Home Today Is Ellis Island Was Previously Gull Island, Oyster Island, and Gibbet Island

Ellis Island Was Previously Gull Island, Oyster Island, and Gibbet Island

Each year on April 17th, National Ellis Island Family History Day encourages families to explore their ancestry and discover family who immigrated by way of Ellis Island.

  • From 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island served as the busiest inspection station for millions of immigrants to the United States.
  • On this day in 1907, officials recorded just under 12,000 names passing through Ellis Island. During all of 1907, officials processed over one million immigrants through Ellis Island.
  • During its operation, approximately 12 million immigrants passed through the halls of Ellis Island. It operated from 1892 to 1954.
  • Before Ellis Island, immigrants entered the United States in New York City at Castle Garden. Just months before Ellis Island’s opening, the old depot was demolished and ushered in a new era of immigration.
  • The Statue of Liberty overlooks Ellis Island and was one of the first sights the nearly 2,000 immigrants a day would see as they disembarked.
  • It was called Gibbet Island in the early 18th century after a group of pirates were hung from gibbets there.
  • Immigrants had to answer 29 questions to gain citizenship. Approximately 2 percent of all immigrants failed due to criminal records, disease, or other undesirable responses.
  • The remains of 6 Native Americans were removed from Ellis and Liberty Islands and have since been returned to their resting places by the National Park Service.
  • The immigration station processed its last immigrants on November 12, 1954. Today, it functions as a museum.
  • At its peak in 1907, the Immigration Station processed a record 1.25 million immigrants; 11,747 were processed in a single day.
  • Before the island came under government jurisdiction, there wasn’t much on the island. But there was a bar and restaurant for fishermen, according to Edgecombe. Today, you can see Ellis Island from a lesser-known floating bar, the William Wall, that serves as the clubhouse for the Manhattan Yacht Club.
  • The borders of Ellis Island have been contested since the early 1800s, coming to a final head in a Supreme Court case in 1998. There it was ruled that the areas constructed by landfill after 1834 belonged to New Jersey, this includes the entire abandoned side.’
  • It has had several names in history including Gull Island, Oyster Island, and Gibbet Island. It was called Gibbet Island because pirates were hung on the island in the 1760s.
  • The latest theories in healthcare were implemented at the south side hospitals of Ellis Island. It was thought at the time that corners harbored disease, so all the corners are rounded. The hallways of the hospital, with curved walls, were designed by Florence Nightingale.
  • Only 2% of the immigrants who tried to enter the United States through Ellis Island were rejected. However, this didn’t stop the island from being nicknamed “Heartbreak Island” after the many that still failed to make it through.
  • A common misconception is that immigration officers changed or anglicised immigrants’ names. This did not happen. Many immigrants had their names changed, but it was not due to immigration officials. Instead, it was the responsibility of the officers aboard the ships that brought the immigrants to America to prepare the immigration documents. Many of these officers made mistakes in the immigration forms, particularly with the spelling of names. Some of the ship officers were also simply lazy.


National Day Calendar


Faith Based Events

Untapped Cities


Go Visit NYC

Genealogy In Time