By Shannon Combs Bennett, Student
The United States has a long history of religious immigration. As a country known for its religious tolerance and the ability for people to practice freely appeals to many. Talking to other researchers many tell me the religions they think of with immigration tend to be those associated with Eastern European immigrants such as Judaism and Eastern-Rite religions. However, there were other non-Christian religions that also immigrated. These are all touched on in the U.S. Religious Records Part 2 course .
After the Civil War through to about 1910 over 20 million people immigrated to the US. That is a significant number of people when you realize that the US population at the close of the war was a bit over 30 million. Immigrants had an extreme impact on the US in all aspects, it would have been impossible not to.
Jewish immigrants were one of the largest communities that came over. Module 5 of this course covers Judaism. The instructor not only covers the different forms but gives an extensive timeline and resources list for those who are researching Jewish ancestors. In college I took a course titled “The 3 Abrahamic Religions” which covered Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Let’s say that was a long time ago and while I still have a basic understanding I was happy to put some pieces together in my head for genealogy research.
Another large group that was involved heavy in the immigration at the turn of the 20th century were the Orthodox churches which were covered in Module 4 of this course. These included Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Beyond studying these religions peripherally for their beautiful icon art I did not know much about them. I learned about the history of the churches, how the Catholic Church in Rome views the Eastern Rite Catholics, what types of records they keep, and the nuances a researcher would need to know to make sure they contacted the correct place. All very useful information and a great resource for the future.
It amazes me that some people forget that there are other faiths out there, particularly those that are not associated with Christianity. For instance Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are also covered in this course in Module 6. Where I went to college had a large Buddhist Temple just outside of town so I was in an interesting situation where that religion and aspects of the cultures associated with Buddhism where present for five years of my life. In fact, that Dali Llama’s brother owned a restaurant in town and he visited the community frequently to see him. However, since I do not have connections with those religions I never thought about how I would research them.
Understanding how these faiths operate I feel makes us better researchers into religious records. You never know when that type of information will become handy! I was very pleased with the variety of faiths covered in Part 2 of this course and excited by all the new history I learned.
Well, off to take the exam and start the next one! I’ll see you online!