Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, and island complex in the Upper New York Bay, is composed of one natural island and two adjoining artificial islands. The two artificial island were formed by depositing rock and earth. These three islands are joined by causeways. Initially, the early Dutch settlers named the island Oyster Island. Due to the hanging of a pirate on the island in 1765, the name was later changed temporarily to "Gibbet Island."

In the 18th century, Ellis Island was purchased by New York merchant Samuel Ellis. Following the purchase, the name of the island was again changed to the name its maintains today. Ellis Island was later passed on to the state of New York. In 1808, the federal government purchased the island complex for use as federal arsenal.

Eventually, the island complex was turned into an immigration reception center - the use for which it is most famous. Ellis Island become the new reception center when the center in New York City become too small to handle the large number of immigrants coming into the United States. As the annual number of new immigrants declined, the government determined that Ellis Island was no longer a suitable site for the reception center; therefore, the reception center was relocated to Manhattan. Immigration processing on Ellis Island ceased in 1954. However, by the year 1947, it was estimated that 20 million immigrants had passed through Ellis Island.

Immigrants traveled to the United States for many reasons, including but no t limited to: poverty, politics, and freedom from religious restraints. The immigration process was not easy for many of the those coming to this country. Before the immigrants were allowed to travel either into New York or any other part of the United States, they were subjected to a variety of tests. These tests included topics such as medical, literacy, and language. While the first and second class immigrants were inspected and tested onboard ship, steerage passengers were ferried to Ellis Island to begin the testing process. The whole process could take , on average, from two to five hours to complete. Based on the results, some of the immigrants were not allowed into the United States. Instead, they were returned to the land from which they came.

Even after Ellis Island ceased serving as a n immigration reception center, the government found another use for the island complex. During World War II, Ellis Island served as a detention center for enemy aliens. Currently, restoration of Ellis Island is underway as it is perceived to be of greater historical value.

For additional information go to these websites:

Gateway to America: The Immigrant Experience on Ellis Island

This site is an excellent resource for seeing pictures and maps of different rooms in Ems Island. Click on each room for additional information. This site also off an interactive site for students to create a family tree.

After viewing a tenement house, click on “HISTORY” to read about the history of a tenement house in New York City.

On this site you will find 24 pictures of the Ellis Island experience. Click on the picture description and an enlargement of the picture appears.

Most of the information on this site is about the museum now and how to get to it, tours available, etc.

Click on “HISTORY” and you will find a wealth of information about the history of Ellis Island. Each category in this section has pictures to go along with the information (except the timeline).

Elementary — use as a teacher resource

Intermediate — use a a teacher resource (More advanced students may use the information for their research.)

Junior High — resource for students

High School — resource for students

Kids’ site - Adventures in Citizenship

Three categories at this site are short informational pieces. “A Gateway for Millions” gives a brief history of Ellis Island (picture included). “Looking Back” includes very brief comments made by immigrants (picture included). “Virtually There” — click on slide show button a see a picture with a brief history about steps through the immigration process.

After exploring these 3 topics, go back to the main page (picture of Ellis Island) and click on the “STOWAWAY” button. Go to the lower blue box and click on the “GO!” button to do an activity that takes you through the immigration experience as an 11 year-old boy. (If you click on Ellis Island it will take you to the website listed above.)


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