Historically, April 17 marks the day in 1907 when more immigrants were processed through Ellis Island than on any other day in its colorful history–11,747 people.
Interesting. In honor of the day, I thought I’d dig through my family history stuff and post something apropos. As it turns out, though, not many of my ancestors passed through Ellis Island. Ellis Island replaced Castle Garden on 1 January 1892, but by that time, most of my ancestors had already arrived on these shores. The Franzens and Oestmanns arrived in the 1850s, the Knuths in the 1870s, the Schoelzels, and Frandsens in the 1880s, and the Hansons and DeVrieses in 1890-1891 (though Hans Hanson had arrived back in the 1880s without his family). That leaves just one family: the Mohrs. I have yet to find any record of of the arrival of my great, great grandfather, Heinrich Mohr, though it appears he arrived sometime in 1892, so he probably did pass through Ellis Island.
In 1893, Heinrich’s two eldest daughters arrived. Frances (age 15) and Thora (age 14) left Copenhagen aboard the Norge, arriving in New York on 25 July 1893 before traveling on to Chicago to meet their father.
Okay. That’s cool, but it’s still not one of my direct ancestors. Patience, grasshopper, I’m getting to that. Finally, in 1894, the rest of the Mohr family arrived. Heinrich’s wife Ane Marie registered to emigrate on 17 October 1894 and arrived at Ellis Island aboard the SS Polynesia on 7 November. With her were Henrietta, Dagmar, Rosalie, Einar, and my great grandfather, Thorwald, age 9 years, six months.
I can only imagine what it was like for Ane. Her husband had left two years earlier to find them a better life in America. Her two teen daughters left a year later. She continued to raise her younger children back in Copenhagen. I imagine a letter arriving from Heinrich at long last: “I am settled here in Chicago and our new home is ready. Please come as soon as you are able. Money enclosed.” Then a two-week journey across the North Atlantic with her five children. A quick passage through Ellis Island and onto the train to Chicago to reunite with her family. I gives me a little perspective on our one-day air journey across country with two kids.