A journey begins with leaving one place and venturing forth toward a new one. Millions of immigrants left their homelands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to seek the promise of a better future in America. Why did they abandon their homeland? Some fled from political oppression or slavery, others sought work or the possibility of acquiring land to farm. Those who entered the Great Hall on Ellis Island did so with fear in their hearts and hope in their eyes. Come follow along and explore their dreams and experiences as they passed through the gates on Ellis Island. Perhaps you will see one of your ancestors reflected in their eyes. For most immigrants the end of their transatlantic voyage was a new beginning, for others it became “An Island of Tears.”
More than 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who came through Ellis Island.
Annie Moore, a fifteen-year-old Irish immigrant, disembarked first. She got an official greeting and a $10 gold coin. That was the most money that she had ever owned.
Inspectors climbed aboard the incoming steamships to inspect first and second class passengers, while the poorer immigrants had to walk single file through the Great Hall to face inspection. Those who failed inspection were sent home or placed in the hospital on the island.
Immigrants who passed inspection had to answer 29 questions.