True Immigrant Tales: Vietnamese Boat People

[In 1979, tens of thousands of Vietnamese boat people, many of them actually Chinese, fled the communists in flimsy, overcrowded boats. Many drowned or were killed by pirates, but several hundred thousand reached refugee camps in other countries. Here is one refugee’s story; he came to the U.S. in 1980 at age 17.] “Our boat … More True Immigrant Tales: Vietnamese Boat People

True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

With thousands of immigrants were arriving daily, Ellis Island officials were hard pressed to find enough interpreters to process the many nationalities.  In 1911, Commissioner William Williams reported to his superior in Washington on how many interpreters knew how many languages and pleaded for more multi-lingual personnel: “Languages known by interpreters: Arabic (2), Albanian (2), … More True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

True Immigrant Tales: Steerage Challenges in Getting Fed

[Steerage conditions varied greatly, depending on the steamship line and the ship’s size, but all were unpleasant to say the least. Below is more testimony from a government inspector, disguised as an immigrant, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission about eating facilities on a smaller ship that carried less than 200 immigrants.]             … More True Immigrant Tales: Steerage Challenges in Getting Fed

True Immigrant Tales: Traveling in Steerage

Steerage conditions varied greatly, depending on the steamship line and the ship’s size, but all were unpleasant to say the least. Below is testimony from a government inspector, disguised as an immigrant, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission about the poor sanitary conditions on a smaller ship that carried less than 200 immigrants. … More True Immigrant Tales: Traveling in Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is another excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914). In the previous installment, he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island. Here, he tells of his observations on the island itself.] “Once more, … More True Immigrant Tales: “Are you a polygamist?”

True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

[In 1913, Scottish travel writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975) left Liverpool, England, as a steerage passenger. This is an excerpt from his book, With Poor Immigrants to America (1914), in which he described events leading up to his inspection at Ellis Island.]                             … More True Immigrant Tales: “It Was the Tombstone of Columbus”

True Immigrant Tales: Smiling Through the Tears

[Maud Mosher worked for the Indian Health Service for eight years before accepting a position as a matron at Ellis Island. After serving from 1903 to 1907, she left and, in 1910, wrote several articles about her experiences in Coming Nation, a well-known periodical of the times. This is an excerpt.] “It was as surprising … More True Immigrant Tales: Smiling Through the Tears