Ellis Island and Chasing Ancestors

Meeting people all over the world is a wonderful result of blogging on WordPress. I would like to introduce you to my new friend, Maria Holm. She blogs at mariaholm51.com about art, culture, babies, travel, history—a myriad of fascinating subjects.

Maria is Danish as Hans Pederson, my father was.He came to the US from Denmark in 1886 and died when I was one month old. I have researched his life and in 2015 will publish The Search for Hans Pederson; the Immigrant Who Built Seattle.

Below is Maria’s recent blog about US immigrants.


Ellis Island & chasing ancestors

Having only been to New York once getting to the famous Ellis Island had high priority. The place is connected with hope of a better future for millions of immigrants until it closed. At some periods it was like the opening of an eye of a needle to come through.

I had insisted on getting a so called New York pass and wanted to use it. It brought us in a huge never ending kew even though we had these fine prepaid tickets. We waited two hours on the Battery Park harbour, but what was that compared to the uncertainty the poor immigrants had to endure?

In my eagerness to see the immigrant museum I gladly passed the Statue of Liberty. We could have got off there and been in another kew there.

The museum on Ellis Island was made very alive with huge authentic photos of what had been going on in the different rooms.

The most dreaded was the eye examination. Each eye lid was turned with a hook. Just imagine the fear and the risk of diseases spreading via instruments and doctors hands.

The other dreaded thing was to be diagnosed for some mental illness or retardation  and not knowing what that chalk sign on your back meant. To come as a family and then one or two was denied intrance must have been devastating.

I saw on a documentary that Irish and Jews and Italians were not as wanted as Scandinavians. The immigrants were rated like that. I guess the poorer the less wanted.

I had an uncle Valdemar who came by boat to Ellis Island in 1912. He was 19 years old educated as a dairyman and one out of many brothers and sisters. His father was a captain on a steam ship going between Island and Denmark and he died in 1901 after a night in very rough weather steering the ship through  himself.

Nine year old Valdemar was fatherless in 1901, the next youngest out of ten surviving children. He saw as a young man a chance for a better living in the States. He started as a lumberjack in Iowa and spent the rest of his life in Seattle working in a dairy and being active in a Methodist church.

Imagine travelling alone to the New World and maybe never see the nine siblings and his mother again.

I knew that I had an uncle in the States and he seemed a very seldom kind of person as he willed an equal amount of money to every family member left in Denmark. I was not used to more money than maybe one dollar at a time. I still remember that I bought Clark desert shoes, a lambs wool grey sweater and a pair of blue jeans for the money. It was about $150 and clothes was still very expensive in 1965.

The outfit I got from the money from my uncle

A cousin went to Seattle a few years ago and managed to find a few people who remembered him in the nursing home where he had been. This made such an impression on her to meet those who had been freinds with the uncle she had heard so much about, but never met.

He had written loads of letters and sent gifts home, but nothing is kept. A treasure about a life just thrown out, after the receiver of the letters has died. What a waste.

I have written another post on this issue on immigration

Ludmila had to flee The Sovjet Union because of hatred of Jews. As a Scandinavian Valdemar was an attractive resource to the States a hundred years ago.

I would like to get response from you about your experience  with immigration.

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