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Children as Immigrants

Imm-children -Ellis - 1910Who said history doesn’t repeat itself?? A hundred years ago many of our ancestors faced the same situation as is happening today along the Arizona and Texas borders with thousands of children without parents or guardians coming across the United States border for a new life. A hundred years ago many alarmists painted incoming immigrants on ships —children included—‘as disease-ridden, job stealers bent on destroying the American way of life‘. Yes, they were referring to your great grandmother or great uncle!

There was the Immigration of Act of 1907 stating unaccompanied children (under age 16) were not allowed in. Those who did arrive on ships were not sent home. The 1907 Act set up a detention system for such children, many who were orphans, to have a special inquiry by immigration inspectors to look at each case and make a decision. Ellis Island saw the immigration of children and tried to provide while they were waiting for the case to be heard. On the island was a playground as well a a basic school established.

imm-children-ellis-1908What happened in many cases were private individuals, families, churches, home societies, etc., who met with the inspectors at the hearings and offered to take the children and be responsible for their well being. Many went to live on farms in the mid-west and raised by loving families there. They and their descendants helped build the United States through the 20th century.

Today not only are children from several Central American countries crossing the border illegally but children and adults from numerous African nations are moving into European nations also. So it is clearly not a new situation or one confined to America.

This would be an excellent opportunity to research when and how your ancestors arrived in America and if you had a relative who reached these shores as a child by themselves.

Photos: Children of one family arrived at Ellis Island in 1910 and two children in 1908 wearing tag to provide some identification / ship name.

Related FamilyTree link:

Immigrant Ships

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