Public Screening People Traveling to the United States of America

The discussions, on television and off , about the new screening machines that are recommended for airports, especially in other countries where persons are seeking travel to the United States, brings to mind another place of screening–Ellis Island.

In 1902, the first of several hospital buildings, was added to Ellis Island.  It included 120 beds for persons deemed medically or mentally unfit for entrance to the  US as potential citizens.

Lorie Conway, describes the history of this vast hospital complex in her book, Forgotten Ellis Island, and her own documentary film of the same title.  One segment, in the  words and voices of survivors of that early screening process, what a shock awaited those new immigrants–especially the women.

Women were instructed to remove their clothing to be examined by medical staff members and the rumors flew through the whole place that specific medical or mental problems could mean instant deportation.  Most of these women had never been fully undressed before; certainly not in front of others, and certainly not to be examined by male doctors in full uniforms resembling those worn by soldiers.

When the use of  xray machines became standard, the idea of lying down on an examining table under a camera to be photographed, unclothed, was an even more tramatic shock.  Add the language barrier, with sometimes inadequate interpreters, and the scene resembled a riot.

Even though I knew about the medical exams and the fear of being sent home because of some disease or malady, never have I considered the plight of these women forced to disrobe in a semi-public setting.  And my heart was flooded with compassion and sympathy.

All of a sudden, an impersonal scanning machine manned by security guards of either sex, seemed less invasive and troublesome.

Our ancestors were screened, unclothed, to protect us from diseases brought from foreign lands.  We will be scanned, fully clothed, to protect our country from death threats.  The whole process can be viewed in a less frightening way.

You can see this remarkable documentary, on 18 March 2010, at the historic Masonic Temple, 650 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City UT 84102 at an all-day Immigration Conference sponsored by Family History Expos.  Lorie Conway will be there to share how she researched and filmed her movie, followed by a full screening of the show.

Other speakers include Kory Meyerink and myself.

My topic:  Before Ellis Island:  Using Little-Known and Under-Used Emigration-Immigration Sources to Find Your Ancestor’s Origins.

Common public sources may give only the country of birth–Germany, Italy, Ireland, etc.:  Census schedules, naturalization files, voters’ lists, and even family traditions do not tell us where to search next in enough detail for success.

Did you know…there are at least 11 passenger lists created:  lists were filed with the customs agents at the port of embarkation, ports of call along the route, and port of arrival; recorded with the ship’s manifest or log, steamship company files, and emigrant-immigrant aid society files.  Passengers signed letters of gratitude to the Captain and his crew for a safe journey and arrival.  Lists were submitted for land claims and bounties offered to passengers.  Copies were printed in local newspapers at both points of departure and arrival.  Fellow passengers recorded lists in their diaries and journals and letters sent home.
And this is but one record category!  Come learn about other key emigrant-immigrant sources and where to find them.
Hurry to Family History Expos to register–this is an affordable and exciting genealogy event you won’t want to miss.  I promise you will never view the immigration of your ancestors the same.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle
PS  And watch for my 2010 speaking schedule to be posted on my Home Page–coming to a place near you this year!
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