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HIST 2242 - American Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in U.S. History (Bucki): Home


Hello! This course guide has been created for students enrolled in HIST 2242 - American Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in U.S. History. In this guide, you will find several resources intended to help with your family history research project.

Below is a description of the pages found in the menu above:

  • Research Guides- Lists of resources when you can find sources for your research
    • History Research Guide -- Much of what you will likely need can be found here.
  • Research Tutorials
    • Know the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources
    • Advance Search Tips
    • Search for Library Resources Efficiently
    • Find Peer Reviewed/Scholarly Articles
    • Use Reference Lists to Find More Sources
  • Conducting Interviews -- Tips for how to conduct interviews with your family and others
  • Citing Resources
    • Chicago Notes-Bibliography Guide
    • Use a Citation Generator Safely
    • Zotero User Guide

HIST 2242 - American Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in U.S. History

Dr. Cecelia Bucki



Write a paper (2,000 words typed, single-spaced) on your own family’s immigration and/or internal migration history, and connect it to the larger history of immigration in the United States.

PLEASE NOTE:  This assignment is designed to stimulate your investigation into the subject matter of the course and to allow you to ask questions that will carry through the semester. It is not meant to be intrusive or to invade your family’s privacy.  If you have such concerns, please come talk to me.   

This assignment presumes that your family lives in the United States. Except for American Indians, all Americans in the modern era (post-1492) have come from somewhere else voluntarily (or forcibly in the case of most African Americans), and all families have migrated internally within the U.S. over the generations. If your family does not live in the U.S., or if you have difficulty accessing your family’s history, please come see me about an alternative suggestion.

Remember that your own family history, while very meaningful to you, is just one story in the millions of stories that make up United States history. Once you have gathered enough information from your family, you will want to consider the larger historical circumstances in which that story takes place.


  • ¬ Thus, this assignment asks you to use the assigned readings from the course to

construct that historical framework. Accordingly, you must use references to at least three different course readings from a minimum of three different weeks. Citations should be in footnote format (Chicago Manual Author-Bibliography Style). The Bowdoin History Reading and Writing Guide: <> [Professor Patrick Rael guidelines] will be of great help here. Please include page numbers in your citations.


 There are many books detailing different ethnic groups’ experiences, and your grade will improve if you include information from those sources. Three great places to start (all available at Dimenna-Nyselius Library):


General Reference Sources:


  1. 1) Stephen Thernstorm (ed), Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980). With many entries written by historians, this encyclopedia provides general historical background on most immigrant groups in the U.S., along with a short bibliography for each. Since it was published in 1980, it does not list publications or updated information since that year.


  1. 2) Mary C. Waters and Reed Ueda (eds.), The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration Since 1965 (Harvard UP, 2006) is an update of the Harvard Encyclopedia.


  1. 3) Elliott Robert Barkan (ed), Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration (Westport, CT: ABC-CLIO, 2013).   (REF JV6450.I5536 2013)  Barkan is a more recent compilation, organized by immigrant group, with simpler language and structure.


  1. 4) Oxford Reference Online (Library Online Database) has encyclopedias to specific ethnic/racial groups, which may or may not have what you need.


Each reference source can give you clues for your particular family history, if you wish to pursue one particular thread. Note that if you have mixed immigrant–ethnic backgrounds, you may decide to concentrate on the one that is most documented or compelling. There are monographs (like Susan Glenn’s Daughters of the Shtetl) for many individual ethnic/racial groups; use them to improve your paper.

Be sure to give full citations (e.g., footnotes) for any sources.


Some questions to consider asking your family members:

1. What ethnic/racial group do you and your family identify yourselves with? Why?

2. When did your forebears arrive? If they came voluntarily, where had they come from and why did they decide to come to (and to stay in) the U.S.? How often and how long did they continue to be in touch with the Old Country and how often did they return (if at all)?

3. Where did they settle, and where along the way did they live? Where has each generation gone?

4. What were their economic circumstances in the Old Country at the time of their emigration? What jobs did they find in the U.S.?

5. If your family has been in the United States for a long time, have they been settled in the same area? When, where, how, and why did your family move internally?

6. Trace their job situations over their lifetimes. Trace generational mobility to the present day. What was each generation’s definition of “success”?

7. Finally, what stories or traditions have been passed down to you about previous generations? How do those stories add substance to the facts that the previous questions have revealed?

8. For the paper: Identify commonalities between your family and the general pattern of immigration presented in our readings. Are there any differences?


As you go about compiling this first look at your family history, keep your mind open to any circumstances or dynamics that may reveal a more general narrative for the U.S. immigration story (see Question 8, above.)

9.  For example, if your paternal migration ancestor became a coal-miner, what might the history of coal-miners tell you? Or if your maternal migration ancestor became a widow early on in the family narrative, what impact might that have on her future and what did she have in common with other immigrant women?

     Another note: there are new ways that you might be able to go back beyond your own family’s memory. has a remarkable set of documents for you to examine, though that step is not necessary. If, in fact, your family has a family tree, remember that the documents and histories are very generalized (themes that should be familiar to you from this course). Your job would be to go beyond that story—see Item 9. above.

  If you trace your family back to slavery (and even if not), the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by Harvard University’s African American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates, has done remarkable work on this, and his subjects include Black and white celebrities. Of course, Professor Gates had a crew of Harvard graduate students assisting him. You are not expected to replicate his successes, but binge-watching is encouraged.


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