"Ellis Island was established in 1892 as the nation's foremost immigration station. Here, inspectors and clerks of the federal Bureau of Immigration for the New York area would classify immigrants as either eligible to enter the country or inadmissible.
The processing usually began after the ocean liners had docked at a West Side Manhattan pier. Here, the immigrants were tagged both with their own names and those of the ships on which they had arrived. Tagging was important to identify newcomers who could hardly speak English, but also to ship owners, who were responsible for returning (at their own cost) immigrants deemed inadmissible.. Immigrants then went by ferry directly to Ellis Island, where they were examined by Public Health Service physicians for signs of any physical and mental disorder. Any suspected health problem would cause them to be detained for further examination. After passing the examination, immigrants waited in long lines to enter the Registry Room, also known as the Great Hall, where they would be interrogated by an immigration inspector, usually assisted by an interpreter. Some thirty basic questions probed their origins, literacy in their native languages, personal funds, and any relatives or friends in the U.S. Any doubt arising from this questioning automatically led to further inquiry - which amounted to detention - before the case was finally decided by one of the several Boards of Special Inquiry.
Estimates suggest that some twenty percent of all immigrants who passed through Ellis Island were detained either for medical reasons or for further interrogation. The majority of those detained and subsequently rejected were not deported; roughly 2 percent would be barred from entering the country. Yet detention could be an anxious affair, lasting hours, days, weeks, or even months." - Peter Mesenholler
I've tried to use photos from the turn of the century to make it easier to imagine
Tomaso, Gaetano, Concetta and Columba taking part in this.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress
and The Ships List
Ellis Island 1905
Arriving at Ellis
Waiting to be examined
Overhead view of Examination Hall.