9-Serrapede Family in America: Birds of Passage, Late 19th-Early 20th Centuries

  • Many of the Birds of Passage were from Eastern and Southern Europe.
    • Some online sources say the birds of passage came here alone.  In the case of our Serrapede, Muro and extended family from Agropoli there was a network beginning to establish itself.
    • From the research so far we know that in addition to the Scotti, Serrapede and Muro families, we also have the Mattarazzo, Di Luccio and Cuoco families coming here. We still need further research to distinguish who came to stay and who came just to work for a certain period of time.
    • The goal was to save as much money as possible and bring it back to the home country.
      • The goal of Italian  Birds of Passage was to accumulate enough money in the U.S. that would enable them to realize an improvement to their life in Italy.  For example, an improvement in the quality of their life would be the purchase of a home or a plot of land.

  • The return rate between 1907 to 1911:
    • Southern & Eastern Europe:  For every 100 temporary laborers who came 44 returned home.
    • Italy:  For every 100 temporary laborers who came, 77 went home.
  • Italians did not come here to do the kind of work they did in Italy like farming or fishing.
    • They congregated in the large urban centers to work for factories or perform manual labor that offered higher wages.
    • Some Italian workers obtained their positions through their network of family and paesanos already in the U.S.
    • Others became part of the Padrone system wherein the Padrone acted as an employment broker.  Often the immigrants who came here by this means found themselves subjected to numerous fees paid monthly to the Padrone for such things as food and passage.
  • Reviewing the passenger lists for the ships Gennaro and his maternal Uncle and cousin came over on revealed that $50 in cash was a desirable amount of money for an immigrant to have.  Using an inflation calculator $50 of 1903 money translates to $1,000 in 2014 money.
    • “The World’s Work”, a magazine promoting the American way of life and importance in the world, published an article in 1902 an article about the amounts of money immigrants brought with them in 1901.  Southern Italians were at the bottom of the list with just $8.67 on them.
    • Gennaro’s paternal Cousin Sabato and Aunt Rosa had $10 each when they crossed over in 1897 to spen time here while his Uncle worked.  An inflation calculator translates this amount in 1897 to a little over $200 in 2014 dollars.
  • Our ancestor’s pattern of immigration is called “Chain Immigration”.  Because of the ties our ancestors had with their extended families and friends from Agropoli they accumulated another form of wealth known as “social capital”.
  • Social capital consists of immigrants from the same home town establishing the means to help others from the same town with transportation, housing, food, employment and referrals in the new home/host country.  The Social Capital is established when the new arrivals acquire the means to facilitate change and action in the lives of those they are related to.  There then begins the cycle of “Chain Immigration” where one relative or family friend helps others in the hometown immigrate to the new country where they will reside and work.
  • Another pattern of behavior followed by the Birds of Passage is called Return Migration.  In order to achieve the return trip with as much money as possible, the immigrants worked long hours and spent as little money in the U.S. as possible.
  • In 1924 the U.S. passed the Immigration Act of 1924.  This act limited return migration with the result that many more Italians began to settle in the U.S. rather than return to Italy.


Digital History
Birds of Passage

Digital History ID:  3290

Gente di Mare Italian Genealogy
Birds of Passage
June 22nd, 2010
Author: NucciaS

Southern Italian Immigration
By Nicola Colella

Chain Migration

The Padrone System