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Irish Assimilation in Fond du Lac County: 1850-1910

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OConnell, Stephen E.
Pederson, Jane Marie
Dec 10, 2010
Irish Americans--Wisconsin--Fond du Lac County; Irish--Cultural assimilation--Wisconsin--Fond du Lac County; Immigrants--Cultural assimilation--Wisconsin--Fond du Lac County; Fond du Lac County (Wis.)--History
The vast majority of studies of Irish immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century have focused on urban centers. However, significant numbers of Irish immigrants in this period also settled in rural agricultural areas such as northern Wisconsin. The Irish immigrants who traveled to Wisconsin's Fond du Lac County in the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century offer a new perspective on Irish American history. This paper compares and measures the level of assimilation between the two migrant waves by utilizing sociological assimilation benchmark standards. Socioeconomic status, spatial concentration, literacy and intermarriage are the benchmarks applied to the Irish in Fond du Lac County. Established research of Irish assimilation rates in urban centers indicates that later generations of migrants assimilate faster than primary or secondary migrant waves. This paper confirms that, despite the rural location of these immigrants, assimilation occurred in a very similar pattern regardless of human population density. Evidence also indicates, however, that as assimilation among Irish immigrants in Fond de Lac increased, attachment to Ireland and expression of ethnic identity also increased. This conclusion provides a new perspective on the process of assimilation in that it suggests that assimilation and identity formation are not necessarily parallel processes. Further research is needed to confirm whether cultural expressions of Irish identity might have been encouraged by greater social integration of Irish immigrants into mainstream American culture.
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