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New Jersey – Visiting Ellis Island

August 23, 2012
Ellis Island Immigration Station

Ellis Island Immigration Station

Our visit to New Jersey also included a stop at Ellis Island.  The ferry that took us to the Statue of Liberty also shuttled us to Ellis Island.  The elegant old building processed more than 12 million immigrants including the parents of my mother.  Today, 40% of the American population has ancestors who passed through Ellis Island.

Posing with the Grandkids

Posing with the Grandkids

Ellis Island was the island of hope for all who arrived in New York harbor.  It was also a place of fear and pain.  Families were split up and examined – their health was important because the country wanted a good supply of laborers.  Some individuals did not pass the tests and were sent home.  One can only imagine the anguish that gripped families when they learned some did not pass the tests.

My mother’s parents came from Italy and were among the fortunate ones.  They passed the tests and entered the U.S.   My grandmother, Maddalena Goffo, came first.  She arrived on October 18, 1903 aboard the ship La Bretagne.  She was 14 years old.  She and her younger brother Nick and her older sister Paola travelled together.  They moved to Iowa where she later married and worked in a mining camp.  She cooked, washed clothes, scrubbed floors and did what she could to keep the boarding house clean – a nearly impossible job when you consider how dirty coal miners get.
My grandfather, Giacinto Marchello, arrived July 28, 1906 on the ship La Lorraine.  He was 23 years old and had already served in the Italian army in Africa and nearly been killed in a mining accident in France.  He initially moved to Pittsburg, Kansas where he was almost killed again in a coal mining accident.  He later moved to Iowa and continued to work in coal mining.  These type of jobs were typical for immigrants.  They got the low-paying, dangerous jobs.
Italian Wedding Dress in the Ellis Island Museum

Italian Wedding Dress in the Ellis Island Museum

Maddalena Goffo and Giacinto Marchello would later marry in Iowa – and I am here today saying Thank You to them.  They taught me hard work and not to be wasteful.  The beautiful Italian wedding dress in the photo above was at the museum.  It was not my grandmothers.  My grandparents travelled in steerage (3rd class) and did not have money for such things.  But, it was a gorgeous dress so I am showing how Italian style was stunning, even 100 years ago.  My grandparents did not have lots of money so they knew how to be conserving.  They were honest and some of the kindest people I have ever known.   Plus, when I was a little boy, they always fed me well when I went to visit. 🙂  🙂

Back to the trip…

Train terminal in New Jersey

Train terminal in New Jersey

The train terminal in New Jersey is now filling in with weeds.  I am happy they have kept a portion of the terminal for all to see.  Back in the day, commuters came to this terminal then transferred to a ferry to go into New York City.  This terminal also served trains that connected to all parts of the U.S.  Most of the immigrants who went west passed through this train station.  My grandparents probably caught trains at this station as they headed to Iowa and Kansas.

I enjoyed the Ellis Island visit.  It reminded me of my grandparents so I took liberty to share a little of their story.  Their story in many ways is the American story.

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