Dec 03
Immigrants at Statue Of Liberty

Immigrants viewing Statue Of Liberty from Ellis Island

Many recent Italian immigrants with the Fonda surname have been included in the American Fonda database… first to differentiate from the original Dutch-American line… then as a separate project to try and establish some descendancy lines.  Although tradition holds that the Dutch line was originally of Italian descent, a direct link between the two lines has yet to be found.

According to available census records, about 100 individuals named Fonda immigrated from Italy to the United States between 1890 and 1930.  Most of them settled in the eastern cities working as entrepeneurs or laborers, although some made it out west as miners or railroad workers.  Those that stayed and made it into the census were productive, working-class families, who integrated quickly into society.  In most cases, the father immigrated first, establishing employment, followed by the rest of the family a year or two later.  10 such immigrant families are listed below, each with five or more people… most with children born in both Italy and the US… as first generation Italian-Americans.

Journey for Opportunity

Journey of opportunity for peasants escaping strife in Southern Italy

Here is a short explanation of what led to the surge of Italian immigration to America around the turn of the century:

The Great Arrival
Most of this generation of Italian immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil in a place that has now become a legend—Ellis Island. In the 1880s, they numbered 300,000; in the 1890s, 600,000; in the decade after that, more than two million. By 1920, when immigration began to taper off, more than 4 million Italians had come to the United States, and represented more than 10 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population.
What brought about this dramatic surge in immigration? The causes are complex, and each hopeful individual or family no doubt had a unique story. By the late 19th century, the peninsula of Italy had finally been brought under one flag, but the land and the people were by no means unified. Decades of internal strife had left a legacy of violence, social chaos, and widespread poverty. The peasants in the primarily poor, mostly rural south of Italy and on the island of Sicily had little hope of improving their lot. Diseases and natural disasters swept through the new nation, but its fledgling government was in no condition to bring aid to the people. As transatlantic transportation became more affordable, and as word of American prosperity came via returning immigrants and U.S. recruiters, Italians found it increasingly difficult to resist the call of “L’America”.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island immigration point

This new generation of Italian immigrants was distinctly different in makeup from those that had come before. No longer did the immigrant population consist mostly of Northern Italian artisans and shopkeepers seeking a new market in which to ply their trades. Instead, the vast majority were farmers and laborers looking for a steady source of work—any work. There were a significant number of single men among these immigrants, and many came only to stay a short time. Within five years, between 30 and 50 percent of this generation of immigrants would return home to Italy, where they were known as ritornati.
Those who stayed usually remained in close contact with their family in the old country, and worked hard in order to have money to send back home. In 1896, a government commission on Italian immigration estimated that Italian immigrants sent or took home between $4 million and $30 million each year, and that “the marked increase in the wealth of certain sections of Italy can be traced directly to the money earned in the United States.”

The columns in the table below include first and last names, age, place of birth, immigration year and occupation.  Some of these lines have been linked to individuals living now.  The American Fonda database is periodically uploaded to rootsweb, but the on-line listing strips out anyone born after 1930 for privacy purposes.  You will need to download the main PDF file to view the full listing.  Any help in putting together family lines is much appreciated (e-mail to

Disclaimer: Many immigrants modified their names to simplify or anglicize the pronunciation.  It is possible that some of these family names could have originally been something like Lafondiano, LaFonda, LaFontano or Fondacaro in native Italy. There are also some listings that are very difficult to read in the census records which could actually be spelling variations like Fondi, Fanda, Funda, Fondo, etc. All of the records below were indexed by under the pure spelling of ‘Fonda’ and in fact some that were listed as possible were discarded after looking at the actual census scan images.  Further research on the Italian side would be necessary to nail this down for sure.  The US Census Records in these years did not show the city or region of origin, only the country.  Since recent phone records indicate the pure Fonda surname is concentrated in northeast Italy (around Trieste), and the early 1900’s Italian-American immigrations were more from southern Italy, it would logical to assume that some of these names were altered upon immigration.

10 Italian Immigrant Families named Fonda (with Rootsweb link)

1 1900 US Federal Census, Baltimore Ward 2, Baltimore City, MD

Frank Fonda 41 ITA 1897 Fruit Dealer

Rosavi Fonda 37 ITA 1897

Chili Fonda 19 ITA 1897 Fruit Dealer

Chala Fonda 16 ITA 1897 Fruit Dealer

Tony Fonda 3 MD

Josephina Fonda 2 MD

2 1910 US Federal Census, Manhattan Ward 19, New York, New York

Michael Fonda 46 ITA 1900 Shoemaker

Cassel Fonda 40 ITA 1900

Tony Fonda 30 ITA 1904

Frederick Fonda 20 ITA 1902 Barber Shop

Salvador Fonda 14 ITA 1902 Assistant Shoemaking

Anne Fonda 5 NY

Dominic Fonda 11mo NY

3 1920 US Federal Census, Brooklyn Assembly District 3, Kings Co., NY

Florencio Fonda 40 ITA 1912 Shoemaker

Santilla Fonda 40 ITA 1912

Antonio Fonda 18 ITA 1912 Seaman Merchant Ship

Florencio Fonda 14 ITA 1912

Emma Fonda 8 ITA 1912

Carmela Fonda 6 NY

4 1920 US Federal Census, Queens Assembly District 1, Queens Co., NY

Pasquale Fonda 29 ITA 1907 Cigar Maker Factory

Rosie Fonda 28 ITA 1908 Cigar Maker Factory

Rosalind Fonda 8 NY

Jenny Fonda 6 NY

Adele Fonda 3 NY

5 1920 US Federal Census, Rochester Ward 7, Monroe Co., NY

Charles Fonda 39 ITA 1910 Grocery Store Proprietor

Antoniett Fonda 31 ITA Un

Josephine Fonda 12 ITA Un

Tony Fonda 10 ITA Un

Mike Fonda 8 NY

Louis Fonda 6 NY

Sam Fonda 3 NY

Mary Fonda 1 NY

6 1920 US Federal Census, West Springfield, Hampden Co., MA

Antonio Fonda 37 ITA 1903 Laborer Railroad Shops

Ernimia Fonda 34 ITA 1902 Welder Railroad Shops

Dannie Fonda 15 MA
Sales Clerk Grocery Store

Josephine Fonda 12 MA

Rosie Fonda 11 MA

7 1930 US Federal Census, Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., NY

John Fonda 38 ITA 1906 Finisher Furniture Factory

Anna M Fonda 26 ITA 1907

Louise M Fonda 7 NY

Margaret D Fonda 6 NY

Jenaro Fonda 3 NY

Jilda Fonda 1 NY

8 1930 US Federal Census, Ogdensburg, Saint Lawrence Co., NY

Samuel Fonda 48 ITA 1902 Track Hitchman Railroad

Helen Fonda 24 NY
Housework Private Family

Francis J Fonda 6 NY

Pascal J Fonda 4 NY

Theresa H Fonda 2 NY

9 1930 US Federal Census, Pittston, Luzerne Co., PA

Raimondo Fonda 62 ITA 1903 Merchant Groceries

Leonarda Fonda 61 ITA 1907

Calogero Fonda 23 PA
Barber Shop

Salvatore Fonda 20 PA
Barber Shop

Angelina Fonda 17 PA

10 1930 US Federal Census, Pittston, Luzerne Co., PA

Angelo Fonda 26 ITA 1906 Barber Shop

Hellen Fonda 23 ITA 1913

Eleonora Fonda 6 PA

Raimondo Fonda 5 PA

Gastana Fonda 3 PA

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