It should be required that every American take a trip to Ellis Island. It is a historic site that truly embodies the spirit of this country. It is a place that gave hope to 12 million immigrants who passed through its walls between 1892-1954. Regardless of whether you or your ancestors came through here or the Port of Philadelphia, Port of Baltimore, Port of New Orleans, Angel Island or any number of other ports or entry points in America, the museum at Ellis Island captures the essence of how this country has been built. It illustrates how the hopes and dreams of generations of immigrants felt when they first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty and set foot in America.
Some of the stories are sad, but many more are incredible tales of bravery, courage, and determination to find a better place to call home. The exhibits throughout the buildings of Ellis Island not only describe the details of what it was like to arrive here after weeks or months at sea, but also all the varied paths that people took once through Ellis Island and onto American soil. A large number stayed in New York City, but many more traveled by train to cities across the U.S. It not only captures the time in which Ellis Island was an active immigration site, but also educates visitors on immigration before Ellis Island and after as well.
There have been plenty of immigration laws passed throughout many eras of US History, some extremely restrictive and some more lenient. To delve into the specifics of US immigration history, policies and sentiment in this post would be futile as it is a complicated topic. Yet, that is why a trip to Ellis Island or another immigration point is so valuable. It may only scratch the surface on the topic, but it does give the visitor valuable information to begin to form an educated opinion rather than basing views on fear or hearsay.
So, unless your heritage is pure Native American, it is highly likely that at least one of your relatives has an immigration story. Perhaps they arrived on a ship with other pilgrims seeking religious freedom, or maybe they traveled by land, searching for a country with opportunities their native country restricted. However our relatives arrived here, it is a story that should be told and valued.