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University at Buffalo Libraries

World History

European Immigrant Lives

European Immigrant Lives

Charles D’Aniello
645-2323, extension 424

March 2008


Useful Reference Resources: General and Specific Encyclopedias

Gale Virtual Reference
Many topical scholarly encyclopedias searchable from a single interface.

Reference Universe
A unique database that allows you to search article titles and/or back-of-the-book indexes for over 2,400 reference books (subject encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.). Reference Universe is designed to assist you in finding the most relevant and authoritative reference works to begin or expand your research; a great tool when looking for background information or a topic overview.

History Resource Center: US
History Resource Center: U.S. is an online library of primary and secondary material on all aspects of American history. Full-text periodical and newspaper articles, a wide range of primary source documents, radio/television transcripts, images, subject encyclopedias and dictionaries, and a useful Student Research Guide are included.  All features are very useful, I am especially impressed by the Overview feature which identifies essays across a significant number of excellent topical encyclopedias.   This resource is available to those with a Buffalo and Erie County Public Library card.  For guidance visit:

Digital History
Search here for brief essays on appropriate topics.  This project contains a lot of brief but reliable information drawn from many sources.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook: US Immigration
Somewhat useful as a collection of documents.

Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups.  Stephan Thernstrom, editor; Ann Orlov, managing editor; Oscar Handlkin, consulting editor.  Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E184.A1 H35

Reader’s Guide to American History.  Peter J. Parish, ed.  Chicago: Fitzroy, 1997.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E178.R43 1997

The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia.  Salvatore J. LaGumina et al.  New York: Garland, 1999.  Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E184.I8 I673 2000

United States Immigration: A Reference Handbook.  Willard Miller and Ruby M. Miller.  New York: ABC-CLIO, 1996.  Lockwood reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection  JV6465.M55 1996

Encyclopedia of American Immigration.  James Ciment.  Armink, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001.  4 vols.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection JV6465.E53 2001

American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation.  David Levinson and Melvin Ember, eds.  New York: Macmillan, 1997.  2 volumes.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E184.A1 A63448 1997

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century.  Paul Finkelman, editor in chief. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001.  3 vols.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E169.1.E626 2001

Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History.  Mary Kupiec Cayton, Peter W. Williams, editors.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001.  3 vols.  Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection E169.1.E624 2001

Encyclopedia of American Social History.  Mary Kupiec Cayton, Elliott J. Gorn, Peter W. Williams, editors.  New York: Scribner, 1993.  3 vols. Lockwood Reference Collection and Undergraduate Library Reference Collection HN57.E58 1993

Genealogy Resources

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy.  Rev. ed. Sandra H. Luebking and Loretta D. Szucs, eds.  Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.  Lockwood Reference Collection CS49.S65 1997

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.  Val D. Greenwood.  3rd edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000.  Lockwood Reference Collection  CS47.G79 2000

Whether you take a free online tutorial or search for pertinent Web sites — this is a good place to begin.

On Visual Images

Levine, Robert M.  Images of History: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Latin American Photographs as Documents.  Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1989.  Lockwood Book Collection F1413.L66 1989

Mitchell, W. J. Thomas.  Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.  Lockwood Book Collection NX170.M58 1994

Barrett, Terry Michael.  Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images.  Mountain View, Calif.:  Mayfield Publishing Co., 1990.  Lockwood Book Collection TR642.B365 1990

Abstracts and Indexes That Will be Especially Useful

America: History and Life
Citations to and abstracts for the contents of over 2,000 scholarly journals, dissertations, and book and media reviews from over 100 key historical journals. For information on emigration, use
Historical Abstracts: , accessible from the Academic Search Premier page. See also Academic Search Premier, it’s a complement to these sources, and somewhat duplicative:

Google Scholar
Yes, Google can be tremendously helpful — just don’t rely on it alone.  For our purposes, this is the version of Google to use.  To learn to use Google Scholar with all its power, visit no less than the Harvard College library site:

MLA International Bibliography
The MLA International Bibliography, which is compiled by the Modern Language Association of America, contains citations to books, journal articles and dissertations published on literature, modern languages, linguistics, and folklore. In addition to English and American literature, it also covers European, Asian, African, and Latin American literature. The database has over 1.3 million citations from more than 4,000 journals and series published worldwide.  Also, consult the sources listed on the subject database page:
English and American Literature:

Looking for film reviews, consult the sources listed in:
Film Reviews: Selected Sources

Ethnic NewsWatch
Ethnic Newswatch is a full-text collection of the newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority and native press — English and Spanish language. The titles in Ethnic NewsWatch represent the diversity of the American population in ways that are generally not seen in the mainstream media. The collection supports programs in business, education, ethnic and cultural studies, literature and the arts, environmental studies, history, journalism, political science and government, public policy, sociology and contemporary culture, Spanish language and culture and more.  A simple search on Irish immigration retrieves 333 citations. 

