Faith and Family: Dutch Immigration and Settlement in the United States, 1820-1920

Article excerpt

Faith and Family: Dutch Immigration and Settlement in the United States, 1820-1920. By Robert P. Swierenga. [Ellis Island Series.] (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. 2000. Pp. xxi, 362. $45.00.)

Faith and Family is Swierenga's most comprehensive work on Dutch immigration and settlement in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. As the title suggests, religion and family values and their impacts on the immigrant experience, behavior, and the residential community are the recurring themes. Migration traditions through church and family contribute to the development of transplanted communities which, as Swierenga sees it, dot the American landscape in both urban and rural areas. Mobility, both in a geographic and economic sense, is directed and takes place through these community networks, and the church is the pivotal institution in the process. Many of the materials and case studies covered have been published elsewhere, but Swierenga has done a superb job at synthesizing and integrating the various themes in four parts in the book. Part I: Immigration Patterns" (in four chapters) includes a review of conditions in the Old Country that contributed to emigration and a discussion and analysis of different immigration streams to the United States. Part II: "Religion" (in four chapters) addresses the question of the relationship between religion and immigration behavior, including Jewish immigration and religious life. In Part III: "Work and Politics" (in two chapters), migration and occupational change and voting behavior is covered. Part IV: "Statistics and Sources" (in two chapters) discusses international immigration statistics and other source materials. At the end we find a detailed bibliographic essay, including a section on Catholic records. The writing style is clear and direct, and source referencing and indexing is superb.

Swierenga's own immigrant and religious roots lay in the Midwestern Secessionist Christian Reformed tradition, which is evident from the choice of themes and locales. Most of the examples and case studies presented (Chicago's Westside, Holland and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Pella, Iowa), derive from places and events he is most familiar with. …

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