or “Ukraine” as their place of birth. Up to 1920, the number of immigrants born in these two places is 173,281, with 94 percent born in Galicia and 6 percent in Ukraine (Table 1). Most immigrants resided in the northeastern part of the U.S. More than half of them, 52 percent, resided in two states, New York and Pennsylvania; and between 5 percent and 10 percent resided in each of the following states: New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Michigan. The earliest registered year of immigration is 1820, and 95 percent of all immigrants arrived between 1888 and 1914. These numbers are an underestimate of all immigrants born in Galicia or Ukraine, as they do not include those who died before 1920 and those who returned to Ukraine, a high number according to Bachynskyj.

Data on mother tongue provides interesting insights on the composition of these immigrants (Table 2). Only 12 percent of them declared “Ukrainian” as their mother tongue, 58 percent Polish, 19 percent Yiddish or Hebrew, and 3 percent Russian. The distribution by mother tongue is very different for immigrants born in Galicia and immigrants born in Ukraine. Among immigrants born in Galicia, close to two-thirds declared Polish as their mother tongue, 18 percent Yiddish or Hebrew and 11 percent Ukrainian. For immigrants who declared Ukraine as their place of birth, the largest percentage, 41 percent, had a Yiddish or Hebrew mother tongue, followed by 27 percent Ukrainian and 23 percent Russian.

Compared to the total U.S. population, immigrants born in Galicia or Ukraine had a very high level of illiteracy, 6 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Also, there were significant variations in the level of illiteracy depending on the mother tongue of the immigrants. Immigrants with a Ukrainian mother tongue had the highest level of illiteracy, 39 percent; followed by 35 percent among those with Russian and 28 percent with a Polish mother tongue. For immigrants with a Yiddish or Hebrew mother tongue, the level of illiteracy was 15 percent.

The low level of literacy and lack of knowledge of English forced the immigrants to take low-level occupations like laborers or operatives; close to half of immigrants born in Galicia or Ukraine with Ukrainian, Russian or Polish mother tongues had occupations in the laborer category. The percentage of these immigrants with occupations in the operatives category is around 30 percent., and in the craftsmen category around 11 percent. Immigrants with a Yiddish or Hebrew mother tongue, on the other hand, had the following occupational structure: 26 percent laborers, 25 percent operatives, 17 percent craftsmen, and 13 percent managers and proprietors.

screen-shot-2017-06-15-at-5-43-06-pmAs these are individual data, we have developed an application that allows one to search for one’s ancestors who migrated to the U.S. between 1820 and 1919. By entering the year of immigration, sex, year of birth, place of birth and mother tongue, the application searches for persons who satisfy these criteria. Here is an example of three male immigrants from Ukraine living in Pennsylvania in 1920, born in Galicia in 1881 (age 39 years at the time of the census), who migrated in 1913 and with a Ukrainian mother tongue (Table 3):

The first person lives alone in Pittsburgh, is married with the wife absent (probably in Ukraine), is literate, speaks English and works as a musician. The second person also lives in Pittsburgh, is married with wife present and two children, aged six and less than one year, and there are two other persons, not family members, living in the same household. He is also literate, speaks English and works as a laborer in manufacturing. The third person lives in Wilkes-Barres, in a married couple household, but is not related to the couple. He is married with the wife absent, illiterate, does not speak English and works as a laborer on the railroad. Al three are renters, i.e., do not own the house they live in, and are not U.S. citizens.

This is a pilot application for persons residing in the state of Pennsylvania in 1920. We urge readers to test the application on the center’s website: http://www.inform-decisions.com/stat/, and provide comments, questions and suggestions. With your help we will be able to improve this application and expand the database to the entire U.S.

The center’s website has become the main source of statistical information on Ukrainians in the United States. During 2016 it was accessed 5,059 times, an average of 14 times per day, with 47 percent of the hits from the U.S., 24 percent from Ukraine and the rest from countries all over the world (Table 4). Hits were from practically all states in the U.S. and from all oblasts in Ukraine, with many from Donetsk and Luhansk. Hits from Russia were from St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Kuban region and Rostov, and as far as Tatarstan and Omsk. There were also hits from Canada, many Western European countries, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia.

Quite a few users spent a lot of time exploring the site. There were 80 visits with a connection time of more than one hour; 16 visits of 20 minutes to one hour; 41 visits of five to 20 minutes; and 117 visits of 30 seconds to five minutes. Who are the institutional users of the website? The most frequent users in the U.S. are universities, followed by school districts, public libraries, business corporations and the House of Representatives. In Ukraine the main institutional users are universities, followed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and private business.

A special section was added to the website last year with data on the number of potential Ukrainian voters by state and metropolitan areas, down to counties in some cases. Two improvements to the website are planned for the near future: a) updating all the data from 2010 to 2015; b) adding the full 1920 Census to the database. Hopefully the 2015 updated data of Ukrainian potential voters will be useful when interacting with candidates during the 2018 elections.

Government entities, corporations and community organizations invest large sums in the collection of data and their analysis, as this is essential for the management of any modern enterprise. We are fortunate that data on Ukrainian ancestry or ethnicity is collected by the U.S. government on a regular basis and that since its independence Ukraine is listed among the countries of birth and migration (previously it was listed under “Other/USSR”). Some ethnic communities in the U.S. are not so lucky, as it is forbidden by law to ask about religion in the U.S. Census and some federal surveys. For example, as “Jewish” is considered a religious concept, there are no data on Jews in these official data sets. Understanding the importance of data for planning their community work, the Jewish community in the U.S. spends millions of dollars on surveys to collect data on Jews, and maintains a cadre of professionals who analyze these data, produce yearly statistical compendiums and generate data needed for a better planning of the community’s activities.

Comments are closed.