Sociological Abstracts
Sociological Abstracts is the leading resource for the research literature in sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. The database is international in scope and indexes/abstracts journal articles, book reviews, book chapters, dissertations and conference papers.

JSTOR and Periodicals Index Online (PIO)
Each will allow you to find scholarly articles going well back into the 19th century.  In this respect the two databases are very special and are excellent complements to one another.  Although not totally full text, PIO has a large full text component.

Immigration and Ethnicity Statistics

Region and Country or Area of Birth of the Foreign-Born Population, With Geographic Detail Shown in Decennial Census Publications of 1930 or Earlier: 1850 to 1930 and 1960 to 1990

Geostat Historical Census Browser
University of Virginia Library
“This site allows you to browse the data files for each decade and choose from the lists of variables. You can produce lists of data by state or county that can be sorted, calculate proportions, or graph any of the variables.”  A wonderful “tool” with which to generate data on ethnicity and immigration.

Historical Statistics of the United States
A compendium that reproduces over 37,000 statistical series from over 1,000 sources. This database updates Historical Statistics of the United States, last published by the Bureau of the Census in 1975. All tables include citations to data sources and descriptions of data anomalies. Comprehensive signed essays on each topic put the statistics in historical context.

Using the Catalog
Start off by going to the movies.  You’ll get an explanation on using the catalogs.  Visit:
The especially determined can even read the directions (help):

A Major Microfilm Collection

The Immigrant in America is a major microfilm collection.  All items have been cataloged.  In BASIC SEARCH MODE perform a keywords search such as “immigrant in America” AND Irish.  Put the phrase in quotes to keep the phrase together.  In addition to using the catalog, there are printed guides in the on the second floor of the Capen Libraries.  Their call number is: MIC Ref E184.A1 I435.  A large assortment of groups are represented.  Much of the material is in foreign languages. 

Looking for Images in the Catalog: Print Resources

In ADVANCED SEARCH MODE use two query boxes: set one at SUBJECT KEYWORDS and enter immigration and set the other box at ALL FIELDS and enter illus.  Illustrations are designated in the record by the use of illus.

You can also use the subject “term” pictorial works.  Open two query boxes, setting both at SUBJECT KEYWORDS and in one enter Italian Americans and, in the other, pictorial works.  The use of “pictorial works” should obviously retrieve heavily illustrated books.  Don’t solely rely on this heading, however.

Images and Articles from 19th Century Periodicals

Historical Prints

Harper’s Weekly (HarpWeek), 1857-1871
Harper’s Weekly was perhaps 19th century America’s most influential periodical. Heavily illustrated and featuring the work of many of the nation’s most prominent journalists, illustrators, and literary figures, it offers an easily accessible window to all aspects of the nation’s social, cultural, and political life. HarpWeek indexes the entire contents of Harper’s Weekly (this component covers 1857-1865), from advertisements to illustrations, and is browseable in facsimile and searchable through assigned subject headings, literary genres, by the role or occupation of individuals, and by keyword searching in full text mode. Try such searches as: German, Irish, etc.  There are not many illustrations that are retrieved by such searches, but there certainly would be if we held later years of this publication.

American Periodicals Series Online, 1741-1900
APS Online represents a portion of the American Periodical Series (APS), one of the most comprehensive resources for the study of 19th and late-18th century America, including 1,100 periodical titles published between 1741-1900. APS Online covers the entire range of human endeavor from medicine to religion and includes both popular magazines and scholarly journals. Be sure to perform an “Advanced Search,” which allows one to restrict searching by “Article Type.”

Nineteenth Century Masterfile
This is not a full text resource, although there are some links to full text.  19th Century Masterfile builds upon the Index to Periodical Literature, 1802-1906 (generally referred to simply as “Poole’s”) to include every relevant index produced in the 19th and early 20th century into a single, comprehensive index focusing particularly on cultural and intellectual life. 

