It’s Ellis Island Family History Day – April 17

April 17 marks the day in 1907 (102 years ago) when more immigrants were processed through Ellis Island than on any other day in its long history – The Great Hall at Ellis Island - Courtesy of the National Park Service11,747 people. Somewhere between a third and 40% of the U.S. population today – about 100 million Americans – can trace their roots back to the 17 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island.

The Ellis Island immigrant processing facility opened in 1892 and admitted some 12 million people to the U.S. before closing in 1954, most of them at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. According to the Census Bureau. the largest number – nearly 51 million – are of German ancestry.

In celebration of “Ellis Island Family History Day” the Foundation has instituted the “Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards” which are given annually to a select number of Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants who have made a significant contribution to the American experience.

By official proclamation of our nation’s governors, April 17 has been designated as “Ellis Island Family History Day.” Under the auspices of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. and the National Genealogical Society, the day has been set aside annually to recognize the achievements and contributions made to America by Ellis Island immigrants and their descendants.

Ellis Island Family History Day was first celebrated on April 17, 2001 to commemorate the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center® at Ellis Island and its companion website:


Also note that the Ellis Island Heritage Awards program will take place on May 19, 2009, honoring:

  • SCIENCE/MEDICINE — Eric R. Kandel, M.D.
  • SPORTS — Joe Namath
  • ENTERTAINMENT — Jerry Seinfeld
  • B.C. FORBES PEOPLING OF AMERICA AWARD — Gloria and Emilio Estefan

For more information about the awards, see:

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