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With approximately 12 million immigrants who made their way through Ellis Island before building a new life in the United States, this place holds a great deal of significance in the history of the country, communities and individual families! 

History of National Ellis Island Family History Day

The inaugural celebration of National Ellis Island History Day took place in 2001, but the event clearly has a history which goes back more than 125 years. Opening in 1892, this immigration station located in New York Harbor was a first stop for those entering into the US by ship. Functioning for more than 60 years, the location on Ellis Island is now a historical landmark and cultural center that represents the millions of families who came through it.

National Ellis Island Family History Day is observed on this day each year in commemoration of the busiest day in the history of the center, which took place on April 17, 1907. On this one day, thousands of people flooded through the hall and set the record for the most people processed in one day: a total of 11,747. Millions more would file through that year and, today, tens of millions of American people can claim a piece of history as their descendants.

In 2001, Ellis Island launched a project which allowed online access to its records so that these families could more easily discover their roots. Across the various US states, governors declared National Ellis Island Family History Day and encouraged individuals and family members to research their ancestors in celebration of the day.

How to Celebrate National Ellis Island Family History Day

Get involved with National Ellis Island Family History Day by participating in some of these activities and ideas:

Visit the Ellis Island Family History Center

Those who are interested in learning more about the ways that their family history intersects with this iconic place may choose to celebrate National Ellis Island Family History Day with a visit to the center. Called the American Family Immigration History Center, this project is run by the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation out of New York City. People are invited to visit the center that is made up of around 65 million records, with resources that can assist families in uncovering their connections and heritage.

Search Ellis Island Family History Records Online

Those who are not up for taking a trip to New York don’t have to miss out on celebrating National Ellis Island Family History Day! This would be a great time to hop onto the website ( to search a vast number of records including passenger names, learning about famous passengers, get access to genealogy resources and more.

Read Ellis Island Stories

Even for those whose family histories may not include Ellis Island, it might be interesting to spend time around National Ellis Island Family History Day reading some fascinating stories of those who do. The foundation’s Oral History Project records the living memories of those who came to the US for a better life, often fleeing from famine, war, persecution and more. One of the world’s largest collections of the experiences of immigrants, take some time to read and learn about some incredible people in celebration of this day.

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