Rom - History and Cultural Relations

On the basis of linguistic evidence, the ancestors of the Rom and other Gypsy groups are thought to have left India sometime before A.D. 1000. Loan words in the Gypsy language indicate they passed through Persian- and Greek-speaking areas. The first records that can reasonably be thought to apply to Gypsies come from early-fourteenth-century Greece. After the arrival of Gypsies in Europe, some groups spread west and north, whereas the ancestors of the Rom appear to have stayed in the Balkans, especially in the Serbian and Romanian-speaking areas, until the middle of the nineteenth century, at which time they began another series of migrations, culminating in the distribution of Rom families all over the world. This major split, often referred to as the first and second waves of migrations, is also reflected in the Vlachnon-Vlach dialect division. Before coming to North America, most of the families had traveled widely; group designations reflect the countries with which they were associated, such as Rusuya, Grekuya, Arxentinuya, Meksikaya, and so on. The tribal name of Machwaya derives from the Serbian area from which they emigrated.

My research places the first arrival of Rom in the United States in 1881, but the real influx did not begin until about 1895. It was during this period, from 1895 until immigration was slowed down by World War I and halted by the literacy requirement of 1918, that the ancestors of most of the Rom families currently in the United States and Canada arrived here. The more recent Lovara Rom, who first arrived from Europe in 1973, are not discussed here, as they have not been here long enough yet to be considered "American Rom."

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