Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ellis Island

Retriever has a thoughtful piece about her visit to Ellis Island over at Rightnetwork.
I don’t mean to be negative, but visiting any major tourist attraction or station or other possible terrorist target in New York these days entails being searched and eyed up and down by men with machine guns and K9 units, and security guards, and being yelled at by uniformed officials.

The only good part about it when you are going to Ellis Island is that you will start to empathize with how the immigrants felt: being told where to go, and being afraid of uniformed authorities bossing them around who can prevent them going where they want to.
Interestingly, a lot of people's ancestors who supposedly came through Ellis Island didn't. It became something of a generic term. Folks didn't know exactly where they came through, and attached the most recognisable name to it afterward.

I have the seaman's book for my great-grandfather, Frederick Lindquist, who went to sea around 1849, sailed the world, and came to America to stay in 1867. I have no idea what port he entered through, but he settled in Rhode Island, where there were a lot of Swedes who had been recruited to work in the velvet mills.


Anna said...

Mine came through New Brunswick. Apparently it was cheaper to sail from Ireland to Canada than it was to the US. They then crossed the border (most of them). I often wonder why they did not stay in New Brunswick. I mean, I know "land of opportunity" etc whatever but in reality, the deeper aspects of what America is about often elude new immigrants. Heck, my recent-immigrant mother still does not understand them.

Michael said...

To support your point, I had always assumed that my Irish ancestors came through Ellis Island. When I actually researched it, I discovered that they came to the US before Ellis Island opened! They sailed into Boston, which makes a certain amount of sense because they settled in Lowell (a popular destination for the Irish in the late 1800's).

Sam L. said...

Oh those velvet mills! Why have I never before heard of velvet mills?