Now that you’ve studied lots of immigration vocabulary and expressions in the last lesson, let’s learn about the most famous immigration gateway in the world, Ellis Island.

Read the two texts, listen to the audio and watch the video all about the history of Ellis Island and the immigrants that passed through it.

Have fun with the lesson, and don’t forget to try the quizzes.

– James.

Lesson Contents

Text: The history of Ellis Island

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892.

The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has hosted a museum of immigration from 1990 to 1995.

It was long considered part of New York, but a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found that most of the island is in New Jersey.

Data file: Ellis Island

Location: Upper New York Bay

Area: 11.1 ha

Elevation: 2.1m

Immigration Centre Built: 1892

Architectural Style: Renaissance revival

Audio: The Gateway

Read the statements below and decide if they are true or false according to the audio.


Video: HG Wells at Ellis Island

Watch the video about H.G Wells’ experience at Ellis Island, then answer the questions below.


Text: A Russian Girl

A handsome, clear eyed Russian girl of about twenty-years, the daughter of a farmer comes in and sits down before us. She is clean and intelligent looking. She nervously clasps and uclasps her hands and the tears are welling in her eyes.
“That girl,” says one commissioner, “is an interesting and puzzling case. Her father is a farmer in moderate circumstances. A young man with whom she grew up, the son of a neighbour, came here two tears ago, and last year wrote to her father that the girl could come over and he would marry her. So she came, alone. But the prospective bridegroom didn’t show up. I wrote to him, he lives somewhere in New Jersey, and last week he appeared and looked her over. Finally he said he’s changed his mind. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to marry her or no. Naturally her pride was somewhat wounded. She says she doesn’t want to go back to be laughed at by her family, and I can’t let her land. So everything is at a standstill. She could work, look at her strong arms! A nice girl too. Well, I don’t know what to do. You don’t know any lady who wants a servant do you? No? Well, I just don’t know what to do with her.”
He turns again to the girl.
“Are you willing to marry Peter if he comes again?”
The girl nods and says, “I am”, the tears brimming over.
“Well, I’ll write to the fellow again and tell him he’s a fool. He’ll never have such a chance again.”


William Williams Papers, Ellis Island Commissioner, March 1910

Read the short text “A Russian Girl” and answer the questions about the vocabulary.

All Quizzes