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.
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”.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 Ancestry.com 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|
|2||1910 US Federal Census, Manhattan Ward 19, New York, New York|
|3||1920 US Federal Census, Brooklyn Assembly District 3, Kings Co., NY|
|Antonio||Fonda||18||ITA||1912||Seaman Merchant Ship|
|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|
|5||1920 US Federal Census, Rochester Ward 7, Monroe Co., NY|
|Charles||Fonda||39||ITA||1910||Grocery Store Proprietor|
|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|
|7||1930 US Federal Census, Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., NY|
|John||Fonda||38||ITA||1906||Finisher Furniture Factory|
|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|
|9||1930 US Federal Census, Pittston, Luzerne Co., PA|
|10||1930 US Federal Census, Pittston, Luzerne Co., PA|
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