Ellis Island: a journey to the past.

More than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island, dreaming with a bright new future, here the 3rd class needed to complete the immigration procedure.

They all met at the Baggage Room: Immigrants entered the main building through this area where they left their trunks, suitcases and belongings to be claimed after the tests. The main stairs to get the Great Hall was part of the selection process, here families were separated, the men were put aside from the women and children.

Then passed to the Registry Room, is a big square room where the Inspectors used a list of 32 questions to determine if an immigrant should be admitted to America. These included their identity, place of origin, occupation, financial status and their planned destination in the United States. On this area was Fiorello La Guardia who was a translator and ended as the first mayor of New York city.


More than 5000 women, men and childrens arrive everyday from 1900 till 1924, when Ellis Island was on it peaks. Most of the immigrants came from Europe and Asia. At the beginning you were able to get inside the country without passport or visa, this regulation changed around 1924 when the immigration law established. The selection procedure was severe, for example, women who travel alone were not welcome.

When they succeeded the checkpoint at the Great Hall (registry room), they were send to another rooms where doctors and police officers did a background check. Doctors looked for signs of sickness Trachoma was the most important for them, is a disease of the eye caused by infection and is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment, also they checked whether anyone was wheezing, out of breath, coughing, scratching or shuffling. If they found something they marked them with letters, here you have some examples: “H” for heart problems, “K” for hernias, “Sc” for scalp problems,  “X” for mental disability, “Pg” for pregnant.


Something that shock me the most was The Stairs of Separation: After inspection, immigrants descended from the Great Hall down the “Stairs of Separation” called like that because they marked the parting of the way for many family and friends with different destinations, they separate deported people, the ones who were able to get in the country and the other ones for check again. Immigrants were either sent to the island’s hospital and detention rooms or were granted entry into the United States.

In 1954 Ellis Island was abandoned due to the normalization of the immigration system so they didn´t need this place anymore. In 1965 was declared National Monument.

This island is part of the Statue of Liberty tour and you can departure from Battery park (New York City) or Liberty State Park (New Jersey). The Immigration Museum located on Ellis Island is a fantastic journey through history. I highly recommend you to do it with the audio guide because you will experience all the process like if you were there around 1900.


On the first floor there is an archive, you can visit it and search on the American Family Immigration History Center. There you will find more than sixty millions entries. The other rooms from the museum exhibits chronicle Ellis Island’s role in immigration history, anda view of the 3er class immigration to America.

Another tour you are able to do it is The hard hat tour is on Ellis Island. This one is outside the typical tour trip. The difference is a 90-minute guided tour of the South Side of Ellis Island – exclusive only to the Hard Hat Tour where you will experience “Unframed – Ellis Island”, an Art Exhibit by French Artist JR.