Italian Americans are the fifth largest ancestry group in America. We recommend GeneWeb for people trying to establish their family tree and origins.
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The busiest period for emigration from Italy to the US was between 1900 and 1913 when 9 Million (mostly southern) Italians left Italy and most went to North and South America. 1913 was the 'busiest' year with nearly 900,000 emigrants.
Between 1871 (unification of Italy) and 1900, there was a lot of emigration, an estimated 3 million went to the US in this thirty year period. Statistics start in 1876)
Another period of mass emigration went from 1919 to 1929. In 1920 alone, 614,000 people left Italy and half went to the US, this trend continued until 1930, with circa 300,000 people leaving per year, giving about 3 million over the decade.
1860s Naples was the largest city in Italy and capital of the South "The Kingdom of the two Sicilies" - when it lost that status a lot of Neapolitans emigrated and then in the 1880s an outbreak of cholera saw a large outflow, because large parts of the city were 'cleaned' (knocked down and rebuilt) for thirty years or so, which added to emigration until WW1 (1914).
Istria: 350,000 left Istria after WW2, when it became part of Yugoslavia, now Slovacchia, but many stayed in Italy.
The first Sicilians moved to the US in the 17th century as explorers and missionaries. Many more came in the 1880s and in 1906 approx 100,000 made the transatlantic journey.
Surnames: 10 most common surnames in Italy: Rossi, Ferrari, Russo, Bianchi, Colombo, Esposito, Ricci, Romano, Conti, Costa Surnames beginning with 'De' are from Naples and southern Italy, 'Di' are from Sicily, Abruzzo and Molise, 'Lo' and 'Li' are from Sicily. See Wikipedia for a full list of origins of surnames.
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