My Nonno Pietro landed at Ellis Island on April 7, 1910 on a steamship named the “Prinzess Irene,” which is listed on this poster.

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  1. Were any of your ancestors born outside of North America?
  2. Did any of them enter through Ellis Island?
  3. If so, would you like information about their experience?
  4. If you aren’t certain, would you like to find out?

Ellis Island, situated in New York harbour, was an immigration station from 1892 to 1954. Prior to its opening, immigrants entered America through ports including Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco. My Nana Caterina and Nonno Pietro were among the twelve million immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island during this time period. This blog will introduce you to the genealogical resources available through The Ellis Island History Immigration Centre.

The Ellis Island Immigrant Experience

The Ellis Island complex housed facilities including a hospital, dormitories for about one thousand people, laundries, luggage areas and examination rooms. First and second class travellers were examined on their ship but steerage passengers, the cheapest ticket available, like my Nana and Nonno were sent to Ellis Island for inspection. If you were sick, you were detained at a hospital until you got better. If you were judged “incurable,” however, you were sent back to your port of departure. Nana arrived in 1913 before there was a literacy requirement; immigrants, however, had to have at least $10.00 plus money for railroad tickets they intended to purchase.

Where Can I Find More Information?

  1. Google:
  2. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is the title of the homepage.
  3. Begin your free search for passenger records through their extensive database.
  4. Enter the first and last name in the box provided of the person you are researching. Refine your search to obtain a copy of your ancestor’s passenger record, ship manifest and ship image.
  5. Click a heading for information on search tips, genealogical societies and related websites. There are tips, charts and forms under the “Genealogical Learning Centre: genealogy heading.”
  6. Some documents and ship images are free to download and print whereas others must be purchased. A user name and password is required for the latter option.

I went to Ellis Island, New York as part of the genealogical research I conducted about my Nana Caterina and purchased the following books during my visit.

Bowen, Richard. The Italian Americans. Mason Crest Publishers. 2003.

Levine, Ellen. If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island. Scholastic Inc. 1993.

Quiri, Patricia Ryon. Ellis Island. Children’s Press. 1998.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis. Ellis Island, Tracing Your Family History Through America’s Gateway. Ancestry Publishing. 1986.

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The next blog will continue to discuss Ellis Island. Did any of your ancestors land at Ellis Island? I’d welcome your comments. These photographs are from my visit to The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which opened on September 10, 1990.


Ellis Island immigrant exhibit

This exhibit displayed photographs of immigrants who’d passed through Ellis Island as well as old luggage and samples of their other possessions.

The Prinzess Irene

The Prinzess Irene was built in Germany in 1900. There were 2,354 on board and Nonno Pietro was among her 1,954 steerage passengers.