All of my great-grandparents came to the USA through Ellis Island between about 1890 and 1917. This weekend Xingyu and I were in NY so we decided to finally visit. What a different experience it was for immigrants coming to the USA at that time; they show up on a boat and, if admitted, they’re now citizens. Compared to the hoopla people go through today to live here it’s remarkable. At the same time it must have been terrifying knowing there’s a chance you could be sent back, especially considering many people spent their life savings on that boat ride.
The building itself is very welcoming and doesn’t have the bureaucratic and cold feeling of modern government offices. The fact that it’s so close to Liberty Island really adds to the experience. I guess it makes sense now why they called this the island of tears and joy. I’ll post better pictures once I get them from Xingyu’s fancy camera… here are a few from my phone:
One thought on “Roots”
From what I heard from my grandparents the trip was not a pleasant experience , especially for people with little money. Once you arrived you were examined by a doctor and if you had any physical ailments you were sent back. Many times your surname was shortened or changed by the admitting clerks to sound more “American”. Once you were here it was up to you to look up old contacts who would help you find a way to make a life in America. I think it was a very tough time for immigrants but they were so happy to be here. I have many photos of my ancestors posing proudly with the American flag.