Not sure how to instill a love of history in your children? The Immigration Museum at Ellis Island has it covered. This museum is full of little known facts that children can embrace. Many children will be fascinated to learn that their roots can trace back to Ellis Island.
From 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor. Immigrants who travelled in third class had to enter the United States through Ellis Island, primarily to avoid disease from penetrating the country. Today, roughly 100 million Americans or 40% of the population can trace their heritage back to an ancestor who came through this port of entry.
The island was named after Samuel Ellis, a New York land developer who bought the land in 1782. It was then sold to New York State in 1802, and was turned into an immigration station in 1892. It eventually became the most important immigration station in the history of the United States.
Ellis Island has a special meaning to many Americans because this is the first U.S. soil that ancestors set foot on. The island was added to the National Park System in May of 1965. The building is beautifully restored and features many poignant photos and exhibits, displaying the every day life of those who spent time there – up to several months and even years.
Tips from a local:
- Ellis Island is accessible only by Statue Cruises ferry boat leaving from Battery Park in lower Manhattan. The cost for the ferry return is $12/adult $5/child (4-12 years).
- Advance reservations are not required – but can be made online to avoid congestion during peak season.
- Entry to Ellis Island is free.
- Take the free self-guided audio tour which is very comprehensive, and allows one to stop at all the exhibits chronicling the full immigrant experience.
- Make time to watch the award-winning, inspirational short film, “Island of Hope, Island of Tears”.
- If you have relatives who arrived to the U.S. through Ellis Island, and you have the date of arrival you can look them up in the official records database (also available online).
- Allocate 1.5 hours for the ferry (return) plus 2 hours if you plan to go through most of the self guided audio tour.
For more information go to www.ellisisland.org.
Donna Salle can be contacted at Travelswithheart@gmail.com.
Follow her on Twitter @ DonnaSalle.