Ellis Island Immigrationsstation utanför New York (Manhattan)
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Ellis Island years

Here follows a presentation of Ellis Island in different years.

1630 - The Colonial governors of "New Amsterdam" bought a land area in the upper bay of New York close to New Jersey beach. The Indians called the island, Seagull Island, due to that these birds were the only inhabitants during the time. The Dutch settlers called the island, Oyster Island, due to all the oysters that surrounded the island. At this time the island hardly reach above the surface during high tide.

1760 - In the 1760's, after some pirates were hanged from one of the island's scrubby trees, it became known as Gibbet Island.

1776 - By the time of the American Revolution, the Island was own by a merchant from New York, Samuel Ellis. He also was the owner of a small restaurant on the Island, were fisherman could eat etc..

1808 - The heir to Samuel Ellis sold the Island to the city of New York. The Island kept the name Ellis Island. Later same year the Island was sold to the Federal Government for $10,000.

1812 - Short time after the war 1812, a battery of 20 guns, a magazine and a barracks were constructed on the island.

1834 - By an agreement Ellis Island and neighbouring Bedloe's Island (later called Liberty Island, today the Statue of Liberty is standing there) became a part of New York State. Ellis Island continue to serv as a wharehouse until 1890. Nearby residents Jersey town, Manhattan and Brooklyn worried for years about explosion of the powder magazines at Ellis Island.

Castle Garden1855 - 1890 - The first immigration station for immigrants opened in the city of New York on Aug 1 1855, and was in Castle Garden (today called Castle Clinton National Monument) at the south tip of Manhattan. Castle Garden was used until April 18 1890, then the reception was moved to Barge Island, at the south east of Manhattan, this was during the time the first buildnings were under construction at Ellis Island. (before the station opened in 1855 the immigrants arrived directly to Manhattans different harbours, without any control. Those who arrived after year 1820 can be found in the passengerlists.)

1890 - The State turned over the control of immigration to the Federal Government. The U.S. Congress appropriated $75,000 to build the first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Wells were dug and the Island was landfilled with different ships' ballast and from parts from the buildning of New York city subway tunnels. This doubled the size of the Island. The Barge Office on the tip of Manhattan was used for immigration reception between April 19 1890 - Dec 31 1891. During 1891, there were 405,664 immigrants, that were processed at this office.

Ellis Island01 Jan 1892 - Ellis Island Immigration Station was opened. The first immigrant who arrived to the Island was a "rosycheeked Irish girl", Annie Moore, age 15. She came with her two younger brothers to join their parents in New York City. The first day three big ships arrived and 700 immigrants passed through Ellis Island. This first year nearly 450.000 immigrants passed through here.

15 Jun 1897 - A big fire ravage at Ellis Island. The buildnings that were built of wood was totally destroyed, likely there were faulty wiring that started the fire. Five year have passed and within these years approx 1,5 million immigrants had been processed on the Island. The immigration office at Barge Island had to be reopened again during the time new buildnings were built at Ellis Island.


17 Dec 1900 - The Main buildning opened, an impressive, French Renaissance structure in red brick with limestone trim. It cost approx 1,5 million US$ and was designed to handle 5.000 immigrants per day. The Island was continuously enlarged with landfill, remodeling and new construction.

1907 - The year when the most immigrants arrived to the Island, approx 1.004,756. The day when most immigrants arrived was April 17 with 11.747 people.

1908 - The Baggage and Dormitory Building was ready and the capacity at the hospital was double. A diningroom was build at the top of the Kitchen- and laundry buildning.

30 Jul 1916 - An explosion again destroyed the buildnings at the Island. Likely it was German saboteurs who performed the act. All the buildnings were restored again and one impressive repair became the new roof in the Great Hall - a valvue that was constructed by the Guastavino brothers.

1917 - When the US entered in the First world War in Europe, Ellis Island was used to detain German sailors who anchored with their ships in New York harbour. All person who were suspected by any enemy aliens in the US were sent to Ellis Island.

