Italian immigrants to America: Northern vs. Southern California

Northern Italian immigrants settled in Northern California, and other coal and mineral mining towns. Southern Italian immigrants to the United States settled along the East coast of the United States, and Chicago. Italians also settled in other European countries, Canada, Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand (Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2016). Northern Italians were of the first European settlers and pioneers of the American West. By 1890, there were more Italian immigrants along the Pacific coast than in New England (The Regents of University of California, 2007). Italians departed from ports in France (Marseilles and Nice), and from Genova (Genoa), Italy, and arrived to Castle Garden and Ellis Island in New York. Italians emigrated from Italy predominantly due to political and economic upheaval; settlers in Northern California enjoyed its familiar Mediterranean climate (Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2016).

Generally, Italian men were the first to immigrate to the U.S., and they secured jobs as farmers, fisherman, bricklayers and other various other labor work. The issuance of passports by the Italian government was intended to keep young Italian men from emigrating to avoid the military draft. While not complete, passport records, which offer a wealth of information, are being digitized and indexed by the BYU Immigration Ancestors Project ( Digitized images of passenger lists, arrival manifests, passport applications and naturalization records can be found online, such as through FamilySearch.  Interested parties may also request official physical records from Italy through The Italian Heritage website (, for which there are excellent, helpful resources on the Family Search Wiki for Italy, including a letter writing guide (Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2016).  Additionally, provides information regarding records in California  ( Records for tracing Italian immigration are also freely available online through and


Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (2016). Italy Emigration and Immigration [Web page]. Retrieved from

The Regents of University of California. (2007). Italian Americans in America [Web page]. Retrieved from