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.

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.

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I especially appreciate historical insights.