Monthly Archives: January 2012

Castle Garden Immigration Station – the Precursor to Ellis Island

Exterior of Castle Garden Immigration Station

 Before the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island there was Castle Garden. Most people believe that if their ancestors arrived through the port of New York that they arrived through Ellis Island. However, if your ancestors immigrated before January 1, 1892 and arrived through the port of New York, they would have had to go through Castle Garden. Located at the tip of Manhattan on what is known as the Battery is America‘s first official immigration center.

Between 1850 and 1892 over 8 million people from all parts of the world passed through this place looking for a better life in this land of opportunity. Each day hundreds, if not thousands of people passed through these doors. More than one in six native-born Americans are descendents of the 8 million who arrived at Castle Garden.(, Genealogy Guide Castle Garden) Most of these immigrants came from Germany, Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy, Russia and Denmark.

Castle Garden closed in 1892 due to the opening of Ellis Island. It later housed an aquarium and then faced demolition in the 1940s. The plans to demolish it were shelved due to public outcry however, and it sat vacant until the National Park Service took over operations in 1975. It is now known as Castle Clinton National Monument and is where tickets for ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are sold.

Interior of Castle Garden Immigration Station


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Why Does Family History Matter?

Queen Victoria’s family tree 1901. (image from http://wwwcastlescrownscottages.

I stumbled across an article this week with the title “Why does family history matter?” and it has kind of stuck with me. I admit, there are not a lot of people my age doing genealogy work. At one point I even had a woman tell me “it is so nice to see someone of child-bearing age interested in family research!” It kind of took me aback at first, but then I realized most of my dealings were generally with people older than myself. I think that is changing, however. With’s massive marketing campaigns, supplemented with their TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the ease of “point and click” genealogy hunting, more people of all ages are discovering genealogy.

I realize not everyone shares my passion for ancestor hunting. I often get frustrated when I come up with genealogical gems from my hubby’s side of the family and his response is “Hmm, that’s interesting.” So many times over the last ten years though I have heard other researchers say, “I really wish I had asked my Grandma (or Grandpa/Mom/Dad) more about the family while they were still alive.” All those wonderful memories, stories, challenges and dreams…just gone. Which I guess is why family history matters to me and why I have such a passion for what I do. I feel as if I am giving a voice to those that no longer have one. I help tell the story for those that can no longer tell their own. Family history is so much more than names and dates to me.

One of my favorite parts of research is discovering old family photos and being able to put a name to a face. I love seeing the old sepia toned black and whites. The ones where the women are wearing big hats with feathers and long, frilly dresses with up-swept hair and the men are always so serious in their three-piece suits.

The genealogists of tomorrow are going to have a difficult time putting names with faces if they don’t have the pictures to do so. The ease of digital photography unfortunately seems to have led to the virtual death of the printed picture. So many people I know don’t get prints made of their photographs anymore, they just “look at them on the computer.” This line of thinking just about brings me to tears. When the on-line photo repositories are long gone, how are grandchildren going to view pictures of their grandparents, their great-grandparents? I admit, since digital photography came along, I do not get my photos printed off as much as I used to. Instead of doing 20-40 pictures at a time, seems as if I’m getting 150-200 done at once. I think my record was 500 prints all in one order. And I am one of those people who write the names and dates on the backs of every photo, so I try not to wait that long anymore! I always write who is in the picture and when it was taken, just in case one day I have a great-grandchild who wants to know who is in that photo.

Who we were is so much a part of who we are. What is your story? What in your family’s past brought you to where you are now? Does family history matter to you?


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From Eire to the Wilds of Early Pennsylvania

Widow Piper’s Tavern, Shippensburg, PA. Built by Samuel Perry in 1735.

About 1730, my husband’s 6th great-grandfather, Samuel Perry came to this country from Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. Eventually, they would have five more children after settling in Pennsylvania. Samuel originally made his home in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, later moving to Lancaster County. Both places had hostile Indians who did not take kindly to squatters on their land. Samuel relocated his family to the relative safety of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, where he built three stone structures that still stand. The buildings are at 332 King Street which was called the Sign of the General Washington, a structure on the corner of North Queen and East King street, formerly Widow Piper’s Tavern, and was later used as the Courthouse, and finally, 427 East King Street, referred to as the Sign of the Spread Eagle.

Samuel moved the family again, this time from the town of Shippensburg to the wilds of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Indian raids were still taking place on farmers and settlers, but Samuel decided to risk it anyway. It was a fateful decision. Samuel Perry was attacked by Indians early in November 1756,  near Conococheague Creek. Accounts vary, one saying he was with two young boys/men, one being his son, Oliver, the other being a nephew or other relation; Robert Neely. One account has him leaving McDowell’s Fort in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, to his home when he was attacked. Another account says he was on his land, clearing it, when he was attacked, killed, scalped and then covered with leaves.  While we do not know which version is true, we do know that he was killed, scalped and covered with leaves, as there were several people who wrote of the attack to Pennsylvania Governor Denny.

Samuel’s nephew, Robert Neely lived the remainder of his life with the Seneca Indians after being taken by them during the raid. Many years later, Samuel’s son, Col. James Perry, inquired of his cousin Robert through an Indian agent. James asked the Indian agent to determine if Robert had any desire to rejoin his white family. Robert’s response was a firm “no.” The Indian agent told the family that Robert had a squaw and family of his own, and chose to live the rest of his life with the Seneca. This decision of Robert’s to stay with the Indians must have been troubling to his cousin, James, who probably had a hard time understanding why Robert would choose to live with the people who had killed his own uncle.


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