by Bosiljka Stevanović
MAJOR IMMIGRATION WAVES
While the earliest Serbian immigrants came to the United States after 1815, the largest wave of immigration took place from 1880 to 1914. There were arrivals between the two world wars followed by refugees and displaced persons after World War II. Lastly, arrivals since 1965 have included the influx resulting from current events in the former Yugoslavia. Generally speaking, it is difficult to determine the exact number of Serbs who came to America in the early waves of immigration because immigration records often did not distinguish between various Slavic and, especially, South Slavic groups. The term Slavonic was most often used in recording immigrants from the various parts of the Eastern Europe. Church records are more helpful in distinguishing the Serbs, for these documents clearly state religious orientation of the parishioners. In addition, census statistics compiled before World War I had further confused the issue by listing immigrants by their country of origin. Thus, the Serbs could be included with the Croats, Slovenians, Austro-Hungarians, Turks, Bulgarians, or Romanians, or simply listed as Yugoslavs after 1929, when the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was renamed Yugoslavia. According to the 1990 U.S. Census figures, there are 116,795 Americans of Serbian origin living in the United States. It is impossible to tell, however, how many out of the 257,995 who in 1990 reported Yugoslavian origin actually have Serbian ancestry. It can safely be assumed that the total number of Serbian Americans today might vary from 200,000 to 350,000 and up to 400,000, according to some estimates. By American standards, this is a rather small immigrant group.