Saturday, February 12, 2011

The United States of Migration

"Migration and its consequences may well be the defining characteristic of the contemporary world," says CMGC, the Center for Migration and the Cultural City, an outreach program sponsored by Rutgers University Newark. Although it is doubtful that genealogy was their motive, CMGC continues a tradition of celebrating diversity with "The United States of Migration,” a three-month series of free programs offered by the 14-time winner of "most culturally diverse national university." (according to U.S. News & World Report) "Crossing the BLVD," the kick-off event for CMGC's series, showcases cultural diversity of Queens Boulevard in New York, a symbolic microcosm of our nation's history. The event's interactive website delivers a worthwhile taste of New York's flavor for those of us interested in our foreign roots.

We agree with the CMGC; migration and its consequences may well be the defining characteristic of contemporary genealogy. America has long been known as the melting pot, land of the free, where the streets if not paved with gold are at least paved with opportunity. For most American genealogists, the question is not whether or not our ancestors immigrated; it's from where and when.

"Immigration Explorer," a fascinating tool compiled by the New York Times, traces the foreign born population across the United States from 1880 to 2000, color coded by ethnicity down to the county level. Although it is not specific enough to be used as a predictive tool on which to base a research strategy, it paints a picture of what our ancestors' lives were like as the melting pot converged and flowed across time.

"Immigration Explorer" shows how the cultural landscape of America changed over time

One of the Immigration Explorer sources, Social Explorer, provides additional resources for understanding what our ancestors' lives were like. The maps and reports are fascinating tools providing context for genealogical data in the United States.

Tools such as these give us a digital glimpse of days gone by and a greater understanding of the sights and sounds our ancestors experienced as our cultures blended to become the nation it is today. From Queens Boulevard to the Golden Gate, our ancestors left a legacy of culture waiting for us to explore.

For more information about migration and cultural diversity:

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