In this free video, discover how to search for ancestors who may be included on the Ellis Island Immigrant Wall of Honor, and learn how you can honor ancestors’ by adding them to the list. 

Watch Now:

Resources:

Download the ad-free Show Notes cheat sheet for this video here. (Premium Membership required.)

Show Notes: Ellis Island Wall of Honor

Millions of our ancestors came through Ellis Island in New York. Mine certainly did. So it’s a great place for genealogists to explore and learn new things about their family history. Well, there have been some changes and things happening over at the Ellis Island Foundation. And here to tell us more about it is Suzanne Mannion. She’s the Director of Public Affairs have the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation. 

The American Immigrant Wall of Honor Ellis Island

The American Immigrant Wall of Honor-Courtesy of Paul Seibert Photography

About the Ellis Island Wall of Honor

From Suzanne: The American immigrant Wall of Honor was introduced in 1990, when the Ellis Island Museum opened, originally, it was after the foundation had restored Liberty Ellis Island. It was a way to support the foundation. But more importantly, it was a way to celebrate people’s individual family immigrant experience.

Primarily it was Ellis Island immigrants and or their descendants whose names are on the on the wall for the start. Then over the years, it expanded. It’s now open to everyone, regardless of your immigration story or timeline.

It’s really been so well received. There are more than 800,000 names on the original wall of honor. So, that actually filled up and we had to turn people away and say, sorry, we’re filled up. Then through our partnership with the National Park Service, we were able to expand the Wall of Honor, which we just announced earlier this year.

The first round of names on the expanded wall are being submitted right now, and through the end of this year (2023). Those names will be unveiled in the summer of 2024. We were so excited that the Park Service gave us this opportunity, because people were disappointed thinking they had missed their chance to include their ancestors. So many people want to celebrate whether it’s themselves, their parents, or a loved one. They want to celebrate the immigrant experience, because that’s what Ellis Island is all about whether your family came here like mine in the in the mid-1800s or last year. It’s all about the celebration.

Names Expanded to All Immigrants

From Lisa: You might be really surprised to realize that many of the names that are on the wall are not people who came through Ellis Island. Normally at an historic site you would expect to see plaques and signage only referring to those involved with that site. So, I’m interested, when did that decision get made? When did it change from a wall of honor Ellis Island to including everybody?

From Suzanne: It was probably in the early 2000s. So, as you know, the Ellis Island database was launched in April of 2001.

Passenger Database Search

And so, with that people were celebrating the Ellis experience. Whether or not it’s true, I say oh, we should take some credit for helping genealogy become such a popular pastime! So, with that people came in, and even those visiting who didn’t have roots through Ellis Island, they felt the connection to America’s immigration story. So, people started asking if they could add their names to it. And it made complete sense.

Our goal is to continue expanding our database, so it has more ports of entry. And with that, we’re at the National Museum of Immigration

So, we thought, let’s tell the whole story. So yeah, it’s been, I would say, well over a decade that the immigrant didn’t have to have come through Ellis Island to be included. I’m loving seeing and hearing other people’s stories and these different countries because it was very much a European thing like that. And now, they’re from all over the world.

Searching the Wall of Honor Database

From Lisa: You mentioned that there is a database. Before we try to submit a name, we’d like to check and see if the name is already there. Where can they search this database on the website, and would include any more information on that particular database besides just the fact that the names on the wall?

From Suzanne: Yeah, there’s two different databases. There’s the Ellis Island database through which one can trace family or anyone who came to the port of New York Between 1820 and 1957.

Ellis Island Passenger Database Search

And then the Wall of Honor database

Ellis Island Wall Of Honor and Database Search

In there you can see the name of the person who’s on the wall, and the person who submitted the name. So, some people do it for themselves. But it could be from Suzanne, “in honor of her great, great, Grandfather Michael Mannion.”

How to Add a Name to the Wall of Honor

From Lisa: What’s the process for adding our ancestor’s name? You mentioned that there might be a deadline. We’re recording here in 2023. Can they continue to add names into the new year?

From Suzanne: The opportunity is continuous. But what we do is we only put up a new panel once a year. So, from January 1 to December 31, people submit their names. Then at the beginning of the following calendar year, we create a new panel, and then we unveil it in early summer.

Add a Name to the Wall of Honor

So, if you want to make it onto that first panel of the wall expansion, then please submit the name or names by the by the 31st of December, 2023. But you can certainly participate after that.

Foundation Fundraiser and Cost

From Lisa: I believe this is a fundraiser for foundation correct?

From Suzanne: It is such a great way to show support for the foundation and the work that we do in restoring and preserving the two monuments. The cost starts at $275 for a one-line inscription.

Add a Name to the Wall of Honor

The website explains the process and the pricing. There are higher levels such as Steward levels, if you want more lines. That provides additional support for the foundation. Also, if you join, become a member at a certain level, that includes a wall of honor inscription. So, there are many ways to support the work that we do.

The History of the Foundation

We’ve been around since 1982. President Reagan asked Lee Iacocca to head up the effort to not only raise money, but to oversee the restoration of the statue and of Ellis Island for their Centennials. We’ve continued to work closely with our partners at the National Park Service.

In 2019 we opened the Statue of Liberty museum on Liberty Island.

Statue of Liberty Museum

It’s a small museum but with a big, big impact. There are beautiful visuals, and her original torch lives right there.

We don’t take government money to do any of the projects at the islands. It’s all through donations and has been since our inception. And we’re very proud of that.

From Lisa: I remember back in high school when Lee Iacocca was taking this on, and my grandmother was so excited because her parents had come through Ellis Island. It was in really tough shape back then. What stands there today is just amazing. It’s a wonderful experience. I encourage everybody watching to at some point make the visit because it really is heart touching.

EarthCam at Ellis Island

From Suzanne: Yes, and check out our website. We have some amazing views ! We are partnering with a company called EarthCam. You can see different views from the statue, and learn more

State of Liberty EarthCam

How Donated Money is Used

From Lisa: In the spirit of good stewardship, how is the money used? Does it only support the creation of the Ellis Island Wall of Honor? Or are there specific projects that you’ve had in mind this year that this money goes directly to that we can maybe look forward to in the future?

From Suzanne: Yeah, I can’t say right now. But I would love to come back in a few months to talk about a project we’re planning over on Ellis Island.

The donations that come via the Wall of Honor support the foundation’s mission in general, to restore and preserve the two monuments. And that includes maintaining the wall of honor.

Another thing that may inspire people to add the name this year is because costs are going up to not only create this new expansion and to maintain the wall, there will be a $25 increase in inscription starting January 1, 2024.

From Lisa: Suzanne, it’s always great to talk to you. Thank you so much for sharing this news. And I look forward to new and more news next year.

Resources:

Download the ad-free Show Notes cheat sheet for this video here. (Premium Membership required.)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
MENU