Looking for Images: General Digital Sources

AccuNet AP Multi Media Archive
Consists of several databases: International Photo Archive, Euro/Asian Photo Archive, Audio Database, Text Database, and Graphics Database. It is searchable by subject, date and location. Results may be displayed in directory format or in groups of 4 or 12 photos per screen and may be sorted by relevancy or recency.  Enter your topic and then refine it by using a date search.  Try immigration and for “when” enter From 1800 to 1930.  Several photographs will be retrieved.  Among them will be a photograph of “a Hungarian mother and her four children pose after their arrival in 1909 at Ellis Island in New York City.”  Can be useful, but probably not especially so.

Google Image Search
A search on Irish and immigrants will retrieve an image from Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition.  Also try the Advanced Image Search option. 

American Memory
A diversity of primary sources documenting American history and culture are preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Digital Library Program’s American Memory project. American Memory materials are primarily taken from the special collections of the Library of Congress. American Memory makes accessible documents (including books, manuscripts, and sheet music), motion picture and broadcasting materials, photographs and prints, sound recordings, and maps. Collections range from periodicals and government materials to well over 1,000 Civil War photographs, 25,000 photographs of turn of the century America, and panoramic maps of American cities. This site offers more than 7,000,000 digital items from more than 100 historical collections and its range and depth are overwhelming. There’s a diversity of useful material here and many of the photographs can be easily enlarged for viewing revealing details not available otherwise.  These details are hidden clues to the lives of their subjects.  What you literally can’t see – you can interpret.  Practice by finding a photograph of Polish immigrants in Connecticut husking corn.  You may also find useful audio material.

Looking for Images: Specific Digital Sources

Immigration and Caricature: Ethnic Images from the Appel Collectiom
Michigan State University Museum
An outstanding source. This exhibition uses a small sample of the Appel collection to illustrate the role of caricature and stereotype in the multicultural development of the United States. The exhibition “Immigration and Caricature: Ethnic Images from the Appel Collection” was originally mounted by the MSU Museum in 1996.

American Family Immigration Center
A rich array of materials from the Ellis Island Project.  Search for relatives who entered through the Island: “From 1892 to 1924, more than 22 million immigrants, passengers, and crew members came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York. The ship companies that transported these passengers kept detailed passenger lists, called “ship manifests.” Now, thanks to the generous efforts of volunteers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these manifests have been transcribed into a vast electronic archive, which you can easily search to find an individual passenger.”  Or read some personal stories.

Photographs of the Ellis Island Experience
This site from the California Museum of Photography uses original stereo photos of Ellis Island to give students a first-hand look at the largest entry point to America. Though the quality of the images is uneven, some of the faces make wonderful starting points for a discussion of, “What’s going on here…” or “How would you feel if…” If you’re creative, this is nice raw material.  See also:  Ellis Island Quarantine: Trachoma Injections:  For a brief history, accompanied by audio clips of interviews with individuals who entered America through Ellis Island, visit:  Selected Images of Ellis Island and Immigration, ca. 1880-1920:  

Immigration: The Changing Face of America
From American Memory.  A source of excellent photographs – although not completed.

Ohio Memory
A simple search on “immigration” retrieves 165 records.  Photographs are of good quality and size.

The Dramas of Haymarket

Photograph Collection of the Library of Congress (LOC)
Easy access, but not enlarged images.

The Tenement Museum
“The Tenement Museum located the perfect building in which to reveal the history of tenement life on the Lower East Side. A pre-Law building, sealed from change since 1935, it stands as a monument to America’s urban poor, to the architects and owners who designed and built their housing, and to the reformers who fought to improve it. Today, save for the basement and first floor, renovated to greater and lesser degrees for Museum purposes, 97 Orchard Street is as authentic as a tenement can get, right down to impossibly cramped but still useable water closet in the hall next to the exhibition space.”

The Golden Door: Immigration Images from the Keystone-Mast Collection
Select “Immigrants and Ellis Island.”

Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900
Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900
American Memory
Documents and images.  To find addition materials in American Memory search the collection using such terms as immigration, immigrant, or people from specific countries (for example, Polish, Irish, or Italian).

Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929
Immigrants in the Progressive Era
American Memory
Documents and images. To find additional materials in American Memory search the collection using such terms as immigration, immigrant, or people from specific countries (for example, Polish, Irish, or Italian).

Foreign Immigrants in Industrial America
Images for a lecture that is part of an undergraduate course.

State Historical Society of Wisconsin Images
For several useful images, search Wisconsin Historical Images:

Patriotic Images of Immigrants
Unfortunately they’re small!

Immigration History Resource Center
University of Minnesota
To search the collection for photographs and other documents visit the above URL.  This site is worth exploring.

This photo album is based upon text and pictures from a book, On the Trail of the Immigrant by Edward A. Steiner published in 1906 by Fleming H. Revell Company, NY.

Mystic Seaport Steamship Collection, 1862-1927
Images of ships that carried immigrants.

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (BECPL)

Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS)
Collections: Personal tools, gear, and household effects from many of the region’s diverse ethnic and cultural groups
Search the collection of BECH’s library.  Much of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS) Research Library catalog has been converted into machine-readable (MARC) records and is now available online twenty-four hours a day at “There are MARC records for most of our books and about 1/3 of our manuscripts. Our photograph collections are not listed in this catalog!
Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society collections focus on local history topics. To do a comprehensive search of all materials on a specific topic or by a specific author, researchers must still utilize the card catalogs in the Library reading room (open Wednesday-Saturday, 1-5 pm.).”

Lewis Wickes Hines

Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) photographed the immigrants who went through Ellis Island and the tenements and sweatshops where the immigrants lived and worked.  Much of his work focused on the terrors of child labor — the conditions under which they lived and worked.  For biographical information visit the American National Biography:

The History Place: Child Labor in America – Lewis Hine
Excellent quality reproductions.  See also:

Climbing into America – Lewis Hine

Jacob A. Riis

Jacob A(ugust) Wickes (1849-1914) was a newspaper reporter, and a social reformer and photographer.  His most famous work is How the Other Half Lives.  In this work, employing the newly invented flashbulb technique, he photographed rooms and hallways revealing the terrible conditions that characterized life in the tenements of New York City’s Lower East Side.  For biographical information visit the American National Biography

The Jacob Riis Collection
The Museum of the City of New York

Illustrations from Jacob Riis
Illustrations from the text.  Crudely rendered.

How the Other Half Lives (the hypertext edition)

Jacob Riis

On the Lower East Side

Analyzing Photographs: Some Aides

Document Analysis Worksheets
National Archives

History Matters
George Mason University
See Analyzing Photographs under the heading Scholars in Action.  Proceeds by analyzing an 1853 photograph of Niagara Falls. The scholar “teaching” this lesson may be heard or may be read as he responds to a series of questions: What did you first notice about this image?  What is your general approach to reading photographs?  What do you notice now?  What additional questions would you ask of this photograph?  Where else would you look for evidence to put this photograph in context?  See also Making Sense of Documentary Photography.

Basic Strategies in Reading Photographs
An introduction to techniques and vocabulary – each illustrated with photographic examples.  “Of course, you know what you like. But would you like to know more about how a photograph is composed? By learning what visual elements the artist uses to communicate with you, you may appreciate better why you like or don’t like a particular work of art. In the presentation below, the concepts are illustrated with photographic works. Click on the work for a larger image of it and then click on BACK to return to the presentation.”

Machine Translation

Use language tools.  Look on the far right of the query box.  Try words, paragraphs, or sentences.  Machine translation is not perfect, but it can be extremely helpful and it can open texts for you that might be totally inaccessible without it.  The following is an illustration:

Mamma mia dammi cento lire, che in America voglio andar… Imploravano una volta i giovanotti meridionali sull’aire di una canzone allora molto in voga. In quegli anni, infatti siamo negli ultimi due decenni del secolo scorso – per le genti del sud italiano – l’America assunse un significato particolare. Più che un luogo geografico rappresentava un sogno. E moltissimi italiani inseguirono questo sogno convinti che sarebbe stato molto facile realizzarlo

                          Translates to:

Mother my gives one hundred Liras to me, than in America I want to go…  Imploravano once the southern young manen on the boost of one song then a lot in voga.  In those years, in fact we are in last the two decades of the past century – for people of the Italian south – the America assumed particular meaning.  More than a geographic place it represented a dream.  And very many convinced Italians chased this dream that it would have been much easy one to realize it


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