Friday, April 17, 2009

Today's the Day: Ellis Island

On this day in 1907 the highest number of immigrants were processed through the Ellis Island facility in New York Harbor: 11,747 men, women and children!

April 17 is Ellis Island Family History Day, which was established by proclamation of America’s governors.

Ellis Island opened in 1892 and admitted some 12 million people to the U.S. before closing in 1954, most of them at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "today, more than 100 million people — about a third of the U.S. population — are descendants of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. The largest number — nearly 51 million — are of German ancestry."

And sure enough my German great grandparents were processed through Ellis Island in 1910, just three years after this milestone was reached. Great grandpa made the journey first in September of that year, hoping to find work in the coal mines of Illinois so he could send for his wife and young daughter.

By November his wife had discovered she was carrying their second child. My grandma told me she sold everything, sewed the money (in gold) into her petticoats, and boarded the SS Lapland with her 4 year old daughter.

Now there was a brave woman: in her third month of pregnancy, (and likely in the throws of morning sickness) boarding a ship with a small child - alone.

When life gets challenging we can draw from stories like these of our ancestors who passed through Ellis Island, and draw the strength to keep going and have faith.
Do you have ancestors that have a place in Ellis Island history? Please share your stories and America's history in the comments section.

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