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Ellis Island

One chilly Sunday my cousin Blair and I went searching for our late great-grandmother Emma. We began in Battery Park and boarded a Statue Cruises boat to Ellis Island. The scene looked a little something like this:

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Ok, of course it didn’t. This is the modern day version of travel to Ellis Island:

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It was a gorgeous day to be out on the water. And by that I mean it was freezing, the sky was grey, and the wind was a force to be reckoned with.

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The boat first stops at the Statue of Liberty, but we had one mission (and no Statue of Liberty crown ticket) so we stayed on board and allowed the boat to take us to the next stop: Ellis Island.

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Approaching the island by water, we wondered what the experience had been like for sixteen-year-old Emma, who traveled to New York from Hungary on the Carpathia many years before. We talked about what she may have felt as she approached this immigration checkpoint with Manhattan growing larger and larger in the distance. Was she apprehensive, and nervous to meet for the first time the man she had promised to marry? Or was she excited, and hopeful for the future and what it had in store for her?

Surely she had no idea, in that moment, that she would meet her bethrothed, dislike him, and instead elope with our great-grandfather, leading to generations of children and eventually to Blair and me, standing on a boat in search of her story.

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No longer an immigration station, Ellis Island is now a museum dedicated to telling the story of immigrants throughout America’s history who came here in search of a better life.

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And if you’re an American the odds are high that you too have an acestor who passed though Ellis Island.

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The museum did a good job of showing through pictures and stories what it was like to be processed at Ellis Island.

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This quote made me laugh:

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And this made me laugh too:

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This is the Great Hall where people were held in corrals, forced to go though checkpoints to ensure that they were healthy, able to support themselves, and not “feeble-minded.”

This is what the Great Hall looks like now:

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And this is what it looked like then:

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As pretty as the Great Hall is now, I would have loved the museum so much more if the corrals were still there. It would be a more enriching experience if we were able to follow the paths of the immigrants and go through the various checkpoints that they did.

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We ended our day by heading to the American Family Immigration History Center where museum guests are able to research the names of their ancestors in the ship manifests… for $10 per hour.

As I already had a copy of the Carpathia’s manifest bearing Emma’s name, since these records are also available online (for free), we didn’t see any point in paying the fee. Instead I promised Blair that I would send him a copy of the manifest… for $9.

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So we got back on the Statue Cruises boat and began our journey back to Manhattan.

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Which looks nothing like the Manhattan that welcomed Emma, I’m sure.

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To buy tickets from Statue Cruises, which includes admission to the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, click here. And if you’re interested in also touring the Statue of Liberty, be sure to buy crown reserve tickets. The crown reserve tickets sell out a month or two ahead of time so get them as soon as you figure out when you want to go.

While we didn’t find any evidence of Emma at Ellis Island, we were able to experience a shadow of her journey through this famous place.

Do you think one day my great-granddaughter will mimic my trip to Ellis Island?

I guess you never know, do you Emma?

~A

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