I remember the first time I ever saw the Statue of Liberty. It was the summer of 1986. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) was formed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. Lee Iacocca, head of Chrysler Corporation led an effort that raised $600 million for the repair and preservation of the Statue, Liberty Island, and the immigration facilities on Ellis Island.
The foundation spent four years renovating the statue. Architects and engineers worked with historians to develop the plans implemented by almost 1,000 laborers. Liberty’s torch was replaced, her insides strengthened, and new elevators were installed. Liberty Island was closed for four years while they conducted the restoration.
Liberty Weekend was held over the Fourth of July in 1986 to celebrate the reopening. Activities were held over four days. The largest flotilla of tall ships in modern times passed by to honor her in Operation Sail. The Closing Ceremonies were held on July 6 at Giants Stadium. A number of my friends performed in the Liberty Band, with representatives of colleges and universities around the country. Some of us went down to see the ceremonies in person. I had never seen such fesitivities. In addition to the band, we got to see Gene Kelly, Shirley Maclaine, Liza Minelli, Patti LaBelle, the Pointer Sisters, the Four Tops, and more. I didn’t get to visit Ellis Island that weekend (way too many people trying), but I did get to see her from the shore for the very first time. Even from the distance, she was quite imposing (I finally got to visit the statue in 1988, and paid a return visit on the Fourth of July this year).
Four years later, Ellis Island was reopened, and in 2001 a website was established that provided access to more than 51 million passenger arrival records. After more than a decade in service, the website itself is undergoing a renovation. SOLEIF recently launched a beta version of the new website.
The new site is cleaner, and easier to navigate. You can search by passenger’s name or by ship. Results include a textual transcription of the manifest, an image of the original manifest, and information about the ship (including images of ships that docked here). If you see mistakes in the way your ancestor’s name was indexed, you can request a correction to be made.
If you have an existing account on the old website, you will need to select a new password when you log in to the new site. Other than that, you should have no problems accessing the site.
Remember that this is a beta site, which means some things may not always be working. And other parts may change as they conduct tweaks. The good news is that OLEIF is actively soliciting feedback about the site, and welcomes your comments. Check out the new site at www.libertyellisfoundation.org.