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Immigration and Ethnic Heritage

Immigration: Past Experiences, Present Realities 


It’s often said we are a nation of immigrants, but what does that mean? Here’s something to consider: between 1820 (when immigration records were first kept) and 1920, almost two-thirds of all the people who emigrated anywhere in the world came to America. Unless you are Native American, Inuit or Indios, you, your family or your ancestors arrived here from another country during the past 300 years. Very few countries have adopted as many people from as many different nations and cultures as has the United States. 

Who we are now, what we value, how we define ourselves, how we relate to one another is profoundly shaped by the fact that generations of Hoosiers came here from some other place, bringing with them a wide range of beliefs, customs, traditions, languages and stories. 

Generations of newcomers came to Indiana to work as laborers or skilled workers, farmers, indentured servants or entrepreneurs. Some came to escape religious and political oppression or other hardships in their homelands. They traveled from Europe, Great Britain, Asia, Mexico or Canada, and from neighboring states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. They arrived by horseback, carriage, boat, train or rail, determined to find a better life for themselves and their families. 

Some of us have arrived in Indiana more recently to work in the mills or factories, on farms, or for local businesses.Some study at Indiana’s colleges and universities, while others have started our own companies. Like those early pioneers, we’ve come to build new lives in Indiana, our chosen home. All of our stories are a unique part of Indiana’s history. 

Begin with an introduction to Indiana’s immigration and ethnic history . 

E-mail programs@indianahistory.org with suggestions for topics you’d like to see on our IN History pages.