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Ellis Island - Tracing Your Family History Through America's Gateway

Reviewed by Joan Schmidt, Chicago, IL January 2001

Ellis Island - Tracing Your Family History Through America's Gateway by Loretto Dennis Szucs. Revised addition 2000, published by Ancestry Publishing (www. ancestory.com), 8 1/2 x 5 1/2, 48 pages. Price $US 4.95

In her booklet "Ellis Island" Loretto Dennis Szucs gives us come background of this fascinating and historical institution which was the first taste of America so many of our ancestors saw. Ellis Island processed immigrants from 1892 to 1954, with earlier arrivals being processed through Castle Garden at the tip of Manhattan. About half the United States population today can trace an ancestor who came through Ellis Island.

Loretto tells us a little of the island itself, from its purchase in 1808 from Samuel Ellis to build Fort Gibson to its being placed under the National Park Service in 1965. Construction on the immigration center began in 1890. It contained a 3-story reception center, hospital, laundry, boiler-house, dormitory, restaurant and baggage station. All this burned down on June 15, 1897, and the wooden buildings were rebuilt using bricks and limestone.

The people and the reasons for immigration varied and usually were tied in to poor economic conditions in the homeland. They left behind family and traveled for weeks in less than ideal conditions for a chance at better life. Arrival at Ellis Island was a traumatic experience as arrivals were watched for any signs of illness or other conditions that might be cause to be sent back. Some days as many as 5,000 were processed

These were proud, intelligent people representing every country in the Old World. But because so many of them were illiterate, it was here that many name change/spellings occurred at the hands of processors not familiar with the language.

Loretto also give us some hints on how to start our research and some of the records that may have helpful information, and where they may be found

So if you haven't had a chance to visit, but have an interest in Ellis Island, I think you'll enjoy reading this short background of a most interesting part of our American history.

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