Content approved by Jerry Parker
The biggest part of Ellis Island is located in Jersey City, New Jersey, and a small part belongs to New York City. Ellis Island is found in New York Harbor, and attracts visitors from all over the world each year. The historic significance of this site to the United States can’t be understated. This small island is a witness to the birth of a nation comprised of immigrants that made the leap of faith and traveled to a new land without any promises or guarantees.
History of Ellis Island
In the beginning, Ellis Island was a small piece of land that Native Americans called “Kioshk” or Gull Island. Samuel Ellis became the island’s namesake when he purchased it in 1770 after whom the island was called. His heirs sold the island to the Federal Government in 1808 and the military stored guns there and built a barracks just before the start of the War of 1812.
As political and social problems escalated in Europe during the 19th century, large numbers of immigrants made the harsh journey through the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, hoping to avoid an accident, in search of prosperity. The Federal Government constructed an immigration station on Ellis Island in 1890 to process thousands of new arrivals each year.
Significance of Ellis Island
The former immigration station was in use from 1892 to 1954. During those decades, millions of immigrants passed through station. Nearly 40 percent of modern American citizens have at least one ancestor that passed through Ellis Island.
Ellis Island represented a dream of a new life to millions of immigrants. While it wasn’t the only port of entry into the United States, it was certainly one of the most important and one of the busiest. The significance is evident in the millions of modern Americans who can trace their lineage back to their ancestors’ arrival at Ellis Island, beginning an American legacy for millions of families. The immigrants themselves were crucial to building the infrastructure and supporting prosperity of America as we know it today.
Genealogy and Ellis Island
Genealogy is the study of family history and lineage. Ellis Island is an excellent resource for studying ancestry because of the extensive screening that was done on people entering the port. Ellis Island’s immigration records are now available in digital form, available online. Some immigrant’s records are very detailed and may even include photographs.
Studying Genealogy Through Ellis Island Records
Records available online require the first and last name of the passenger of interest. Most of the records contain details of where the immigrant was planning to stay once they arrived in the country. On record are also names of family members or friends that traveled with the passenger. These records can give an insight into lost or distant family members. The records may show pictures from the ships they arrived on.
The search for one’s roots can open up a whole new perspective on how connected people are through their ancestry. Many people find distant relatives through genealogy research that they would have otherwise never known. A genealogy hunt through an American’s immigrant roots can bring a sense of satisfaction and many stories to tell to future generations.
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