1918-19 - The U.S. Army and navy took over Ellis Island to be used for taking care of sick and wounded soldiers. During the war the rules for immigration were sharpened, and several applications were declined, immigration decreased from 178.416 (1915) to only 28.867 (1918).

Ellis Island1921 - Immigration lived up again and 560.971 immigrants passed through Ellis Island. The first Immigration Quota Law for the immigration started and of course this complicated the handling and process at Ellis Island. The Quota meant: that the number of any European nationality entering in a given year could not exceed three percent of foreign-born persons of that nationality who lived in the U.S. in 1910. The total figure of immigrants was not allowed to exceed 358.000 persons.

1924 - This year the rules was sharpened evern further, the Quota Law was changed to count amount quota basis from the census of 1910 to that of 1890, and reducing the annual quota to some 164,000. This marked the end of mass immigration to America. The law also meant that from now on you had to apply from your homecountry before you left to the US. This also made changes for Ellis Island. To have been an immigration office the Island now became a place for people who had tried to enter to the US illegally and they were kept at the Island before they were sent back to their homecountry. The buildnings at Ellis Island started to be unused and not repaired any longer.

1930 - Ellis Island got funds to make the Island ever bigger and new areas were build, playgrounds to play football and new gardens.

1938-1945 - After the U.S. entered the World war 2 from December 1941, Ellis Island primarily became a place for foreign enemies. To the end of 1946 approx 7.000 enemies and citizens from Germany, Italy and Japan were kept at Ellis Island. The Island didn´t have room for all people during this time, so some had to move in to Manhattan. Ellis Island was also used as a hospital for returning wounded soldiers and also as a training camp for the navy. Approx 60.000 men were trained here.

1946 - Ellis Island continued to be a place for people that who you wanted to integritade further, why they were in the US etc.

1950 - A short and intensive period happened at Ellis Island during this year. This year the law "The Internal Security Act of 1950" started, also called "McCarran Act" or anticommunist law. The law excluded those who had been a member in Communist or facists organisations. Rebuildnings and repairs were made on some of the buildnings, to take care of persons who were kept at the Island. One time approx 1.500 persons were kept there at the same time.

1952 - Immigrations laws was sharpened even more and also how you treated people in institutes of different kinds. This made the total figure of persons detained at Ellis Island dropped to less than 30 persons.

Nov 1954 - Ellis Island was closed, left were 33 buildnings.

1954-65 - Ellis Island now belonged to "the General Services Administration".


President Lyndon B Johnson11 Maj 1965 - President Lyndon B Johnson announce that Ellis Island shall belong to the same part as the Statue of Liberty "Statue of Liberty National Monument". This also made that Ellis Island from now on belonged to "the National Park Service".

President Lyndon B. Johnson says, May 11 1965:
"Between 1892 and 1920, sixteen million immigrants entered America through the open doors of Ellis Island. These men, women and children from many lands enriched the American melting pot. They made us not merely a nation, but a nation of nations."

1976 - Ellis Island opened for the first time for public visitors. Guided tours in one hour was performed in the Main buildning. This year the Island were visited by approx 50.000 persons.

1984 - Visitor number increased up to approx 70.000 persons per year. Due to this a plan for restoration of the buildnings on the Island was planned. Mr Lee A. Iacocca (in charge of the Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.) started to gather contribution from different parties as for example private persons, companies, associations etc. Also through cooperation with "the National Park Service" they got access to persons who could work on the Island.

Ellis Island museum10 Sept 1990 - Ellis Island was opened as an Immigrant Museum. This was the first time you could see the wall with several inscribed names of immigrants. The wall is called "Wall of Honor". This is the largest wall of names in the world with inscribed names. Today you also can get a name inscribe if you want, so the future generations can view it.

17 April 2001 - The American Family Immigration History Center opens. Here you can search for your ancestors among a lot of documents. Homepage: www.ellisisland.org also opened and here you can search after your ancestors that arrived to the US through Ellis Island, print documents on for example: passengerlists etc. You can search in records of over 25 millions passengers and also among people who worked on the ships that arrived at Ellis Island between 1892-1924. The database has had approx 7 milliard visitors since the start 2001.

Source: The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
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