Skip To Content
BuzzFeed News Home Reporting To You

Here's What It Was Like For Children To Immigrate To The US Through Ellis Island

The children in these pictures are the ancestors to many of the people who make up the fabric of our nation today.

Posted on June 18, 2018, at 6:04 p.m. ET

Keystone-france / Getty Images

A mother and her daughter after arriving to Ellis Island, 1931.

From 1892, until its closing in 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Many of these immigrants were children, traveling with their parents in search of a better life for their families. The journey was often difficult beyond belief — most children traveled in overcrowded wooden boats, packed tight like cattle to endure months of rough seas.

Fresh water and food were a luxury that most could not afford and disease left many immigrants fighting for lives upon arrival to the US. Today, it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of Americans can trace their heritage through Ellis Island.

The children in these pictures are the ancestors to many of the people who make up the fabric of our nation today.

Getty Images

Parents hold their children as they await immigration services, circa 1950.

Fotosearch / Getty Images

An Immigration Officer speaks to a mother and her children, circa 1892.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

A child sleeps on her father's lap, circa 1950.

Ernst Haas / Getty Images

A boy wearing his identification name tag looks up in awe at his surroundings as he arrives at Ellis Island, circa 1950.

Historical / Getty Images

A young woman and girl arrive at Ellis Island in the early 20th century.

Smith Collection / Getty Images

A group of children and their mothers share a meal on Ellis Island, 1907.

Getty Images

Left: An immigrant mother and daughter at Ellis Island, circa 1902. Right: A group of children wave to the Statue of Liberty in this undated photo.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A group of women and children from Czechoslovakia arrive at Ellis Island, 1920.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

English Jewish immigrants await inspection at Ellis Island before entering the United States in this undated photo.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

A man holds a child as he's being interviewed at Ellis Island, circa 1950.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Three children and a man share a meal together, circa 1950.

Fpg / Getty Images

An Eastern European immigrant mother and her children sit and wait during the early 20th Century.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

An immigrant family looks on at New York's skyline while awaiting the government ferry to carry them to shore in 1925.