Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ellis Island Oral Histories Available Online

Since 1973, the Ellis Island Oral History Program has been recording interviews with nearly 2,000 immigrants who came through Ellis Island during the years that the Immigration Station was in operation, 1892 through 1954. According to the National Park Service at Ellis Island, “Interviews since the mid 1980s have included accounts of everyday life in the country of origin, family history, motivation for immigration, the journey itself from home across the ocean to New York, arrival and processing at Ellis Island and adjustments to living in the United States.”

With the recent announcement of their Ellis Island Oral Histories collection, has made these recordings available online. The recordings are free - you do not have to be a paid subscriber to to hear them, although you’ll be asked to register with the site by giving your first and last names along with your email address.

Using Advanced Search you can look for oral histories by name, place of birth, age, name of the ship, and other keywords.

Even though your ancestor is unlikely to appear in the search results, others who have traveled from the same place of origin, or came on a similar voyage on the same ship may have had experiences close to those of your ancestors.

By listening to several interviews of people similar in circumstances to your ancestors you may be able extract the common experiences and apply them to your own narrative about your immigrant ancestors.

I've only just begun to explore this interesting database. Checking the ethnic backgrounds relevant to our household, I found 35 listings for Greece, over 150 for Poland, and 73 for Ireland. Next is a search on the names of the ships our ancestors came on to get the stories of what their trip may have been like.

Explore the Ellis Island Oral Histories and leave a comment about your experiences.

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