The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation is a free resource for genealogists seeking to find information about ancestors that came to America through what is perhaps the best known point of entry into the United States. The foundation was established in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan asked the Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca, to start a private sector effort to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The fundraising effort was a huge success, and in 1986 restoration of the Statue of Liberty was complete. The Foundation next turned its attention to what would be the largest historical restoration in American history, the restoration of Ellis Island. In 1990, the restoration of Ellis Island was completed two years ahead of schedule. The centerpiece of this restoration effort, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, has seen over forty million visitors since it opened in 1990.
Although a trip to Ellis Island is a great genealogy travel idea, many of us may not be able to make the trip. Fortunately, we can do research in the Ellis Islands records online, for free on the Foundation’s web site. You do have to register to search the records but there is no cost to register. I searched the records, and I think that I may have found my paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, the record does not say where she came from so I will have to ask my dad approximately how old she was when she came to America, and see if I can determine whether or not the record is actually my grandmother.
In addition to searchable immigration records, the Foundation’s web site has a lot of other information about Ellis Island. One interesting thing that I found was a list of “famous arrivals”. Did you know that the very first person to pass through Ellis Island in January of 1892 was a thirteen year-old girl from Ireland? Writer and poet Rudyard Kipling also arrived in 1892. In 1914, Harry Houdini magically appeared in America. These are just a few of the famous folk that came to America through Ellis Island. What will you find in the immigration records of the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation?