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Sunday, December 9

Ellis Island - Board of Special Inquiry


While approximately one in five were detained for the Board of Special Inquiry, only 2% of the 12 million immigrants processed at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954 were ever deported and sent back to their home countries.

The most common exclusion was "Likely Public Charge," taken from the section of law which excludes anyone who might become a burden on the public. Many of these cases were coupled with medical certificates, because it was a medical condition or physical disability which caused officials to think the immigrant would not be able to earn their own living. Three Inspectors sitting on a Board of Special Inquiry would question the immigrant further and decide whether to admit them.  

Estella Giardino Rosso was given BSI status. But in my grandmother’s case, it was granted as she had a child in the hospital allowing her to continue her stay. The full record (snippets below) shows she arrived on February 20, 1915 and was released to Antonio Rosso on March 5 at 1:15pm after spending a total of 14 days at Ellis Island. Caterina Russo (my aunt Catherine Rosso) is also shown on this BSI listing separately. 

Tell me your thoughts and if you can add to my family story! If you enjoy this blog, I'd be very grateful if you'd share with a friend...you never know who may be a potential cousin!

Sunday, December 2

Ellis Island - 29 Questions



During their crossing, immigrants were required to complete 29 questions upon arrival at Ellis Island. Their answers were scrutinized by the Immigration Inspectors in the Great Hall.  Any issue might put an immigrant in front of the dreaded Board of Special Inquiry, who would ultimately decide if they could stay in the US. Imagine your fate being determined in two minutes with an inspector and the following questions.

1. Your manifest number (from your ship)
2. What is your full name?
3. How old are you?
4. Are you male or female?
5. Are you married, single, widowed or divorced?
6. What is your occupation?
7. Are you able to read and write? 
8. What country are you from?
9. What is your race? (note: no question was asked about religion)
10. What was your last permanent place of residence? (city and country)
11. What is the name and address of a relative from your native country?
12. What is your final destination in America? (city and state)
13. Your number on the immigration list?
14. Do you have a ticket to your final destination? 
15. Who paid for your passage?
16. How much money do you have? 
17. Have you been to America before? If so when, where and how long?
18. Are you meeting a relative here in America?  If so, who and their address?
19. Have you been in a prison, charity almshouse, or insane asylum?
20. Are you a polygamist?  
21. Are you an anarchist? 
22. Are you coming to America for a job?  What and where will you work?
23. What is the condition of your health?
24. Are you deformed or crippled?
25. How tall are you?
26. What is your skin color?
27. What color are your eyes and hair? 
28. Do you have any identifying marks? (scars, birthmarks, or tattoos)
29. Where were you born? (city and country)


The key questions the inspectors focused on were purposely scattered throughout – 6, 16 and 22.  In other words, would you be able to contribute or will you become a burden on society? Only after all was in order, physical and questionnaire, would they be released.

Once cleared, they could grab a hot meal in the Dining Hall, locate their baggage, exchange their currency for dollars, and then be ferried to train stations in New Jersey.

Tell me your thoughts and if you can add to my family story! If you enjoy this blog, I'd be very grateful if you'd share with a friend...you never know who may be a potential cousin!