Ellis Island used to be an immigration center located in New York Harbor. Millions of immigrants arrived there every day. They were examined by doctors and legal inspectors and, if they passed inspection, they could enter America.
Before Ellis Island was opened, immigrants were examined in Castle Garden on the tip of Manhattan Island. Castle Garden was a fort which later became a concert hall. But, in 1855 it was turned into an immigration center. Thirty-five years later, Castle Garden could not handle the thousands of people that came every day. The government decided to use a little piece of land in New York Harbor to build Ellis Island. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and at least 12 million people were let in the country that year. But only 90 percent of all the newcomers every day passed though Ellis Island.
Many people may think that all immigrants went through Ellis Island, but they didn't. Some of them entered through East Coast ports in Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Others entered through Southern and Southwest ports in New Orleans and Galveston, and West coast cities like San Francisco. In 1907, more immigrants came to America than ever before.
People that bought first or second class tickets to America were inspected while on the ship. If they passed the inspection, they didn't need to go through Ellis Island. Only the poor who bought third class tickets were taken to Ellis Island for inspection.
There were many reasons for people to leave their homeland such as disease, earthquakes, and floods. For example, a disease in Ireland in the mid-1800 called the potato famine destroyed farm crops for several years in a row, causing people to flee in search of food. Also, in Sweden a famine occurred in the 1860's, which caused many villagers to leave and come to America.
Most people left their home country for a better life or maybe they did not make enough money in their country. Many heard stories about America's streets being paved with gold. Unfortunately, a lot of immigrants were sent back. Some who stayed did not live the dream they were told of. But instead, they worked hard to create better lives for themselves and their families anyway.
[Source: If Your Name Was Changed To Ellis Island]