On a recent trip back east I had the opportunity to visit Ellis Island, it was an experience I would recommend to all who have an opportunity to do so. Our group left Battery Park by ferry and traveled first to the Statue of Liberty and then to Ellis Island. The place was packed with thousands of individuals and families walking through the places their ancestors most likely walked too.
The first thing one sees is a large display of luggage of every type imaginable, it is a stark reminder of how little they had when they arrived at Ellis Island. Immigrants were required to leave their baggage behind as they went through the legal and medical evaluations in place for admittance to the United States. This must have been very confusing as it was all their earthly possessions at that moment in their life.
Their journey began in the ‘Great Hall’ where their papers were inspected and in other areas; they were physically inspected so that those admitted would not be a burden upon the country in any way and that they would be able to support themselves and their families. While most immigrants were admitted, there were some who were detained to resolve medical or legal matters and some who were deported back to their own country. More in-depth articles on the Ellis Island experience are available from History.com, The Immigrant Experience and Wikipedia.
Immigration records are some of the best genealogical records available; often they list the country of origin and the name of a relative from that location. These valuable clues along with the vital information greatly aids in linking families together across oceans. Stephen Morse’s website provides great assistance in linking to passenger lists. The latest FamilySearch indexing project will also prove to be another valuable resource to locate immigrant ancestors and is another opportunity to help link families together.