Off to Find My Ancestors!
All aboard! I took a day trip down to the financial district to board the ferry and take a spin around the Statue of Liberty and onto Ellis Island! I have been doing some thinking lately about my heritage and realized that I really don’t know all that much about it. Lucky for me, the Internet and websites like ancestry.com have made it much easier to piece together just where your ancestors came from. So, that is exactly what I decided to do!
I spent my Friday night and into Saturday doing some research on each side of my family, in hopes of finding out who might have passed through Ellis Island. The few small factors I knew about my heritage pre-research was:
- The Osgoodby family probably originated from England
- At some point someone in the Osgoodby family had added the “by” to “Osgood” because they kept getting other people’s mail
- That my Grandma on my mom’s side originated from Germany
That’s about it! I turned to ancestry.com to help me start piecing the puzzle together. I shortly realized that I really needed to follow the men of the names to follow the bloodline to country origin. This got a little tricky on my mom’s side of the family since her dad’s name was William Jones. Let me tell you, there have been quite the number of William Jone’s in the world! This left me turning to my Dad’s side to study until I knew more info about my Grandpa, that I unfortunately never got to meet.
I ended up finding some interesting information! My Dad’s side of the family ended up getting a little complicated, but I traced it back to the early 1800’s. I ended up tracing the Osgoodby name much further back than I thought, and am a little unsure that the story about the mail is actually true. What I did find out though through tracing through multiple marriages and many children, the Osgoodby family is indeed out of England! I’m going to have to use another email address so I can sneak in another trial membership on ancestry.com and do some further research though since my trial membership expired before I could really get to the bottom of my ancestry on my mom’s side. It was a pretty cool experience though! It’s just amazing to me that there are resources like that today. I remember my Great-Grandma studying her genealogy quite a bit when I was young, and it is incredible how much easier it has become just in my lifetime. Of course, census data, birth and death certificates can’t always be found, and sometimes the data has errors, but just having the resources at the end of our fingertips is pretty remarkable!
After spending some time studying I was ready to go to Ellis Island and peer into their big book and point out my ancestors who first set foot in the U.S. on that very island in the Registry Room!
On the bus, and through the streets to Battery Park I go! I lucked out and had a beautiful sunny winter day! Which is good, because I spent a good amount of time waiting in line for tickets and security. I can safely say that I was probably the only person who lives in New York that was waiting in line that day. Except for maybe this guy….
Meet Pedro, Spanish dancing king. I was in line for over an hour and he never stopped dancing to his boombox. Then there was the homeless man who must have found a flute and was walking the line playing the beginning of the Star Spangled Banner, but nothing more. I don’t think he actually knew the whole song, or even how to play for that manner, but at least he was working it to make some money from the tourists.
Speaking of tourists.. I’m not usually a fan. I did make an effort to talk to a Dad and his Son in front of me in line. They lived in the Carolinas now, but lived outside of Seattle and Portland for years so it was great to connect with them over that. They told me they think I was the first real “New Yorker” (which I hardly would say I am) they had met during their trip. It was kind of nice though because I got to give them some non-touristy ideas, and answer their questions about how anyone could live in this crazy city. I like to think I had some sort of impact on how they will leave viewing the city. I ended up hanging out with them throughout the cruise trip, which was nice company since I had come on this trip solo.
I stayed on the boat at the stop at the Statue of Liberty. I scored a nice picture, but since the statue is closed for restoration I headed straight for the Island.
Aww, I had finally made it! Now where was that ancestor book? I did a quick run-around the museum, but didn’t seem to find anything. Then, I came to find out that there isn’t really a “book” but rather a database online that you could pay to use for ten minutes. BUMMER! Apparently this “big book” was an idea portrayed by Hollywood, but something that didn’t really exist. Not all was lost though! The Ellis Island museum was actually very cool! There were a ton of really cool artifacts from the immigrants trips to America as well as a very detailed history of why they had come and what they went through. I also sat in on their presentation of "Island of Hope - Island of Tears" to learn more about the courageous people who had made the trip to America leaving everything of theres behind. I actually found the video on Youtube if you are interested in watching it you can click on the hyperlink of the title.
It ended up being a very educational experience, and I’m glad I made the trip out there even if there wasn’t a big book of names. If you are interested in visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (They are a group package with your $13 Ferry Ticket) I’d suggest allowing at least 6 hours and buying your tickets in advance. Between standing in line for tickets and then security (airport style) for over an hour, it definitely eats up a lot of time. If you’re just looking to see the Statue of Liberty and skip over Ellis Island, I’d instead suggest hopping on the Staten Island Ferry, which is also at Battery Park, and take a ride back and forth to snap some photos. Plus, you’ll save yourself $13, because it’s free!