New York City // Visiting Ellis Island

I remember reading books about Ellis Island when I was little, filled with grainy black and white photos of people from all corners of the world seeking entry into the US. I specifically remember the pictures of people getting medical exams and getting marked on their clothes depending on the results of those exams. For some reason, that step seemed especially scary to me. Millions of immigrants came to America through Ellis Island, and today their descendants represent 100 million+ Americans (over one third of the country).

Three of my great grandparents passed through Ellis Island.

Ellis Island
Ellis IslandEllis IslandEllis Island
Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy damaged the temperature controlling devices for the display cases, so there were hardly any artifacts in the museum when I was there. I was extremely disappointed because I love museums and being so close to pieces of people’s lives, but it was still remarkable passing through the same doorways and under the same roof that millions of hopeful, brave people did years ago. My favorite room was the one pictured above and below, the room where people queued for hours, even days, on end waiting for entry into the country. My own relatives had been in that room. To say the feeling in there was heavy would be an understatement.

Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
The memorial wall outside, engraved with the names of people who left their homes behind to start a better life, gave me chills. So many names, so many people who willingly endured a long hard journey overseas and embraced a new life in a strange country to give their posterity a better life. They helped shape the country we have today. {below, I found my great grandmother’s name: Benedetta Federico Dell’Acqua. She came from Italy.}

Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island
And of course, the boat trip to Ellis Island from the mainland passed by the Statue of Liberty. It was humbling, seeing her standing so tall and thinking about what seeing her for the first time meant for those millions of people.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

Do you have ancestors who immigrated through Ellis Island? Where were they from?