Section 7: Terms and Definitions

Chain Migration. Chain migration happens when people from one district, province, village, or family follow each other to the United States. For instance, a young man might leave his village and find a good job in North Dakota. He would write a letter to his friends and family in the Old Country and tell them of his good fortune. He might urge them to immigrate as well. A letter might be passed from one person to another in a village. Many would be encouraged to consider immigration after reading about someone else’s success in the United States.

Culture. Culture is the sum total of various characteristics associated with a group of people. Language, religion, clothing, hairstyles, games, foods, child-rearing practices, wedding traditions, and funeral rituals are some of the qualities that make up a culture. Culture is not the same as ethnicity or nationality. People who share a culture may share a nationality with people of other cultures.

Dialect. Dialect is a form of language. Every language has dialects. Groups of people speaking a language may develop peculiarities in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. For instance, the Irish, Scottish, and most Americans all speak English. However, there are differences in pronunciation and vocabulary that make it difficult for members of these three nationalities to understand one another. Dialects can be based on geography, social class, or experiences.

Emigrants. Emigrants are people who leave a country to become citizens of another country. Technically, an emigrant is also an immigrant. The same person who leaves a country – an emigrant – becomes an immigrant when he arrives in the country where he plans to take up residence.

Emigration. Emigration is the process of leaving the country where a person is a citizen. The person may leave the country of his or her birth, or a country where he or she has become a citizen.

Enclave. An enclave is an area or neighborhood where people of the same culture settled and built their homes. These cultural areas sometimes coincided with towns, townships, or school districts.

Ethnicity. Ethnicity is a term that denotes the cultural qualities shared by a group of people (an ethnic group.)  For example, German-speaking people from Bessarabia in South Russia constitute an ethnic group. An ethnic group may share some cultural characteristics, nationality, history, and/or ancestry. Ethnicity tends to be more inclusive than culture. Ethnicity is different than the physical characteristics that often define race, though some ethnic divisions may have some characteristics of race.

First Generation. First Generation immigrants were those who were born in another country and made the journey to the United States. Even if the immigrant was just a baby, he or she is considered first generation.

Immigrant. Technically, immigrants are people who enter a new country with the intention of becoming a citizen of the new country. In common usage, immigrant is a term applied to people who come to the United States from somewhere else. See Emigrant.

Immigration. Immigration is the process of entering a new country to become a citizen of that country.

Nationality. This term refers to the country a person lives in or where the person is a citizen. Those of us who are U.S. citizens claim the United States, or American, as our nationality. A person who lived in Slovenia in southern Europe in 1900 would have been officially Austrian because Slovenia was part of Austria. Many Europeans did not recognize nationality until they came to the United States. A Halling, who was a person from Hallingdal, Norway, probably did not see herself as a Norwegian until she found that title applied to her in the United States.

Nativity. This term refers to the country a person was born in. It is very similar to nationality. A person can have the same Nationality as his or her Nativity. However, it is possible for a person’s country of birth to be different from the country of their nationality. For instance, if a person emigrated from Norway to the United States and became a citizen of the U.S., she would claim Norway as the country of her nativity, and the United States as her nationality.

Old Americans. People whose families had lived in the United States for generations were often called Old Americans.

Old Country. Old Country was commonly used to speak of the country that people came from. The Old Country might have been Germany or Norway or another country. The United States was sometimes called the New Country.

Push-Pull Factors. The reasons for immigration were usually classified as push factors or pull factors. Push factors are the conditions in the Old Country that made a person think about leaving. These usually included loss of land, little chance for a good job, political oppression, or religious oppression. Pull factors were those which encouraged a person to go to a particular country or place. Pull factors for North Dakota included plenty of land at a reasonable cost and other economic opportunities. Immigrating to a place where family already lived was another pull factor.

Race. This term is only properly applied to physical biological traits or characteristics. Biological traits may include eye color, hair type, skin color, the shape of the head or skeleton. People of different races may share ethnic or cultural characteristics.

Second Generation. These people were born in the United States to parents who had been born in another country. They are also called the children of the foreign-born.

Yankees or Old Americans. People who had been in the United States since they were born were called natives (with a small “n” to distinguish them from Native Americans), Yankees, or Old Americans. Yankee was probably the most common term, but sometimes immigrants referred to most English-speaking people as simply Americans.