In its 63 years of existence (1892 to 1954), the Federal Immigration Station on Ellis Island processed over 12 million immigrants from many countries.
Record-keeping at Ellis Island was difficult, due to the sheer number of immigrants processed daily. Many immigrants had no records with them. Mistakes (linguistic and otherwise) made it difficult to ascertain where an immigrant came from, yet it is clear there were three main countries of origin.
Countries of Origin
While immigrants came from Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic and Balkan countries, Russia, Africa and the Middle East, three small European countries sent the most immigrants through Ellis Island.
Top Three Countries of Origin
Ireland, Italy, and Germany were the three countries most represented at Ellis Island.
Even before the Ellis Island facility opened, Ireland was strongly represented (millions fled the Potato Famine of 1845 to come to America). The first immigrant processed at Ellis Island was Irish – Annie Moore, 15, of Cork, Ireland. Today, some 44 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.
Some 4.5 million Italians came through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1900. In the years 1900 to 1914, the number increased to 5 million. Currently, about 25 million Americans trace their ancestry to Italy.
While Germany is the third largest country of origin represented at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1900, Germany accounted for the largest number of immigrants (many came prior to 1892). Some 47 million Americans now trace their ancestry to Germany.