Monday afternoon, we took the short ferry ride to Ellis Island. I will admit I was not fully aware of the part it played in the history of America.
On the ferry ride to Ellis Island..
It was the gateway for over twelve million immigrants in the over sixty years it was in operation (1892 – 1954).
As many as forty percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.
At first most of the people who immigrated to America were from northern Europe. Later, things began to change and more and more immigrants began pouring in from southern and eastern Europe. They made long and difficult trips across the ocean in the hopes of a better life. Many were escaping poverty, famine, drought or religious persecution.
Often times the husband would come first to get established before his family came. It might be years before a reunion could be arranged and sometimes so much had changed, and there had been so little communication, the families couldn’t face their new life and challenges together. Other times, the families left behind, found they couldn’t leave their homes in the old country.
Once here, the immigrants had to be registered and processed before they could leave and begin their new lives. They usually traveled by train unless they remained in the New York area.
There were many countries represented and so many different languages spoken, that communication was difficult. Some were sick and weak when they got off the ship. They had to prove they had the skills to support themselves, or a family that was already here and established. Some were found to be criminals. About ten percent were sent back because the criteria could not be met. Sometimes Ellis Island was referred to as the island of tears.
During the peak years, those arriving had to wait in long lines to be processed in the room pictured below.
The old train station near the island is deserted and eerie.
I took this picture from the ferry…It‘s my favorite of the day.
Going by the Statue of Liberty on the way back…