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Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor, is a location with rich history. The island served as the landing point for millions of immigrants who were attempting to come to the United States in search of a better life. For over 60 years Ellis Island was the busiest immigration station in the United States. Although Ellis Island has always been considered part of New York, a Supreme Court ruling in 1998 found that a large portion of the island is actually located in New Jersey.
Ellis Island is connected by bridge to Liberty State Park, and although the bridge is not open for public access, many of the same ferry routes that take you to the Statue of Liberty will also take you to Ellis Island.
The immigration station that was located on Ellis Island first opened on the first day of the year in 1892. The station remained open for more than sixty years, until it was closed in 1954. Records have shown that as many as 12 million immigrants passed through the station on their way into the United States, making the station the busiest immigration station during that period of time. Estimates have stated that today one in three American citizens can trace their ancestry to the individuals who came into the country via the Ellis Island Immigration Station.
Originally, immigrants that passed through New York were processed at the Castle Garden Immigration Depot, which at the time was located in Manhattan. The busiest day in the history of Ellis Island came on April 17th, 1907 when over 11,700 immigrants were processed at the station. At times, the number of immigrants passing through the station was so vast that some had to sleep there for several nights before it was their turn to be processed. They were given makeshift bunk beds, but the station lacked the funding to provide all of the immigrants with blankets, and many of them suffered through the cold of the night with just the clothes on their back.
The Immigration Center continued to process incoming immigrants after 1924, but that year marked the period of time when Ellis Island primarily became a detention and deportation processing center. The same island that had been the final stop for many on their way into America had become their first stop on the way out.
One of the biggest myths surrounding Ellis Island is that officials asked immigrants to change their names on their way into the US against their wishes. However, there are no records to suggest that this practice was a frequent occurrence, and most historians have stated that those that changed their names on their way into the country did so on their own accord, likely to avoid persecution once they entered the United States.
Ellis Island played a huge role in American History. Nearly 33% of Americans can trace our ancestry through the immigration station at Ellis Island at one time or another. Today, a museum is located inside of the old Immigration Station, documenting the history that took place there.