Through the Golden Door

Today is International Migrants Day. On this day in 1990, the United Nations General Assembly set the date aside to acknowledge immigration as being a key part of the society we live in.

I’ve mentioned before that my husband has been researching both his and my family’s genealogy. He’s been on the quest for years. If there’s a family tree anywhere with which to glean from, chances are good he’s found it and stripped it bare.

washington-crossing-the-delaware-emanuel-leutzeTo that end, we’ve even taken road trips around what old cemeteries, town hall records, and research libraries are to be had. We both love digging up these treasures from the past and it’s been fun hobby that’s often filled with surprises. For instance, we learned his great-grandfather, so many times removed, owned the boat that ferried General George Washington across the Delaware River. I suspect he’d be the guy I’ve circled in that iconic painting by German-American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. 😉

My great-grandfather so many times removed owned a settlement and trading post that outfitted George Rogers Clark in Virginia and that allowed him to take a bite out of British influence in the Northwest Territory (Kaskaskia and  Vincennes) during the Illinois Campaign of 1778-79. You just never know what you’ll find when digging among the roots of your family tree.

So far my husband has discovered that in my family on my mother’s side, first footfall on the new continent took place in the 1640s. His family landed about 100 years later. To fully appreciate this Atlantic crossing you have to get to know the Great Ships that made the trip. They had basic navigation tools at the time such as astronomical sextants, marine chronometers, and quadrants, but nothing else other than their seafaring experience. I should note that these are the same waters the Titanic crossed. During that tragic event the captain called for help and ships came as soon as they could. For our ancestors, if trouble arose on the water, unless there was another ship you might signal to there was no S.O.S to ask for help. I found a this  interesting clip showing the ships that made the treacherous crossings but it mostly talks about outfitting them for piracy on the high seas. It’s still entertaining. So far no pirates have been found in the family. That’s not to say one won’t fall out of the family tree one day.  🙂

Closer to home on my limb of the family tree are my grandparents. Three made the voyage around the turn of the last century — two from Poland and one from Sicily. The ships were different then and no doubt accommodations, even low class, were infinitely superior to what those family members crossing on those pirate-type ships had 200+ years before. 

A while back I stumbled upon an English-dubbed Italian movie entitled Nuovomondo — also called The Golden Door. In it, a dirt poor Sicilian family leaves for the new world. The time period depicted shows what it was like when my grandfather left Sicily and what the processing on Ellis Island was like for these frightened hopefuls. For example, women were not allowed in to the United States if they didn’t have family or a man vouching for them already here. I suppose this was to keep destitute women from their last resort — prostitution.

I watched The Golden Door on Netflix. Martin Scorsese was involved in this award winning movie and was quoted saying the story was exactly what his grandparents experienced when they came over. If you don’t mind subtitles, I recommend it.

Had my ancestors never taken the chance to migrate here, I would never have been born. Thank you one and all.

That famous poem on the Statue of Liberty,
and a picture of Ellis Island. is a good place to start.

And here’s a very interesting 2-part, 18-minute documentary on immigration.


Vintage Greetings

As mentioned earlier this month, my husband and I are building a vintage postcard scrapbook — one postcard at a time. The album covers 100 years from 1860 to 1960 and has many slots yet to be filled. In the spirit of the season from now until New Year’s Day, I’ll share cards from my collection. Scroll down to see previous posts. Subscribe to get them in your inbox!


Here’s a sweet one dated 1911. It’s embossed too. The texture you see along the border is raised.



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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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2 Responses to Through the Golden Door

  1. treknray says:

    You have an interesting family history. My family on both sides emigrated from Germany to Russia, (Bessarabia now divided between Ukraine and Moldova). At the time it was considered South Russia. When they came to the US the passports said South Russia. Most of the cities and towns in the US named Odessa were settled by Russian German immigrants or at least they named the towns. Catherine The Great had the region settled by German wheat farmers. That is the business my family is still has in the state of Washington. My maternal grandmother lived in Odessa, Washington in the heart of the wheat country. Nearly all of the children of the immigrants still spoke German until they entered school.

    I like the card you featured today. 1911 was the year my dad was born. It was also the year my maternal grandmother, the last of my grandparents to arrive entered the US.

    My second son is the family genealogist. He has done tons of research. My wife’s family has been in the US since the colonies.

    I want to get the DNA test to see where my original ancestors came from.

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