Some immigrants came to Minnesota by themselves in search of jobs and better opportunities. Some of them prepared the way for their families back home to join them. Other families came here all at the same time.

Immigrant families and communities grew in different ways. Sometimes immigrants would join relatives who were already here. Other times, single men and women would join in marriage in their new home to start a family in America.


Immigrants who came by themselves were usually men looking to earn enough money to bring the rest of their families over as well. Other single immigrants simply had no opportunities back home and decided to start fresh in a new country.

These individuals worked hard jobs in mining, logging, factories, and farms. Once they had enough income, they could buy land of their own, send for their wives and children, or start a new family here.

Chris Effrem came alone from Greece to America in 1950, seeking adventure and prosperity. During his first year he worked as a wood carver in California, but he was lonely by himself.

Q: Q: Did you come by yourself over here, immigrate, what year was it did you came?
A: 1949, I left Greece and went around the world and the following year, I arrived in America, early '50s.
Q: Did your family come with you or --
A: No, I was all alone… And so right away, I found a shop in San Diego, California and I work in this shop who made church pews and church carvings and that was the first year. And then I was asking God to give me a wife, so He sent me a wife from Minneapolis in Minnesota. So she came down to San Diego… and she brought me back to Minneapolis. And then… a month and a half later we got married.

Chris Effrem

Interview with Chris Effrem, 1994

Tendell Sangmo's husband came to America without her or their children to work. The family lived essentially separated for six years before her immigration papers were approved and she and the children could reunite with him and move to Minnesota.

Interview with Tendell Sangmo, 2005

Immigrant Families

Many immigrant families completely uprooted themselves when they came to Minnesota. They traveled together with their children and sometimes extended family members, leaving famine, poverty, and disease behind. In these families, often some of the children were born in the home country, some were born while the family was traveling, and some were born here in their new homes.

Once they arrived, they would often send letters back home to report on their safe arrival, as well as on the conditions of their life here. These "America letters" were often shared among neighbors in their home communities, which encouraged other family members to emigrate as well.

In this interview, Hyun Sook Han explained the kinds of changes many Korean families have experienced after immigrating to America. Being in a new country meant they had to make adjustments within their families, between spouses, family roles, raising children, and more.

Interview with Hyun Sook Han, 1979

Immigrant Marriages

Some immigrants without spouses or families back home married people they met here in Minnesota. These marriages helped cement their place in the new land and between new people within their communities. Sometimes these marriages occurred between different ethnic groups and multi-ethnic families resulted.

Hans and Mattie Sanbo Wedding, Ann Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota
Hans and Mattie Sanbo Wedding, Ann Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota

Marvel Hum Chong's father Bing Hum was an immigrant from China who came to Minneapolis in the late 1800s. He married an Irish Canadian woman, Sarah Cassidy, and they started a family. Their family was one of just a few intermarried families in the Chinese community before World War II.

Interview with Marvel Hum Chong, 1979


Many descendants of immigrant families have lived in Minnesota now for generations. Some families still gather to celebrate their origins and cultural heritage in honor of their first ancestors who immigrated here. Although these descendants have become increasingly integrated into American society, they often still retain their family ties.

Four generations of Jewish women, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Four generations of Jewish women, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Descendants of Christian Fossum family reunion, Anders and Siri Fossum family, Trondhjem, Minnesota
Descendants of Christian Fossum family reunion, Anders and Siri Fossum family, Trondhjem, Minnesota
Members of the Oreckovsky Family of Duluth, Minnesota
Members of the Oreckovsky Family of Duluth, Minnesota

John Derus was born in northeast Minneapolis in 1940. His family on both sides had lived in that area for five generations. Many immigrant families have stayed in the communities where they first settled in Minnesota for generations, just like this family.

Interview with John Derus, 1982

To learn more about immigrant experiences within their communities, click on the page links below.