Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Porous Border


I had the privilege a few years ago to hear Randy William Widdis speak at a local family history workshop. I had come to the workshop for several reasons, including him. Why? His topic was "The Porous Border: Migration Back & Forth Across the Canadian/U.S. Line". As you might imagine, that got me VERY interested, with my own family history following that path on my mother's side. It was a theme common to many early settlers to St. Vincent and indeed throughout Kittson County.

Widdis did his dissertation on seven counties in New York and five in Ontario on migrations patterns back and forth. One county he did it in was where Syracuse, NY is. Some immigrants went to Watertown, NY, some to Syracuse, NY.

Some highlights:

- He found patterns where certain counties in Canada went to certain counties in NY. The same was true for those Ontario emigrants coming to St. Vincent, i.e., coming from the same towns.

- He found that those that went to NY migrated in increments, whereas those that went to our area came directly here.

- Those that went to urban areas tended to be single men, while those that went to rural areas tended to be families.

- Canadians that migrated to NY tended to retain their Canadian citizenship, while those that came to our area tended to give it up and become American citizens.

- He found that our area was more embracive to the Anglo-Canadian immigrants than the NY communities were.

Land was the big draw to our area, and when land was opened up and advertised far and wide, the Anglo-Canadians (a great many who were Irish) flocked to our area. English/Irish/Scot Canadian surnames made up a majority of early settlers in St. Vincent. Although outnumbered by Minneapolis/St. Paul's Irish community, percentage-wise, we led the way.