Our Historical Journey to America

Posted by Lillie B. Michigan
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Nick Balesky and I compare and share our grandparents adventures from Europe to Michigan today.

Immigration is highly valued by Americans and it is important to American culture, known as the world's largest melting pot. One of the main places that European immigrants entered the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was through Ellis Island, located between New York and New Jersey and was opened in 1892 for immigrants to come into America. Immigrants that ventured over to the U.S. mostly came from all around Europe to escape wars, religious persecution, and drought. If they survive the long voyage over to America in the tightly packed, disease filled ships, they waited in long lines to be medically and legally inspected before being accepted into the U.S. The process could take up to weeks, “80 percent successfully passed through in a matter of hours” (History para. 6). Those that were not passed were sent back to the countries that they came from and they were denied access into the United States. Angel Island was also the other point of entrance into America in the San Francisco Bay that mostly dealt with immigrants from Asia mostly while Ellis Island saw Europeans.

I’m Nick Balesky and I am a junior at Okemos High School in Michigan. I recently realized that I didn’t know a lot about my family origin. I knew we had some family traditions but I didn’t know why or where they came from. I decided to embark on a journey to discover my roots and find out the path that got me to where I am today.

My great grandma on my mom’s side, Bridget Kellaher, immigrated to the United States from County Kerry, Ireland. In 1913, she passed through Ellis Island with practically no baggage. Push factors for her included poverty, too many family members to feed, and a struggling farm. She had to pass medical tests which proved she wasn’t bringing diseases to the United States. She also had to pass legal tests to show that she did not have a criminal background and that she would be a good citizen in America. How Bridget would live the rest of her life, and how I would live my life, depended heavily on whether she was accepted or not. She was granted access to the United States after passing those couple of tests and she was able to start her life all over again. She then met my mom’s great grandpa and they gave birth to my grandpa who grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Wisconsin. My grandpa then moved to East Lansing to become a professor at Michigan State University.

My name is Lillie Brewer, I am a junior at Okemos High school, and I live in Michigan. While learning about American Creed and its history, it was brought to my attention that I didn’t fully know my ancestry and how I came to be here today. I was inspired do some research and here is a little portion of my story and how I came to be the person I am.

My great great grandma on my dad's side, Milawinna Wilson, came over to America through Ellis Island in 1925 from Dundee, Scotland. She travelled via boat with both her mom and dad at the age of ten years old leaving the rest of her family back in Scotland. The 1907 Immigration Act was put in place to restrict and reduce the number of immigrants, that made it a lot longer of a process for the Wilson family to get into America. After waiting in line for over 46 hours to take a English test and have a health inspection, they were finally cleared to enter the U.S. My family then took a journey further into New York where they had a log cabin on Lake Ontario, where Milawinna started her own family and later moved to Jackson, Michigan. My great grandfather started up a family plumbing business in 1940 that my dad and brothers are working at today, continuing the passed down shop. Then my father was the first in his family to move from Jackson to come live with my mother in East Lansing while she finished school at Michigan State University.

Becoming a U.S. citizen today is a lot harder then back in the day when you only had to pass a few English and health tests. There are a few different ways to get into the U.S., one being “citizenship through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen,” (How to apply para. 1). In order to be eligible to apply, one would have to have possession of a green card for a minimum of five years, be fluent in English, and have good personality characteristics. Then you would have to take the United States Naturalization Test that proves that you are prepared to become an American. Passing the test then earns you a certificate of citizenship into the U.S. and can be made into a dual citizenship certificate if need be. We are both beyond thankful to live where we do and be given the gift of life after all the struggles our families went through to make the journey to America. Comparing both of our stories have allowed for us to see how different our stories are, coming from neighboring countries that had their own individual struggles is interesting to see how different they can be. This also allowed for us to have good conversations with our family members to get a lead on what to start looking for and where, connecting with people we haven’t gotten to talk to in while. I couldn't imagine life in any other country that we are today because of all the great opportunities we are given here. 

Citations:

History.com Staff. “Ellis Island.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“How to Apply for U.S. Citizenship.” How to Become a U.S. Citizen | USAGov, 19 Oct. 2017, www.usa.gov/become-us-citizen.

Published on Feb 27, 2018
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