Last revised: November 12, 2011                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Ellis Island

More than a hundred million Americans can claim ancestors who came through Ellis Island. Some of the reasons that people came: religious persecution, political strife, unemployment, family connections, the lure of adventure. This was the greatest migration in modern history, when shipload after shipload of people, mostly Europeans, came to the United States.

Beginning in 1892, some 12 million people took their first steps towards becoming Americans at Ellis Island.

The original wooden structure burned in 1897, and many immigration records were lost. In 1900 a new fireproof building was completed.

Doctors watched as immigrants entered the building and climbed the stairs; a limp, labored breathing, or other suspected troubles warranted further medical exams.
A doctor uses a buttonook to check for trachoma, a highly contagious eye disease that could result in a failed inspection.

In the Registry Room, inspectors questioned each individual. Among the 29 questions were name, home town, occupation, destination, and amount of money they carried. A Jewish immigrant from Russia recalls the uniforms worn by officials: "We were scared of uniforms. It took us back to the Russian uniforms that we were running away from."

People allowed to pass continued downstairs, exchanged money, bought provisions and perhaps rail tickets. A third stayed in new York City; others headed elsewhere. Only one to two percent were denied entry.

Immigrants brought everything they owned in trunks & baskets to start a new life in America.

Ellis Island closed completely in 1954. Buildings deteriorated until restoration began in the 1980s. Today at Ellis Island you can retrace the steps of those who chose a future as Americans. Several computers are set up for visitors to search for their ancestors.

Photographs and objects from the Ellis Island museum tell a story of their own. We rented audio devices to listen to stories at each exhibit. We also viewed a 30-minute film "Island of Hope, Island of Tears" which introduced us to Ellis Island.  The museum exhibits occupy three floors of the Main Building.

Outside is 'The American Immigrant Wall of Honor'. Monetary contributions, have added over a 1/2 million names inscribed on this wall, a memorial to American immigrants.
Additionally, there is a very nice gift shop and cafeteria, and an outside picnic area for lunches or snacks, with a view of the Statue of Liberty.

We rode the ferry back to Battery Park and found these beautiful flowers in Battery Park:

Next was a Subway up to the Flatiron District and Greenwich Village. Weekend subway cars weren't too busy, but we were warned to avoid the subway during rush hours during the week.

Last revised: November 12, 2011

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