Tag Archives: Ellis Island

5 Reasons Immigrants Came to America

I wrote this post two years ago on an older blog. It has received so much attention that I thought I’d post an updated (and better edited) version here. If you know something who might enjoy this, please pass it on.

Students at Ellis IslandIf you have immigrant ancestors, you’ve probably wondered why they came to America. There were many reasons, but here are a few to consider:

  1. They came to escape poverty.

Irish famine immigrantsThis was probably the BIGGEST reason. For the Irish, famine, particularly the Great Potato Famine–an Gorta Mór– in the 1840s to early 1850s, compelled people to seek their living in another place. Throughout the centuries there have been other seasons of failed crops and/or disastrous weather conditions that drove people to leave their homelands. If you know the year your ancestors left, look for what else may have happened during that time to get a better look at possible motivations.

 

  1. They came for religious freedom.

Mayflower 2

photo by Glenn Marsch

We’ve all heard that this is why the pilgrims came to America. Many of our ancestors’ narratives passed down contain this reason. But don’t forget that in centuries past the church ran the government, so in a sense they were coming for liberty. However, religious freedom is one of our rights we cherish in America. Today we refer to this as people being marginalized. When a group of people feel that they are in the minority in terms of something that is of major significance to them, they are likely to seek a more hospitable place to live.

 

 

  1. They came to avoid prosecution.

I’m sure that reason does not appear in any family Bibles, but the practice was feared enough at one time that the US government put in place stringent immigration rules in an attempt to avoid harboring all the world’s criminals. This did not appear to be a widespread problem at the turn of the 20th century, however, according to this paper. I’m sure there are some good stories out there, though, about folks who ran from the law.

Serbian Immigrants

  1. They came because a relative was already here.

Among certain immigrant groups, like the Italians, men would often come first, get a job, earn money, and then send for their wives and children. Or older children in a family would come first and prepare the way. Many Irish girls went to America and then saved money to bring their siblings over. Some immigrants had uncles waiting to help them get a good start. I’m sure many people have stories in their families about reunions at Ellis Island and other immigrant stations. At Ellis Island, in the room where folks rejoined their families, there was a pillar referred to as “The Kissing Post” because so many loved ones had been reunited there.

 

  1. They came not to stay.

photo source: Wystan

photo source: Wystan

This was particularly true of some Italian immigrants in the early 20th century. They brought no family, sent for no one, and came over just to work and save enough money to buy their own businesses or farms back in their native country. This was the time of the Industrial Revolution. They built the railroads, worked in mines, built the skyscrapers. America needed workers. These immigrants put up with squalid living conditions so that they could hoard as much as they could to send home to their families and to invest in businesses.

Immigrant tenement

Photograph taken by Jacob Riis of a five cent lodging house in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century.

This is not a story you hear very often when you look at those tenement pictures. I’m not saying everyone who came chose that kind of life, but some did. Many used the Land of Opportunity to get a better financial footing back home. However, there were some who had planned to stay temporarily but ended up never going back.

 

What stories have you heard? Why did your ancestors immigrate?

 

Why I Chose to Write About Ellis Island

Ellis Island, Grace's PicturesYou would be surprised how many times people ask me that question. Well, maybe you aren’t surprised. Maybe you would ask it yourself because you are curious how an author decides what to write about. Fair enough. But it surprises me because…why wouldn’t I? Ellis Island is iconic. Immigrants to the island passed by The Statue of Liberty and thought about what it would mean to live in America. It’s American pride in our heritage, in the struggles our ancestors endured to come here.

I Am Not From This Tradition

So far as I have been able to research, I have no roots coming through Ellis Island. The first line in which I was able to trace an immigrant ancestor marked his immigration from Ireland as coming in 1771. Ellis Island opened in 1892. The next line I traced back to the Massachusetts Bay Company. He came over from Wales around 1640. I’ve also been told of a possible connection to the Mayflower. There are more lines to trace but it seems pretty obvious I’m not going to find an Ellis Island ancestor.

Cindy Thomson's Ellis Island Series

So this answers another question I often get. Grace and Annie and Sofia–the main characters of my books in the Ellis Island series–are not based on my ancestors. So, why write about Ellis Island? I believe those immigrants, the ones who came over during the late 19th century and early 20th century, contributed greatly to the world we live in today and I wanted to honor their sacrifices by helping people to remember.

They Built America

Serbian ImmigrantsThe railroads, the Industrial Revolution, modern roadways, the Unions, Women’s Rights, motion pictures, subways…I could go on forever but most of these things were built and created and invented by Ellis Island immigrants or by those who came in the decades right before the immigration center was built. So, they are a part of all of America, a part of the past of all of us.

New York City History

1900s ManhattanAnother answer is the fascinating history of that era in New York. It was definitely something I was interested in. The vast divide between the poor and the rich. The corruption of the police department. The fledging publishing industry. The melting pot of first and second generation immigrants. Sofia’s Tune will end this series, and I’ll feel a little sad to let it go. I’ll probably be reading other novels set in that era and continue to think about those Hawkins House girls.

Are you interested in Ellis Island? Tell me why. 🙂

The Journey to Bring Readers Sofia’s Tune

Cindy Thomson's novel Sofia's Tune is coming!A Canceled Book Contract

It happens far more often in the publishing industry than you might think. At first I was crushed, but it happened a few years ago and I’ve recovered. 😉

It was a business decision, but one that I felt was unfair to readers who liked the series and wanted to see it wrapped up. Grace’s Pictures was hailed by Library Journal as,

GracePicforweb“…a delightful story of overcoming obstacles. Lynn N. Austin fans will savor this historical fiction series debut.”

Grace’s Pictures at this writing has received 143 customer reviews on Amazon, nearly half 5 stars.

 

 

 

 

Annie’s Stories was a 2014 Lime Award Nominee from the Christian Manifesto and Romantic Times gave it a 4-star review. And on Amazon 88% of reviewers gave it four or five stars.

Diane on Amazon wrote:

If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian fiction, Annie’s Stories is a must-read for you. I felt like I was catching up with old friends, and made some new ones that I hope to meet up with again the near future.”

I think readers should be able to catch up with what’s happening in 1903 with these characters and to meet new ones as well.Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson

So Why Was the Book Canceled?

Low sales. That is the bottom line. And in this market it is hard to get noticed. I don’t blame my publisher at all for the low sales. They marketed and got it reviewed all over. In fact, I received the most publisher support with these two books than I’ve ever had in my publishing career. Besides low sales, Christian publishers are publishing fewer historical titles these days, and bigger selling authors have become available when their publishers shut down or cut back.

I don’t blame myself either. I worked really hard to get the word out there. In fact, I don’t blame anyone! It’s just the way it is.

Why This is Not as Bad as it Sounds!

Authors have many more options these days. I’m going to publish Sofia’s Tune myself. BUT, having experienced superior editing and outstanding cover design, I will not be content to do a quick and inferior job. And it takes money to publish a great quality book. So I decided to see if readers would like to help with this effort, and I got a great response on Pubslush. I’m continuing the campaign here on my web site until I send the book off to an editor and a cover designer. Here is how you can be a part for as little as $5.

Your Chance to Influence Book Three of the Ellis Island Series!

Reader Feedback!

I’m looking for your thoughts about what you’d like to see (or not see) in book three of the Ellis Island Series, Sofia’s Tune. No promises, but I might be influenced by what you all say! After all, these books are for YOU! And those of you who’ve read the first two books probably have some great ideas. Now’s your chance to share them!

This poll only lasts a week, so please chime in and send your reading friends over!