Museum of Family History

Visit                   Site Map                  Exhibitions                  Education & Research                  Multimedia                  About the Museum                  Contact Us                   Links


  From the Pale to the Golden Land
   How Our Families Came to America



Most Jews wanted to leave Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to escape the many hardships that confronted them on a daily basis. Many young men and women desired to pull themselves out of poverty, or at least to better themselves,  to create a life that they thought was possible in other countries such as the United States and other countries around the world. Others wanted desperately to avoid the draft and conscription (remember the Russo-Japanese War) into their country's army. Many wanted to join family members who had already immigrated, or perhaps they simply wished to fulfill whatever dreams they had for a better life. Unfortunately, their emigration often caused a lifelong separation from the family they would leave behind, especially their aging parents. Many, especially the elderly, grew habituated to where they were living and their traditional way of life and would not leave.

Those who wished to emigrate most often would have to cross over foreign borders in order to get to one of the major ports in northern Europe. Trying to get to these ports was risky business for many. Often border guards would have to be bribed so they would look the other way. At times, agents were hired to sneak the emigrant across the various borders.

 Once at the port, they would have to bide their time until it was time to board their ship, most likely destined for some port in the United States. Some decided to board whatever ship they could, regardless of their preferred destination, just to know that they were on their way to leading a new life somewhere else.

More  than seventy percent of immigrants that would make the United States their new home came in through Castle Garden and later through Ellis Island. At Ellis Island there would  hopefully be someone who would meet them there. Before that, they would have to pass through a myriad of inspection stations in order for the inspectors to determine whether they should be admitted to the U.S. or denied entry.

In this part of the Museum, it will be an ongoing mission to provide information about how our families managed to emigrate and immigrate. Hopefully, when taken as a whole, it will eventually paint a picture of the troubles and travail that our ancestors had to deal with in order to become denizens, if not citizens, of the United States.

If you have a story about the experience that your family had during their emigration/immigration and wish to share it with others, please contact the Museum at




Copyright Museum of Family History. All rights reserved.