Gypsy and Traveler Groups in the United States

Cale: Spanish Gypsies, or Gitanos, are found primarily in the metropolitan centers of the East and West coasts. A small community of only a few families.

English Travelers: Fairly amorphous group, possibly formed along same lines as Roaders (see below), but taking shape already in England before their emigration to the US starting in early 1880s. Associate mainly with Romnichels. Boundaries and numbers uncertain.

Hungarian-Slovak: Mainly sedentary Gypsies found primarily in the industrial cities of northern U.S. Number in few thousands. Noted for playing “Gypsy music” in cafes, night clubs and restaurants.

Irish Travelers: Peripatetic group that is ethnically Irish and does not identify itself as “Gypsy,” although sometimes called “Irish Gypsies.” Widely scattered, but somewhat concentrated in the southern states. Estimates vary but about 10,000 should be close to the actual numbers.

Ludar: Gypsies from the Banat area, also called Rumanian Gypsies. Arrived after 1880. Have about the same number of families as the Rom, but actual numbers are unknown.

Roaders or Roadies: Native born Americans who have led a traveling life similar to that of the Gypsies and Travelers, but who were not originally descended from those groups. Numbers unknown as not all families studied.

Rom: Gypsies of East European origin who arrived after 1880. Mostly urban, they are scattered across the entire country. One of the larger groups in the US, possibly in the 55-60,000 range.

Romnichels: English Gypsies who arrived beginning in 1850. Scattered across the entire country, but tend to be somewhat more rural than the other Gypsy groups. Many families are now on their way to being assimilated, hence estimation of numbers depends on criteria used.

Scottish Travelers: Ethnically Scottish, but separated for centuries from mainstream society in Scotland where they were known as Tinkers. Some came to Canada after 1850 and to the United States in appreciable numbers after 1880. Over 100 distinct clans have been identified but total numbers not known.

Sinti: Little studied early group of German Gypsies in the United States consisting of few families heavily assimilated with both non-Gypsy and Romnichel populations. No figures are available.

Yenisch: Mostly assimilated group of ethnic Germans, misidentified as Gypsies, who formed an occupational caste of basket makers and founded an entire community in Pennsylvania after their immigration starting 1840. Because of assimilation current numbers are impossible to determine.

This inventory leaves out several Gypsy groups that have immigrated since 1970 due to the unrest and renewed persecution in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism. They have come from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, the former Yugoslavian area, and possibly other countries. They number in few thousands by now, but their numbers are likely to increase.

Copyright @ 2002 Matt T. Salo

http://www.gypsyloresociety.org

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