Tuesday, May 17, 2011



I got out the story of my life a few days ago better known after all these years as Ellis Island by the History Channel.
And it revealed a lot of Eliz P's secret fears over the years.

When the famine Irish came there were no restrictions on the 4 1/2 million that passed into the New World if they made the passage alive were 'HOme Free'.

The immigration law was never passed until 1882 and before that the states only processed anyone that came into their state.
But the ports of landing were usually Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Galveston, New Orleans for the US and Halifax/St Johns for Canada.

In the 1600s the colony here usually emigrated to by the family itself, or an individual adventurer and mostly ,indentured servants who were contracted to the ship captain for usually 4 years of their labor to pay for the passage over the Ocean.

About 1 million 200 thousand came in that century from Scotland, Germany and Ireland along with an uncounted number of slaves from Africa.

By 1810 the federal goverenment had purchased the old civil war ammuniton dump Castle Clinton from New York State and this was used as a dropping post for imigrants coming into NY harbor.
The island itself was only 3 acres.

About 1880 the steamship replaced the old stench ridden sailing ships.
The passagee now took 8-14 days as opposed to the old sailing vessels month or two.

In 1880 the federal government passed the Immigration Act
and began the constuction of a new wooden building on the Castle Garden site.

The Ellis Island Processing Center opened on January 1, 1892.

The Center opened by prossessing and Irish lass, Annie Moore, followed by some 12 million over its lifetime of emigrants from all over Europe and West Asia.

English, Irish, Polish, Sweds, Austrians, Turk, Russian, Germans, Hebrews .

The Federal 1882 law provided a count of all the emigrants, a medical exam and interagation.
Excluded from admittance were criminals with a prison record, mental defects, deseased persons and radicals who the Americans already in the county considered dangerous.

By 1897, just 5 years after Ellis was opened and built of Georgian pine, it was burned to the ground but the federal governement immediately rebuilt it with fireproof materials at a cost of 1.5 million and the processing center reopened on 17 December, 1900.

The major medical exam was conducted to deport any person with lice, silly minded, glacoma, retardation ,contageous desease, venereal deseases, etc. and these special cases removed from the general Que, marked with blue chalk to be sent back.

Oftimes a family of parents and children were separated by such processing.
The steamship lines were required to prescreen passengers coming into these new world ports as fit in mind and body, not likely to become a public charge and these prescreening details put on the ships manfest for each passenger.

All were de loused and and all baggage and possessions inspected and recorded on the ships manifest list before they embarked on the steam ship coming to the New World.

The ship conditions in economy steerage were atrocious. No sleeping or eating facilites, no sanitation or bath compound, and the crowding was similar to that of cattle or birds being transported.

These tests were repeated at Ellis Island Processing Center and if one of them was not met the person was marked for return.

Between 1822-1924 71% of immigrants coming to the US came through this Ellis Island at a rate of some 5000 people a day.

The emigrants were asked many questions under the bureaurocratic screening process.
Many of them the same questions they had been asked in the prescreening in the old country.
Name, Birth date, place of origin, how much money did they have, moral status,their prison and employment records.

If the prospective claimed he has a job waiting for him in America he was rejected and sent back as an undesirable for taking away a job from an American.
He had to prove he would not become public charge, LPC.

The steerage passengers were held on board ship till there was room at the island to process them. Often days or weeks.

They were cargo while the first class and second class passengers were processed summarily on board; verifying the questions already on their ship manifest.

Oftimes a child disappeared from steerage and was processed with the first or second class as a part of their party and a child of so and so,While the rest of the family was put through the processing center.

Sometimes a child was rejected with scarlett fever or a cough or breathing problem and taken from the family group, who could not speak English, and were not told why. Marked to be deported.

A child under 11 was not allowed to be sent back without a guardian or a family member as someone had to go with them.
This disrupted families totaly.

But if they got through the process and were released to go downstairs to the golden door exit, they were treated to a commissary where you could buy food ,a railroad ticket office, a telegraph office, an exchange, and what was called the 'kissing post' where they were ferried to the mainland and allowed to survive as best they could, if they could.

