I feel an odd connection to Ellis Island, a place I’ve never been to personally. But two of my grandparents and all but one set of my great-grandparents found themselves there at one time or another.
I discovered this fact last week when two passenger lists I’d been looking for finally found me, too. I’d like to credit the discoveries to my dedication and persistence, but mostly I finally lucked out and found the right for my search.
Now, between passenger lists, naturalization records and other document trails my family created after coming to America, I’m starting to piece together my own family’s stories of immigration. Like the one about the great-grandfather who declined to accept his American citizenship because he’d given up and returned to Italy (his naturalization records are a fantastic read). Or the story that I’m still trying to understand: why my great-grandparents left their three young children in Austria-Hungary/Yugoslavia/Slovenia for nine years during World War I, while they set up house in America.
I’m also getting a better understanding of my family’s first moments in America through the newly released Ellis Island Oral History collection at Ancestry.com. Listening to the accounts of immigrant Lawrence Meinwald, who was about the same age as my great-uncle when he first saw the Statue of Liberty in 1920, and Lillian Galetta, who, at age four, experienced an emotional reunion with her father at Ellis Island, is helping me grasp what was going through the minds of my own family when they reached American soil. Approximately 1,700 stories from immigrants are featured in this free collection, and each one offers greater insight into what it was like and what drove families to become new residents in a new world.
Immigration-related records provide some of the most revealing details available about an immigrant ancestor’s American experience as well as the life left back home. And we’ve collected the whole batch as well as tips for searching and understanding more at www.ancestry.com/immigration. Search for your own family’s journey to America or read and listen to the experiences of others. In addition to the oral histories, we’ve also added nearly 2 million new naturalization record indexes and additional Boston passenger and crew lists to the collection. Plus, through Labor Day, we’re opening our entire to everyone – you can search all 170 million+ records with or without an Ancestry.com subscription.
Hopefully you, too, will find your family’s Ellis Island – or Galveston, Baltimore, Angel Island, Philadelphia, Castle Garden, or another port entirely – connection. Let me know when you do.
About Jeanie Croasmun
Jeanie Croasmun has been working at Ancestry.com while futilely attempting to prove the horse thief story in her family history for over seven years. During that time, she learned enough about her family to determine that the story is likely a great work of fiction. But the search continues ...