Friday, May 30, 2014

Family Tree

We played tourist big time in New York City, but does it really count as being a tourist when you’re researching for family member names on the walls at Ellis Island? Or does that make it more of a research mission? I’m going with research mission, because I really dislike looking like a tourist, especially when it means I feel like the cattle in a round up, being herded through crowds of people, the pushing and shoving because they want to be one person ahead of you. The boat was tough, the mass of tourists a little harder to handle and I don’t know if it was because I have my New York hustle on already or if I really just don’t like large groups of people, I’m going with hustle, my New York hustle, this city really gets my need for speed walking, tourists, not so much.

Taking the boat to Ellis Island was one of our “must do’s” while here in NYC and a win-win because it also meant we got to throw in Lady Liberty as well while out to sea. Lack of planning on our part and not knowing that we needed to reserve crown view tickets three months in advance only allowed us access to climb the stairs to the pedestal, but still the views of the New York skyline were spectacular.

Looking out from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty really doesn't do her justice. She looks small, it isn't until you are there, clouded by her majestic shadow that you get the true experience and ambiance of what she represents; Lady Liberty casts spirit and hope into those that set eyes upon her. She is iconic Americana and I can only imagine what she meant to those immigrating to America as she came into view from their ship decks, after months at sea. The excitement and nerves bursting at the surface and then seeing her, having Lady Liberty as their anchor, a symbol of freedom and a new beginning to life; she possess such iconic symbolism, so much greatness.

Seeing the Statue of Liberty was just the prelude to exploring Ellis Island, experiencing a fraction of elation that the immigrants must have felt before touching ground on Ellis Island, their first steps as Americans. Today, 40% of Americans can trace an ancestors back to Ellis Island, somebody that stepped foot here on this country before them, enduring the medical and legal inspections before being sent on their way to their new beginning.

Tom’s great grandfather Salvatore Compagno came over from Sicily on one of these boats with his family, including his grandfather Anthony Joseph Compagno as a young child; both of these men have their names engraved on the walls of Ellis Island and searching them out was such a thrill. I only wish I could have known these men, heard their stories and the experiences of their great journey and their new start as Americans. It is something I wish they would have written down, to read what they felt and endured to experience it through their eyes would be such a great family history to carry down for generations. If only they could have had blogs back then, sigh!

Salvatore Compagno, Tom's Great Grandfather
Anthony Joseph Compagno, Tom's Grandfather
Watching Tom search out names, taking pictures and looking out over the wall was such a treat; I loved seeing him so excited to search out these men’s names, to document them for his parents and siblings, it was so worth the cattle round up and something I would happily do again, just to see that smile of his!

1 comment:

  1. Mission complete! I'm happy that you did this. Maybe one day I'll make it over there :)