15 August 2012

Ancestors and Asylum

There is an ongoing debate, here in Australia, about what to do about people who arrive "illegally" by sea and claim to be asylum seekers.  For Australians, exploring a family history can reveal many things.  It can especially reveal previous unspoken matters concerning past traumas.

If you have an ancestor who was forced to leave somewhere in the hope of avoiding starvation, violence or even death, where did they go?  How did they escape?  How did they pay for their journeys? What happened to them afterwards?

My husband's maternal grandparents came to Australia probably because they were barred from entry to the United States in the 1920s.  An archive document from Rome states that my husband's grandfather had been in the United States, perhaps before the First World War.  Being an Italian, there was a likelihood that he hoped to spend a few years in the United States, earn some money and then return home.  However, I have found no record of him in the Ellis Island database.

If he had been in the United States before the war, he had returned to his homeland to serve in the war itself.  Born in the mid 1880s, he was described as a farm worker with socialist sympathies.  His political views put his life at risk in the postwar years under Mussolini.  The United States immigration policies after the First World War prevented many southern and eastern Europeans from escaping in that direction.

Many men from the Veneto region of northern Italy were in a similar situation.  I have discovered a document listing all of those who arrived in Australia on the same ship as my husband's grandfather in the mid 1920s.  Perhaps one of your relatives is listed there.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I especially appreciate historical insights.