Missouri Life Magazine featuring STL immigrants

Even before the United States became a country more than two hundred years ago, people were traveling across land and sea to make it to the land that is now Missouri. When early European settlers got here, they found trading posts along the rivers and fertile land for pastures and crops beyond.

German and Irish immigrants fleeing feudal systems, a failed revolution, famine, and harsh industrial working conditions set up communities that still see their influence today. In a self-reported survey in 2018, a quarter of Missourians reported that they had German heritage, and about 15 percent claimed Irish heritage, with those two groups far ahead of other ancestry claims. The Germans who immigrated in the 1800s tended to be educated, skilled craftsmen, and farmers, settling in both cities and rural areas, while the Irish settled mainly in larger cities and became part of the labor force that built railroads and worked in factories. Both groups made political impacts.

Take a look at your own family tree, and unless you descend from one or more of the indigenous tribes, you had ancestors who arrived here as immigrants. They might have passed through Ellis Island, eventually finding a place in the Midwest.

Today, Missouri still welcomes refugees fleeing war-torn countries, migrants facing crime and lack of jobs and opportunity, and immigrants who travel to the United States for education in our colleges and universities or for professional or skilled positions.


Ferry crossings like this one on the Missouri River at St. Charles provided a gateway for early European settlers bound for points west of St. Louis.


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