27 August 2014

Italian Migrants and their Family Histories in Australia

One of the most interesting discoveries through family history research is that there are very few people who fit a stereotype.  This particularly applies when investigating Italian migration to Australia.

I place migrants, of any origins, into four initial categories when examining their experiences in Australia:

Pre-1945 arrivals, 1945-1955 arrivals, 1956-1986 arrivals, and post-1986 arrivals.  My husband's family were all pre-1945.  I am a post-1986 arrival myself.

After looking at time, in other words, dates, I look at space - geographical origins. Italy is even more regional than Britain, and for that matter, Australia.  Someone from the Veneto is likely to find a person from a peasant background in Calabria completely incomprehensible in conversation!

I spent much of the first half of my life in various parts of England, Wales and Scotland.  I know, from first-hand experience, the difficulties regional languages and dialects, and unfamiliar accents and phrases, can cause.

After looking at dates of arrival and geographical origins, I look at other features of a person's life.  Education, experience of work, family connections and support, interconnections with other people, and their friendships, are part of the picture.  What is of even more interest to me involves the attitudes, values and expectations of people.

Mass multicultural migration has been a post-1945 phenomenon in Australia.  I put it into three categories because of the influence of television in people's lives.  In Italy, most people did not have access to television until the mid 1950s.

Censorship also has an influence on people's lives.  The political situation in Italy has changed quite rapidly, and censorship has been more prevalent in some eras than in others.

If you are just starting to research your Italian heritage, and even if you have very little understanding of the Italian language (like me), I recommend the online resources at the Italian Historical Society in Melbourne.

24 August 2014

Questions and Mysteries

The insights gained from family history research are reshaping ideas about the way history is explored more generally.  Here are a few questions you may have tried to answer for yourself:

Why is an understanding of history of any significance to ordinary individuals in their everyday lives?

How does an understanding of history help people to make important decisions?

Why do so many people gain enjoyment from discovering their family trees?

Who knows most about life as it was in Eynesbury and St Neots in Huntingdonshire in the 1840s and 1850s?

What was life like in Southwark in London in the second half of the 19th century?

What were the duties of an inspector of London post offices in the 1850s and 1860s?

What were the political and economic situations like in and around Cremona in Lombardy, Italy in the 1870s and 1880s?

Where can you trace the Second World War experiences of members of the 6th Battalion of the Green Howards?

Why did people migrated to Soho in London from elsewhere in Europe in the 19th century?

I think I have asked enough questions for one day, and I am looking forward very much to hearing from you if you have some answers to any of the above questions.