By this time several societys of ethnic groups were in operation to help the immigrants get through the process on the island, fill out the necessary paper work ,find them jobs, and provide them with shelter and food.
They also gave free postage so the emigants could write home to their villages to allow them to know they had arrived safely.
No telephone or internet services and the telegrams were expensive.

Most of the peasant population imigrants coming fora better life were rural and had never been out of their native villages before or seen money or spoken any language except that they had at their mothers knee .
Nor coud they read and write.

They had few if any skills, and had been totally uprooted from their village life and they were here to work.

The US at that era also had competition for worker imigrants from Canada, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

But in 1894 the Immigration Resisntance League, headed by Henry Cabot Lodge of Boston worked to restrict the suspect and poor.

When the emigrant applicant had completed their 5 hour screening wait they were offered donuts and milk.
A meal was served them by the steamship lines which was usually tasty and wholesome but ethnic foods were not served and the north europeans refused to eat Italian spigettii and the Jews would eat nothing because it was not 'kosher'.

Women alone were not allowed to continue on with out an escort; a brother, a husband, a sponsor.
They were particularly scrutenized for moral uprighness as prostitition, white slavery, or public charge potentials were suspected of them.

In 1910 quota laws were established allowing 3% of the total population of the country from which they were coming.

In 1917 the new quota laws were enforced in place after the first world war ended.
President Wilson had issued a Presidental Order detaining any illegals from being sent home during the duration of the hostilites, turning the processing center into a detention camp.

A read and write law was applied.

The emigrant was to be literate in the native language of the country he came from.

In 1919, 26,000 were processesd when the detention order was lifted. In 1920, 225,000 came in.
In 1921 560 thousand.

Under the Quota laws and other older prossesssing requirments.
This remined the major appliction till 1924 when the golden door was replaced with the oveseas Consulate and the Visa system.
A visa was obtained in his home country from the US or other Consulate before he embarked.
This allowed him to enter with summary examination and if he were in good health on arrival and not a criminal, an anarchist or a rebel, had money, he was not sent back as the Visa had already cleared him for entry.

When the Quota system was in place boatloads crammed the harbor from various countries and if the quota for that particular county had been filled they were all sent back. The entire boatload returned at expense to the shipping company.

In 1928 25,000 was the quota allotment for the Irish Free State born in 1920 after a civil war in Ireland and the establishment of peace treaty between the rebel rebublician forces and the government of Great Britain.

During its hayday from 1900-1924 programs were established for the holdees;
a new mom program for children born on the island who were automatically US citizens
sewing classes
a libray
a play ground
sunday concerts in native music

Ball playing was taught to the emmigtants. The old country folk never had balls.

The Consolate system worked much better than the processing center and is still in use today and has been adopted by much of the worlds countries to facilatate tourism and immigration.
The right of return was established to allow persons not able to stay in the new world for one reason or another, to return to their native land without exclusions.

In 1911 'Kosher' food was introduced and the Jew was finaly allowed to eat.
The island now sported a hospital building for sick person who could be treated and recovered and hence approved and a dormitory housing 2000 people in sleepign quarters since 1910.

By 1930 and the depression, and worry over criminal elements was stong and the detention center idea was revived using the prossessing center which was essentualy empty durign the 30s.
No one came.

When war broke out in Europe in 1939/40 the regulations were rigid and tightend and the island became a virtual jail for the duration.
Foriegners were considered spys. Particulary women.

By 1945 Ellis was obsolete and on November 12, 1945 the Center was closed.

The government tried to sell the island but had no takers.
The 35 buildings, 2 water towers and a ferry were of no value.

The buildings fell into disrepair and the ghoasts of old poverty stricken people roamed the island.

In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson toured the island and ordered its resotartion making it a part of the National Parks, Statue of Liberty National Park.
The Staute standing in the harbor was the first site of the emigrant ships and most of them retained a deep attachment to the lady in the harbor for their remaining lives and passed this reverence of what America stood for on to their children.
A Sunday outing for an imigrant still not proficient in English, and stil decked in visable signs of old country wear, would stand for hours gazing out into the harbor from the Bowrey rails along the East River shore.

