If your name was changedat Ellis Island Facts from Ellen Levine Compliments of T. Atkins
What was Ellis Island? It was an immigration center located in New York Harbor.
Millions of newcomers passed through its gates and were examined by doctors and legal inspectors.
Before Ellis Island opened, immigrants were examined at Castle Garden at the tip of Manhattan Island.
At least 12 million people passed through Ellis Island.
Boston Philidelphia Baltimore Some immigrantsentered through other east coast ports
Other Ports • New Orleans • Galveston • San Francisco
In 1907 there were 70 immigration stations.
If you had the most expensive tickets, 1st or 2nd class, you were examined aboard the ship. If you passed you were free to enter the country.
Immigrants aboard a ship, waiting to unload.
America: “The Golden Land” Free School Decent jobs People ate well Why was it called that?
Would everyone in your family come together? It could take many years before you were reunited with your family Usually a father or an older sibling would come first. That person would find work then send money back for you.
What did people bring with them? People brought whatever they could carry. Some had suitcases and trunks. Most had bundles tied together with string. People carried baskets, cardboard boxes, tins, and leather sacks.
Many immigrants brought their feather quilts, mattresses, and pillows, for the steamships just provided thin blankets
Some people packed fancy clothes, specially embroidered and crotched. Sometimes people wore layers of all their clothing so they wouldn’t have to pack them
Often they brought food for the long trip over the ocean, like smoked sausages or hams.
How did people travel to the ships that brought them to America?
If you lived out in the country, you often had to go to a big town to catch a train to the port.
Other people from Russia or Poland left in the dead of the night to escape mobs that were beating and murdering people.
If you had to cross into another country before you reached your port, you needed a special permit.
If you reached a border and did not have a permit, you might have to bribe the border guard to let you pass.
The trip overland sometimes took weeks. Finally when you arrived at a port city, you might have to wait a week or two, sometimes even longer, until the ship was ready to depart.
Were you examined before you left for America?
According to a U.S. law, ship companies had to pay the return fare for anyone who had to be sent back from America. So, before leaving, ship doctors examined all passengers to see if they had any illnesses that would prevent them from being allowed to enter the U.S.
Doctors vaccinated and disinfected all passengers. Men and boys often had their hair very short, and women and girls had theirs combed very carefully to look for lice, which carried the deadly disease typhus.
The ship companies also had to prepare a manifest- a list of information about everybody on board the ship. Each immigrant was assigned a number, and the ship’s captain listed everyone’s nationality, age, sex, destination, and occupation.
They were asked if they could read and write, whether they were married, and how many pieces of baggage they had. The list was given to the immigration inspectors when the ship landed in America.
How long would the trip last? If there were no bad storms or other problems, the trip usually took about six to thirty-two days.
Where would you sleep and eat on the ship? 1st and 2nd class had a private cabin to sleep in, and food would be served in a dining room. Most immigrants were steerage. This area was below the deck on the lowest level of the ship.
Several hundred passengers were crammed into steerage with no fresh air. They slept in narrow bunk-beds, sometimes 3 high. There was 1 bath area for all of steerage, with sink faucets that frequently didn’t work.
The food was not very good. They ate lukewarm soup, boiled potatoes, and stringy beef.
Some immigrants reported all they ate was herring, bread and potatoes. The one good thing about the herring is it cured seasickness.
“ How can a steerage passenger remember he was a human being when he must first pick worms from his food…and eat in his stuffy, stinking bunk, or in the hot… atmosphere of a compartment where 150 men sleep?”
Would you go straight to Ellis Island when you arrived in New York Harbor? All the ships were stopped in lower NY bay, where doctors boarded. They checked passengers for contagious diseases.
There were 2 small islands in the lower bay. If you were sick, you’d be put in a hospital on one of them. If the doctors thought you had been exposed to a disease, they’d place you on the other island for observation.
Further up the bay, immigration officers would examine all 1st and 2nd class passengers. The boat would then dock at the tip of Manhattan and those that passed were allowed to enter the country. All steerage passengers went to Ellis Island, no matter what.
Even after arriving, frequently they stayed on board ship for one or more nights until barges could take them to Ellis Island for further examinations.
One passenger said,” Isn’t it strange that here we are coming to America where there is complete equality, but not quite so for the newly arrived immigrants.”
Ellis Island was like a miniature city. There were waiting rooms, dormitories for over a thousand people, restaurants, a hospital, baggage room, post office, banks to exchange foreign money, a railroad ticket office, medical and legal examination rooms, baths, laundries, office areas for charities, and courtrooms.
When the barge pulled up to the dock at Ellis Island the first place you went was The Great Hall to be inspected by doctors.