"I See My Own Face Everywhere"
March 26, 2009
Did your family travel through Ellis Island? Has some interesting story about how your ancestors came to America been passed down the generations? We asked questions like these of visitors to “Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905–1920.” Since the exhibition opened in October, visitors have shared a number of funny, thoughtful, and intriguing responses with us. Here is a sampling:
“My husband’s grandmother got on a ship from Europe to Ellis Island with her fiancé. She got off the boat engaged to my husband’s grandfather, NOT the original fiancé. We only wish we knew the stories of what happened on board!”
“My grandfather immigrated to the USA. Bought some land—then back to Ireland. Got married, had 11 children: 10 girls, 1 boy. Never returned to America.”
“My father came from an island in Greece—with no money but full of expectation and hope to build a family and new life in the USA. He did and was successful.”
“My mother’s parents and siblings came to the U.S. via Ellis island around 1910. My uncle took sick on ship and was taken off during a stop in Scotland. My grandmother was hysterical that she would not see him again. She waited at Ellis Island for a week and, sure enough, my uncle arrived on a later ship. As a token of my uncle’s stay in at Scottish hospital, he carried his picture taken at hospital, dressed in kilt! That picture (and the story) is still with our family to this day.”
“I immigrated from the U.S. to Australia in 2004. It was struggle to figure out the visa application, housing, and even where to shop for certain things…. It struck me at the time and ever since how difficult immigration is for those who don’t speak the right language of who have very few resources. Makes you very vulnerable, to be in that situation.”
The exhibition has also helped our visitors gain new understanding about their ancestors’ lives as they settled in their new country. One commented, “This interesting exhibit clearly show how similar … we are to these brave people who faced adversity, change and the future with courage in their hearts and hope in their eyes. Just as we need to today.” Another observer said simply, “I see my own face everywhere.”
We hope you will tell us about your family’s immigration experience by clicking the Comments link below. Or you can visit the exhibition and leave us your thoughts on a comment card. “Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905–1920” will be on view through April 26, 2009.
Photo: Italian woman. Augustus Frederick Sherman (1865-1925). Courtesy of Aperture Foundation and Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island Immigration Museum