Monday, July 23, 2012

Poles to Southeastern Michigan

The vast majority of Poles located in the city of Detroit. It became a major destination of immigrating Poles to the United States. The attraction of prosperity and high paying jobs was a big attraction. The wave started to come in the late 1870's and came primarily from the area of Prussia. Wars were occurring in this area and the peasants in this area were a primary group to fill the ranks of the army. Many chose not to go and looked elsewhere to escape the military conscription. Starting in the 1900's the Polish outpaced the third place Irish in the amount of people that were immigrating to the United States. Most of these people were landless peasants. Poland in the latter half of the 18th century had become fragmented so you had people that spoke the Polish language but did not live in what we know today as Poland. About 20% lived in Prussia, 35% in Austria and finally 45 % in Russia. When they came to the United States this became a major challenge, because they were identified all as Polish, because of the language they spoke. Broadly lumping this group into one makes it difficult to identify areas of origin. The Polish also had a very high return rate back to Poland that reached numbers close to 30 to 40 percent. Austrian and Russian Poles came with the intent of earning enough money to purchase land back in the home country. German Poles on the other hand came to stay. The attraction was the many jobs in the Detroit area that involved manual labor with little speaking like the automobile, steel and railroad industries. The Polish nationality was the least likely immigrating group to be self employed. Polish when they arrived in Detroit located in the same neighborhoods. This allowed this group to assimilate into the over all community more slowly. They came to live close to family members, former neighbors or relatives that had already come to the United States. They valued the use of their hands over the ability to get educated. Larger the family the better able to take care of the whole group. They valued the ownership of property meant they had to work so they did. Poles were primarily Roman Catholic and tended to shun other nationalities churches. St Albertus and St Albans were the primary churches that they attended. The church was the center of their cultural lives. Polish preferred to send their kids to parochial schools than have them in public schools. They created their own ethnic, religious and fraternal groups. Unfortunately in Detroit by 1963 close to 300,000 Polish in Detroit had modified their names. The groups mentioned are so important to identifying the original immigrants names. Many of have taken a interest in researching their families. Resources are plentiful in the Detroit area for this ethnic group. The Polish History center in the area is a excellent resource for one researching their family. A group has also been created that is called Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan. Take advantage of these groups and your researcher will be smoother.