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The AFIHC Celebrates Grand Opening

April 17th, 2001

New Database Provides Easy Access to More Than 60% of our Nation's Immigration Records

New York, NY (April 17, 2001) -  The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (the Foundation), National Park Service (NPS), Ellis Island immigrants and their families, dignitaries and other guests gathered today at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to celebrate the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center (Family History Center). The event included appearances by Tom Brokaw, Charles Grodin and Joel Grey; a search for Irving Berlin's immigration records involving his daughters and great grandson; an overview of the Family History Center's Family Scrapbook activity; and a presentation by Foundation Founding Chairman Lee A. Iacocca of the first annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards to Irving Berlin's family and three Ellis Island immigrants: Felicita (Gabaccia) Salto, age (86 years old); Seymour Rexsite, age (88 years old) and Marinus deNooyer, age (103 years old).

Today also marks the first annual "Ellis Island Family History Day," an event that is co-sponsored by the Foundation, the National Genealogical Society and America's Governors. "We have chosen today to open the American Family Immigration History Center for a very special reason," said Mr. Iacocca. "Ninety-four years ago, April 17, 1907, was greeted with the largest number of immigrants ever processed on one day at Ellis Island - 11,747 souls, more than twice the usual number. In honor of this historical event, we will recognize 'Ellis Island Family History Day' with our Family Heritage Awards program on April 17, from this year forward."

Other speakers at the event included Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton; Stephen A. Briganti, president and CEO of the Foundation; and Elder Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

The Family History Center is available on the Internet at, or by appointment and on a first-come, first-served basis at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. It features an electronic database containing valuable information on 22 million immigrants, passengers and crewmembers who entered the United States through the Port of New York between 1892-1924, the peak years of Ellis Island's processing. The data, taken directly from microfilms of the ships' passenger manifests provided by the National Archives and Records Administration, has never before been available electronically. It was extracted and transcribed through the generous efforts of the Latter-day Saints. "Twelve thousand of our volunteers donated 5.6 million hours to this project," said Elder Nelson. "They played a vital role in creating the Family History Center's database by reviewing and entering data on 22 million individuals taken from 3,678 boxes of microfilmed manifests."

The Family History Center provides easy access to information such as: an immigrant's given name and surname, ethnicity, last town and country of residence, date of arrival, age, gender, marital status, ship of travel, port of departure and line number on the manifest. The database is free-of-charge on the Internet or can be accessed at the Center for an entrance fee of $5 that includes a printout of an immigrant's arrival data. A scanned reproduction of the original ship's manifest, as well as a photo of the ship of passage, can be reproduced either on CD-ROM or on archival paper for an additional fee.

"Polls tell us that over 60% of Americans are interested in family history research*," said Mr. Briganti. "Information that previously might have taken months to find is now a click away. We give Americans the tools to begin a search of their past, often leading them to inquire further, reconnecting with long lost relatives and discovering tall tales, funny stories and family legends."

The Center, designed by Edwin Schlossberg Incorporated, also offers the Family History Scrapbook. Available to Ellis Island Foundation members, this is an advanced interactive database where individuals can scan in family photographs and personal documents, and enter audio recordings to store in the Center's national family history archive. Participants will receive either a paper or CD-ROM copy of their Scrapbook to take home. Scrapbooks can also be developed and accessed on the Internet at a later date.

As with previous Ellis Island projects, funding has come from the private sector, with no government funds employed.

*--According to a 2000 poll by Maritz Marketing Research, Inc.

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