156 million in private donations were collected to restore and renovate the collapsing facilites and in 1990 the Island buildings was reopened as a museum.

A wall of Honor has been constucted around the facility for names of processed and for a fee, names can be added to the wall by the decendants of these ancestors who made the treck over the great wide water. Waited patiently for processing. Endured the separation of his or her family uprooting. Struggled to become American and to survive and to prosper and to find freedom and independence, security and prosperity.

Many followed a path of 100 % ending of the past cutting all ties to the old county.
Proud to be American to forget the world and its troubles and so they did.
Their children and grandchildren anglosized.
The old language forgotten.The old religion lost. The old song and dance revampted to American style and the old village forgotten.

The Yank was born and knew not who he was or why he was only that he was an American.
Maybe a German or Irish, Polish or Sweedish, English or Spainish and the Yank went home in 1940-45.
Leaving his unidentified crossbred lines on the fields of Normandy and Flanders.
On the bottom of the ocean or the Siegrfried line and the Builge. In the deserts of north Africa and the secret gardens of Italy or sometimes at his own Arlington National Cemetary.

The serf freed. The family discarded. The past forgotten. The future unsounded.

In a personal sense the History proved an awakinig to certain reasons for my own mothers fears of emagration as she arrived at age 10. Was sent off from war torn north Ireland with an older sister Mary under the sponsorship of an Uncle and Aunt.

When she was near arriving in harbor she was brought up from economy class, dressed by her aunt in an Amercian outfit.
Told at all costs not to open her mouth [she had a brogue], and inspected with her aunt on board as part of the aunts family.
Her child or grandchild and waltzed into the US with the upper class passengers,
An illegal emigrant.
She had not to pass through Ellis at all. By then a sea of corruption and incompetence.

She was put to work in her aunts house and told she was born in 1910 and was 12 years old.
She as actually born in 1911 and 10 years old as she came in May and was born in November.

She ,like almost all the imigrants had no birth record.

If she had been rejected to be sent back because of age or other impediment, her sister Mary now 16 and old enough to work would have been required to go with her as guardian.

This slipping by immingration in 1922 lead to a life long fear in my mother of being found out and deported.

She was not going to become LPC and never applied for any welfare benefit or licence.
She was ever able to remember her disappared status to first or second class and her aunt and uncles deception.

She had the same name as he was her fathers brother and so she remained all her life never marrying in fear of Immigation Acts reguarding her status.

Her sister Mary apparenly got in but it is today still not known if she passed through Ellis Island or if she had a sponsor who picked her up.
Afterall she was 16. Eligible for moral scrutiny and a sponsor.

The two girls were split up and hardly knew each othr after that arrival.
Neither were content in their work assignments and in due time Mary escaped her clannish Irish household on long Island, went to NY city and was able to complete a marriage with a handsome fellow of Norman French decent.
she had 4 children and died in Amerian in an unhappy state of mind.

In 1927 after the Visa application of 1924 and the establishment of overseas Consolates, 2 of the brothers of this family of 10 siblings emigrated to NYC not needing to pass the island center having completed the processing in the British UK and holding British passports.

They both became citizens and held businesses in NYC and cross married.
One a German girl and the other a Polish.

In the depression era of the 30s another sister of the 10 came. Anne, who alledgedly had a husband in Boston or came to be married.
Again a ruse of only as she had an escort or needed to have one in the family who came and picked her up.
No one knew if she entered at Boston or NY.

Later she had a son of a man who was Cuban and this one ,a married man whose wife eventually showed up.
The city of NY raised her child as she had ideas to go back to Great Britan with this infant born in America.

Of these siblings coming to the land of freedom and justice, no closeness was retained, no records found ,no histoy told.
They lived as strangers to each other.
All were told they were British not Irish.

Imigration required reading and writing a native langauge and none living in north Ireland spoke or were ever taught Irish gaelic.
Plus a Quota for the Irish Free State was much lower than that for UK the empire, and it is still an empire ,financial of not landed.

