|Old farm near Paradise, CA -David Cabitto's picture|
One of the first things we want to do is learn why our family immigrated. Was it for political refuge? If so, when Poland had new leadership after WWI, and Galicia became part of Poland again, people would want to return. Many people did. Did they come to America to own their own land? For at least 200 years the 3 biggest reasons I've seen for people immigrating to the United States is to own their own land, political refuge, and religious freedom. For hundreds of years, in many European countries you were either a land owner, or you worked for one. Who your parents were usually determined which kind of life you would have, until the colonial days of North and South America. A smaller number of people were fortunate to be merchants. Most of my ancestors came to America in its early days, to own their own land, and be farmers. The majority of my ancestors decided to stay put in Virginia or North Carolina until about the WWII time period. But many thousands of other people loved the frontier, the possibilities and excitement of it all. They dreamed of the challenge to tame wild land, and become self sufficient on their farms. The Homesteading Act in the United States enticed many thousands of people west. They often had 5 years to put up a barn, improve the land, then they were allowed to keep and own that land they worked on developing. Many immigrants started arriving from Europe with plans to go west to get homesteading land. After seeing the success of the United States homesteading, Canada started their own homesteading act. One of the interesting things I've been reading is that Canadians seemed to be more tolerant and accepting. Many freed American slaves wanted to get to Canada's homesteading land, because they believed they could really start over better in Canada. Irish also started having a hard time getting jobs after the potato famine, with signs in shop windows saying "no Irish". So the homesteading acts greatly appealed to Irish as well. I've also read in a number of places that Norwegians and Polish liked to live in the northern Midwest, especially around the Great Lakes because it was a similar climate and farming that they were already used to. That would also be true of southern Canada. So far, the Sanetra's I knew were carpenters. They would be far less likely to want a homestead, and more likely to remain in the city with their trade skills.
I'm really not familiar with Canadian records yet. But I am currently trying to learn more so I can look for some of my missing Polish family in Canada. Here is a link to a Canadian Government page with information about the Canadian Homesteading and land grants. Canadian land grants info click here
Here is a link to NARA (National Archives) about the US homesteading: US homesteading info click here