Articles Tagged with: Migrants and Family Structures

Migrants and Family Structures

There had been a significant flow of Muslim refugees from the European parts of the empire and from the Caucasus after the 1877–1878 Russian War.
The population of Istanbul had suddenly greatly increased as a consequence.14
These war refugees (probably containing many single-parent and truncated

families), however, were relatively few in our neighborhood. We figured out an indirect evaluation of the approximate date of arrival to Istanbul of some of the province-born inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas by using the census information on the birthplaces of heads of households, of their spouses and, eventually, of successive children. Taking the 1877–1878 war as a benchmark, it appears that more than half of those whose date of arrival to Istanbul we were able to approximate had in fact arrived before the onset of that war. The migrants originating from the regions most affected by the war were, at all events, but a minority of the migrants living in the neighborhood in 1885.
About 50 percent of the Kasap ƒlyas inhabitants had been born in the provinces. This proportion is only of 16 percent for the children who were less than 10 years old. This difference can be considered as another indication on the average length of time that must have elapsed since their parents’ arrival to the city. What we see therefore in Kasap ƒlyas is the presence of groups of migrants that had come to Istanbul neither as war refugees nor as seasonal migrants but in order to work and settle down, and who eventually brought with them a stable family and kinship network.
The Arapkirlis and their young children provide another illustration. Out of the 88 children who were less than 5 years old and were recorded in the 1885 census, only 6 had been born in Arapkir. Needless to say, so were all of their fathers. 78 out of these 88 children of Kasap ƒlyas (i.e., almost 90 percent) had been born in Istanbul. But the fathers of one third of them were Arapkirlis. This pattern is also clearly visible when we look at the Arapkirli male household heads and their children’s birthplaces. Table 4.4 includes children of all ages and the Arapkirlis are compared to other migrant groups living in Kasap ƒlyas in 1885. Two thirds of the children of the Arapkirli male heads of household had been born in the capital. It is there that the migrant Arapkirlis had been setting up a family. The corresponding proportion was only 45 percent for the children of male migrants from other parts of the
empire. This is indicative both of a longer duration of stay and of a different overall pattern of migration.

The structure of Arapkirli households set them apart from those of other migrant groups. They nevertheless still showed a marked difference with respect to longtime settled Istanbul families (see table 4.5). This table includes only those households in which the kinship relationships of the various
members to the head of household was clearly specified in the census listings.
The solitaries have naturally been excluded.
Three-generation households composed of a couple and their children plus one or more grandparents, make up a significantly greater proportion of the Kasap ƒlyas resident households whose head had been born in the capital.
By opposition, the sum of single-generation households composed of only a married couple or only of co-resident siblings, plus “nuclear,” form a large majority of the households whose head had migrated from the provinces.
In a traditional society, multigenerational coresidence of kin-groups can, conceivably, be considered a function or a rough indicator of the geographic stability over time of the family unit as a whole. In the absence of significant differences in the mortality levels of household members according to the place of birth of the head of household (and there is absolutely no demographically or historically justifiable reason why significant urban/rural, Anatolia/Rumelia, or Arapkirli/other migrants mortality differentials should be posited for the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century), past mobility is the only factor that could explain such blatant differences in generationswise household structures as are observed in our neighborhood. Obviously, the precise type of spatial mobility involved (seasonal, temporary, permanent, familial, etc.) did influence the resulting household structures at the point of
What is also striking in table 4.5 is that the generational structure of the Arapkirli households stands somewhere between that of the settled Istanbulite families and that of the migrants from other regions of the empire, with whom they could be a priori expected to share many more features. That is not the case, however. These Arapkirli families were very strongly nucleated and the proportion of single- and triple-generation households that they contained likened them more to the settled Istanbulites than to their fellowmigrants. If we take only those 1885 Kasap ƒlyas inhabitants aged 60 and above, we see that 77 percent of those born in Istanbul lived within threegeneration households. The corresponding percentage is 32 percent for the Arapkir-born elderly, but only 11 percent for those who had come from other parts of the empire. The Arapkirlis of Kasap ƒlyas were migrants, that is certain, but they were either bringing their families with them, or reconstituting them upon arrival.
The migrants from Arapkir and from its surroundings did exhibit particular household features that set them apart both from locals and from other types of migrants to Kasap ƒlyas. We have reordered the 1885 family

listings by birthplace of household head in accordance with the household and family classification system devised by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure.15 Table 4.6 confirms that the Arapkirlis of Kasap ƒlyas were mostly living in households containing only a couple and their children, if any (category 3).
More than three quarters of the Arapkirli household heads of Kasap ƒlyas had constituted simple, “nuclear” families. Neither “solitaries” (category 1) or households with no married couple (category 2), nor those containing more than one married couple (category 5) made a significant proportion of the
Arapkirli households. The contrast with households having an Istanbul-born head is really striking. These exhibit a much greater structural variety. The settled and stable Istanbulites lived, in a much larger proportion, in extended and three-generation households (category 4), as well as in families containing more than one conjugual unit (category 5). Not so with the Arapkirlis of Kasap ƒlyas. A married couple and their children was the standard form of

the Arapkirli coresidential pattern. There was a permanent trickle of people moving in from Arapkir to Kasap ƒlyas ever since the middle of the eighteenth century. The cross-sectional snapshot of 1885 tells us that these Arapkirlis attained their standard residential pattern quickly and methodically—to judge from the high rate of regional endogamy (see table 4.3).
Arapkirlis came to stay, settle down, find some work, and start a family.
By contrast, migrants from other regions of the empire (e.g., those coming from Rumelia, which was the part of the empire most affected by the demographic consequences of the 1877–1878 war) lived in a much greater proportion (almost 1 out of 4) in truncated and dislocated families (categories 1 and
2) containing no central conjugual unit. True, average household size was largest for the Istanbulites (see table 4.2). Among the province-born heads, however, the Arapkirlis stand out with a distinctly larger size compared to other provincials, again, a possible indicator of a greater geographic and
familial stability within Istanbul.
All of these characteristics pertaining to the Arapkirli families and households living in Kasap ƒlyas that we have underlined are obviously valid for the period under consideration, that is, roughly, the last quarter of the nineteenth century. There are no comparable data for other mahalles. There is no way
of following the geographic and professional mobility of migrants within the capital, either. Moreover, that the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, or the Virane within it, might have been used as a temporary first landing-ground for Arapkirli families on their parallel itinerary toward both permanent settlement and
increase in size, cannot be totally ignored, in which case, what we have observed in Kasap ƒlyas might well be but the outward signs of a transitional stage in the centuries-old urban integration process of the Arapkirlis arriving to the capital.

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