Ellis Island Celebrates
January 30, 2011
It was 119 years ago this month that Ellis Island greeted immigrants to our shore. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison designated it as America’s first federal immigration portal. The first person to enter was a 15 year‐old Irish girl by the name of Annie Moore. Her two brothers accompanied by her. Annie was also the first immigrant processed. Many ethnicities and religions settled here. The majority emigrated from Northern and Western Europe, England, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia.
Before the opening of Ellis Island, the states regulated immigration. The book, They Came in Ships by John Philip Colletta,covers the states ports‐of‐entry including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, Savannah, Miami and New Orleans. Immigrants into New York were processed at Castle Garden immigration station from 1855–1890. The fire in 1897 burned the Ellis Island immigration station to the ground. There were no injuries except for years of Federal and State immigration records dating back to 1855. Fireproof buildings replaced the burned wooden structures.
The island’s history is both good and bad. During the Dutch and English colonial periods, Ellis Island was called Gull Island by the Indian tribes because of its rich oyster beds and abundant shad runs. In 1770, Samuel Ellis privately owned it but later bought by the Federal government.
Originally, the island was 3.3 acres but enlarged to 27.5 acres. The additional acreage was enlarged from ship ballast and suspected excess earth from the construction of the New York City subway system. Before that, it was only slightly above the high tide mark. From 1892–1954 the small island in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty welcomed over twelve million immigrants. Those arriving on the ships bringing them to their freedom reportedly applauded at the site of Liberty.
Genealogists searching for immigration, naturalization and passports should search Footnote.com in the local library if you do not have a subscription to it. Any of these frequently have personal descriptions, homeland, facts and stories. Do search passports even though you have a naturalization record because those naturalized soon applied for a passport to visit their mother country. On the Footnote.com site, you can view actual declarations of intention, oaths, petitions and passports.
FOOTNOTE ACQUIRED BY ANCESTRY.COM: Ancestry and Footnote joined forces to unite each other’s strengths thereby helping us to move faster with their goals. For now, both will remain as individual subscriptions. What the future brings with their partnership is unknown.
FORT WORTH NATIONAL ARCHIVES NEW LOCATION: The Fort Worth branch of the National Archives and Records Administration moved from the old location on Felix Street to a new and modern one. The Records Room is located at Montgomery Plaza Shopping Center, 2600 W. Seventh Street in the old Montgomery Ward mail order building near downtown. It has ten computers with links to many databases, several microfilm readers, and a learning center for teachers wanting to use the information in the classroom. No longer do you have to enter the Archives through the guard station. Call 817–871–7744 for the hours.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.