Visit Our Celtic Jewelry Store >>

The Irish And Ellis Island

Posted on | March 30, 2010 | by Ciara O'Brien | 2 Comments

Modern-Day View Of Ellis IslandThis New York harbor has become an important landmark to many Irish-Americans, whose ancestors arrived there to start new lives in a new land…in time, over 15 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island to seek out the American Dream…3,501,683 of them were Irish…

From 1892 to 1954, the Ellis Island Immigrant Station supervised the influx of immigrants from all over the world. Today, a museum at the site offers visitors a glimpse into the past.

Everyone who landed at Ellis Island was subject to health inspections, and those who were considered diseased or otherwise undesirable were often sent back to their homelands, their dreams dashed…for those who passed muster, 29 questions were asked, and the answers would determine whether or not they were deemed fit to pursue new lives in America.

A Brief History of Ellis Island…

This landmark has a chequered history…many people spent only a few hours at the center before being processed and released…for others, the immigration center became their final destination.

3,000 people died at Ellis Island, while resting at the on-site hospital…those who were forced to wait at the site, which is located at the mouth of the Hudson River, told stories of deprivation and long, cold nights filled with anxiety, nightmares and the noise of other would-be immigrants.

During the 1st World War, the buildings at Ellis Island were damaged and they were eventually reinforced and rebuilt. At that time, the island was used as a base where German merchant marines were interned. However, the immigration center still saw thousands of new immigrants and processed them at the site. By the mid-1920’s, stricter laws made immigration more difficult, and fewer people were allowed to enter the U.S.A. through the harbor…

After the Second World War, Ellis Island became a training camp for the Coast Guard; it also served as a prison for Italians, Germans, and Japanese, who were considered enemies of the state.

Today, this historic site is accessed by ferry, and many make a pilgrimage to Ellis Island, to see where their ancestors landed as they experienced America for the first time…

Reasons For Irish Immigration…

The Industrial Revolution is considered a primary trigger for the influx of Irish immigrants into America. As life became more industrialized in Europe and the British Isles, farmers and other laborers lost their livelihoods, and they were forced to flee their homelands in search of more opportunities.

Of course, the Irish Potato Famine is probably the most well-known reason why many Irish men and women decided to make for America.

A Fungus Triggered the Deadly Irish Potato FamineIn 1845, a fungus destroyed the vital potato crop, causing widespread hunger and poverty among the lower classes. Often, the Irish did not even own the fields where the potatoes rotted in the ground…instead, they were forced to lease their lands from rich British landowners. When disaster struck, paying rents and feeding their families became impossible…

From 1846 to 1851, more than a million people fled Ireland for the United States, due to repeated crop failures. In Ireland, two and a half million people died of starvation. The harsh realities of this miserable, challenging time changed the history of the Emerald Isle and its people…forever…

The Journey To America Was Also Filled With Hardships…

The Journey To Ellis Island Was Often Filled With HardshipsShips crowded with malnourished, poor Irish immigrants headed for Ellis Island. The 2 month sea voyage from Ireland was full of hardships and deprivations. Poor conditions on board made such journeys a test of endurance; clean water and proper food were scarce, and good hygiene was impossible due to inadequate facilities.

Once the Irish immigrants were processed and allowed to enter the city, more trouble awaited…a lack of money and poor health tended to make finding employment and proper lodging extremely challenging. Families were jammed (sometimes 10 to a room) in boarding houses and low-echelon accommodations. Any work that could be found was usually menial and low-paying. But the Irish persevered and made their way in a new world…

Some Irish immigrants who passed through Ellis Island went on to great success…Father Flanagan, an Irish priest, and John McCormack, a well-known opera tenor, were both processed at the Immigration center.

Honor Your Ancestry With Irish Jewelry…

The resilience and spirit of the Irish is legendary. Celebrate the strength and perserverance of your ancestors by choosing a special necklace that shows the world you are proud to be Irish!

Silver Shamrock PendantThis silver Celtic pendant features Ireland’s most recognizable symbol; Saint Patrick used the tender shamrock plant to illustrate the presence of God in the natural world. Each of its three segments were thought to represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Today, this poignant symbol of faith is known worldwide as a symbol of the Emerald Isle. Show your pride in your own heritage with this versatile and affordable pendant – it is handcrafted in Ireland and assayed (stamped) at Dublin Castle.


2 Responses to “The Irish And Ellis Island”

  1. Alexandra
    July 18th, 2012 @ 18:35

    “by 1890, over 15 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island to seek out the American Dream…3,501,683 of them were Irish…”

    This is impossible, since the Ellis Island Immigration Station did not open until Jan. 1, 1892.

  2. Ciara O'Brien
    July 26th, 2012 @ 17:30

    Hi Alexandra,

    Sorry about the error, it was a typo, and I will correct the post right away. Cheers, and thank you so much for visiting our blog and leaving feedback.


Leave a Reply

  • Newsletter & Offers

    Sign-up now for a discount and a BONUS gift offer!

  • Follow me on…



  • Categories

  • Pages

  • Archives

  • Celtic Festivals in the US

    To see the larger version of the calendar of Celtic Festivals in the US, click here.