Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ellis Island Immigration Facts

Genealogy 101 Presentation - Fredericksburg, VA
One of my pet peeves is when someone says, “I can’t find my ancestor, because they changed his name on Ellis Island.” I am quick (usually too quick and a little too forceful) to correct that statement.

Over the past month, my hubby has given two Genealogy 101 presentations to residents in our development. The first group numbered about fifty; yesterday’s session was for those who couldn’t make the September session, and he was doing it for two people in particular – fifteen showed up.  Those numbers, plus the number of beginning genealogists who attended our Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society’s October 10 conference, indicates there are a lot of people who are just starting their genealogy journey.”  As my husband points out at each of his sessions, “Warning: This can be additive.”

And that is why I wanted to share a link of an article found in GenealogyInTime Magazine.

This article is accompanied by great photos of Ellis Island, then and now. It is difficult to imagine how they processed an average of 5,000 people a day. There is a chart showing ten ports of arrival in North America for 1903, with Ellis Island receiving far above what the other ports experienced.

The article mentions not everyone was successful in entering.  Each immigrant was given a cursory medical exam and asked questions like, “Are you a communist?”

If an immigrant was to be sent back, and the article suggests that more than the estimated 2% were sent back, someone would accompany that person, and maybe the entire family would return. If you can’t find your ancestor, they may have accompanied someone back to the homeland.

“When looking for immigration records on Ellis Island, always check for other relatives +/- 3 years from the date when you find a record for one of the family members.” This is because often, a husband, or other family member would come ahead, get a job, save up, and then send for the family.

The article is full of search hints, and explains the reasons why some immigrants wanted to change their name.  Another hint I had forgotten was that Ellis Island was for steerage class passengers. If your ancestor traveled first or second class, they disembarked in downtown Manhattan.

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