On this day 50 years ago, Ellis Island, the famous immigration point for many wishing to enter the United States, closed its doors for the final time. Today a vibrant museum and tourist destination, the island has been transformed from the reportedly intimidating and poor conditions experienced by thousands applying to enter the United States at New York between its years of operation, 1892 to 1954.
The story of Ellis Island is an interesting one to contemplate this week as we encourage people to Explore Your Archive. Ellis Island appears in our collection largely through the thousands of passenger lists (in series BT 27 and available to view online through Findmypast) of those going to New York during the period. These records are generally associated with family historians in the first instance, perhaps searching for the moment their family made the voyage to begin a new life, full of hope.
They are an interesting example of how to connect records in different collections, by comparing the outgoing passenger records we hold at The National Archives with incoming passenger records held by the Ellis Island foundation, which you can search online. However, as well as personal details of interest to family historians, the records also demonstrate the huge wealth of information available on population movement, in particular the levels of different nationalities, and the changes in numbers arriving at New York during and between the two world wars, for example. Continue reading »