Of the 10 children of this small farm family on only 10 acres in Tyrone only 3 remained.

1 girl and 2 boys. The youngest getting the farm.

An older boy, Pat, came.
He got on a boat in the 20s. Got work with the Mob runng boot liquour. Got into trouble by sifening off either boose or profit.
Was told he was to be hit for it. Went down to the dock. Got on a boat to Ireland and died in the garden eating garlic so the story was told, but left two illigitimate children in the US. Children of his grilfriend.
He was more American than he knew apparently.

This Pat also it is told in Ireland, actually was picked up in NY spent some time in a mental area. Probaly at Belview or on Ellis island. Was deported to North Ireland where his mother was distrought at his craziness and he was kept in a mental home in the UK where he died.
Either way the wild rebellious boy didnt make it.

The youngest girl, born in 1919, the modern era, married ,had 7 children and because of the same old unemployment problem of 1910 and beyond, emigrtated with her husband and 7 children and Herself to Australia where in they remain this day successfull and secure if not fairly prosperous.

Of my own mother, she lived her whole adult life in the shadow of her arrival by deceptive practice.
Always in fear of being picked up by Immigration.

She never applied for any public benifit not to become an LPC.
She never obtained a job benefit and always lurking on the shaddy side of employment private nursing circuit.

She never applied for ration stamps or public housing but was 'helped' by lesser gang types.
She was taken care of.

She never discussed her family or her home and was used all her life in the US from 1922 till she died by violence in 1974 .
52 years in the shadow of the gun.

No one mourned the passing of this Irish girl with a brouge but her grandchildren.
No one sent remorse or flowers.

The church she deserted buried her in a grave belonging to the daugther of the aunt who had told her, never open your mouth, and kept her on tight rein working for no wages till she was 18 when the uncle threatened to send her back.

She had not been sent back. She had not become a public charge .If she had become a white slave she kept her silence and no one knew of it.
She slipped between 3 governments and many not to straight boyfriends but never decended to a state of detachment until she was secure. Then she was unable to handle it all .

She never went back to north Ireland.
For fear of her family, for dislike of the poverty and volite politics of the region.
Not as much as fear that if she left American shores she would not be let back in.

She could not apply for a passport. She was not a citizen.
She could not go home again and this 6th child slipped through the cracks of both poverty and prosperity and the 20th centuries greatest war and the transition from the cart and the walk and the steamship to the airoplane vs the fairy bomb.

Her daugher however managed to defy the emigrant inspection in having prison record--expunged, becoming a public charge, not fit mentally or physically for admittance and holding a birth certificate with a false father on it and a US and an Irish passport as well as being refugee for Canada immigaration. As well as two marriage and divorce certificates

It is I would have been sent back. Never made it out of the sheep shed.
But much of what I belive and feel by osmosis I found in this film of Ellis.
The stuggle to survive of the poverty stricken, helpless and ignorant of the world.

Those helpless masses yearning to breath free.

Judi Donnelly
copyright May 9, 2011

sourse: Ellis Island, History Channel.com, A&E TV Network ,Greystone Communications, 1997


Oh, the seagulls are callin' and the wind is in the sails,
And she's fast moving out to the sea
On a ship bound for St Johns three thousand miles away,
A human cargo my comrades and me.

It hurts me to think of the things I left behind,
Though the famine has blackeded the land,
And to look now for something that I may never find,
Its a problem thats now close at hand.

There's a fever a ragin' and the winds have died away,
And our jounrey may no longer be,
Though the plague is a shadow that lingers night and day,
Warmer thought of green valleys I see.


Fair thee well green valleys. God keep you the same,
If only in my mind you'll be,
I'm sailing dark waters for far Americay
And never more my green valleys to see.

This quickesential song, written by the Irish holds the feeling of the Immigrant for all and with this note,

Criochnaich do deirenach post!
The end for the Last Post!

of this blog of review and may I live long enough to begin another in future.

Judi Donnelly

sourse: 50 Complete Rebel Songs,Fighing Men of CrossMaglen,, MVD Ltd., Newry, Down, Ireland, Arran Records, 2005

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