Was there an age rule for children traveling with mother to Ellis Island in 1913? #usa #general


Wrapping up family research, my great grandmother immigrated to America in 1913 with three children.  Two were around 12 and 9 while the other was around 6.  The family was always told that there was some type of obstacle in getting the youngest child through the process at Ellis Island.  There was some kind of worry that she would not get through. One of the main reasons to their understanding, is that she may have been too young to travel. I'm under the impression, that there is no age that would be too young, as long as you are escorted by your parent.  Can anyone confirm this, or shed light on what age issues could be?
Thank you,
Johanna Pertuis


Hi Johanna, 
Yes from what I've seen there were no limits on accompanied minors. Although there seem to have been rules about unaccompanied minors starting around 1907. 

(There are probably more resources at the link to the Ellis Island museum in the story as well) 

Certainly there are myths and fears that surrounded immigration stories (like that the Ellis Island officers would change names, when they really didn't). 
Anecdotally, my family had a case where family history always said my great grandmother's infant "was taken away from her" at Ellis Island in 1915. However, the notes on the manifest state that the infant was sick and died, but they aren't clear if she was able to remain with her child or not during the illness. People were very often quarantined or kept apart from their groups if they were deemed to be ill, so that could have translated into them fearing being separated or being sent back. 
Not sure if that helps. 
Theresa Koenigsknecht 

Odeda Zlotnick

Anecdotally, my family had a case where family history always said my great grandmother's infant "was taken away from her" at Ellis Island in 1915. However, the notes on the manifest state that the infant was sick and died, but they aren't clear if she was able to remain with her child or not during the illness.
A good point.  And it's well worth remembering that for many years later, the norm everywhere was that hospitalized children and infants were kept away from their parents - sometimes without visits at all, sometimes with extremely limited visiting hours. This was not a special case of "Ellis Island cruelty".

I've seen many manifests of women coming with very young children, even infants arriving in Ellis Island. I have no doubt the if there were some kind of general rule people would have known, and not endangered their young ones by coming with them. 

A search in Stephen Morse's Gold Form Searching Enhanced Ellis Island Database in One Step (stevemorse.org) for immigrants 0 to 4 years old yields the following: Passenger records 1 to 50 out of 1115436

Odeda Zlotnick
Jerusalem, Israel.


There was no minimum age for an accompanied minor.  My father arrived at age 7; Dad's siblings, ages 5 and 2, were on the same ship.
If there was a problem with your great-grandmother's children, it may have been a medical condition of some kind, possibly an eye disease.
Yale Zussman.

george weiss

My Mother aged 12 and her Brother aged 14 travelled alone from Belaya Tzerkov to England and boarded a Ship(in 1923) to New York..Went through Ellis Island with no problems to travel to Chicago where their Uncle was( was reported on the Ships Manifest their destination.
George Weiss


According to Susan Weinberg in her IAJGS 2022 Conference lecture on immigration, in 1907 the US Government restricted entrance of people with physical and mental defects and also anyone with tuberculosis.  They also required that a child either travel with an adult or have one waiting for him/her upon arrival.  Is there a Special Inquiry record for your people?  There might be something on that to indicate a potential issue.

Marlise Gross
Cherry Hill, NJ

Jill Whitehead

In terms of Baltic/North Sea travel to UK in 1860s and 1870s (probably from Libau or Konigsberg), a number of my ancestors arrived as infants or babes in arms with their parents, including a daughter (b c 1865) who was the eldest surviving child of at least 12 children, with the rest being born in Hull from 1870 onwards.

But there were also examples of unaccompanied children travelling. In 1870 my great grandparents (who were first cousins, and married in Edinburgh in 1877) arrived in Edinburgh aged 11 and 15, together with the two brothers of my great grandfather aged 8 and 6 respectively.  They were joining my great grandfather's sister and her husband and infant daughter who had arrived in 1868 from Warsaw (where they married in 1867 and had their daughter in 1868). They all came from Vishtinetz, then in Poland, now Vistytis in Lithuania. My great grandparents came direct on the sea route, not via Warsaw, but apparently there was a community of people in Warsaw who came from Vishtinetz, in the aftermath of the 1863 Polish uprising and the Baltic famine of the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK

Jx. Gx.


There were no age restrictions of children traveling with an adult to America. In addition to all the anecdotal accounts mentioned here of family members arriving in America with children, there are hundreds of photos online showing young children with their parents arriving at Ellis Island. Women traveling alone or with children were detained briefly until a husband, father, brother or other relative could be contacted and collect them. That is what happened with my two grandmothers when they arrived at Ellis Island. This policy was enforced to protect women from falling prey to the sex trade. There were all kinds of unsavory characters hanging around the ports looking for easy targets.

Jeffrey Gee


My maternal grandfather traveled with an uncle from Russia to Ellis Island. Family lore has it that they were separated before disembarkment, so my grandfather lied about his age to make himself old enough to enter the country on his own.  Like many, he actually didn't know his birthdate, only that it was Passover of a certain year in the 1890s. 

My paternal grandfather brought several younger siblings from Russia to Ellis Island. He was about 17-18 at the time.  His siblings were about 9 or 10 years old. 

From this anecdotal history, I conclude that there was a minimum age for children traveling alone, but not for those traveling with adults. 
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC

Susan J. Gordon

I don't know about age rules, but I do recall learning that children ages 2 and older were required to walk independently, without holding on to a grownup's hand (and certainly, not being carried). I learned this when I was writing my story, "Ellis Island Hanukkah," and researching the reopening of the immigration center at Ellis Island in 1900, when the new, red brick fireproof Main building opened (after the previous one - burned down). Guess what? Opening day was during Hanukkah!

Susan J. Gordon
LEMPERT - Lvov, Skalat, Czernowitz


Hi Susan,
Your response brings up another question for me!  I just looked up the fire on Ellis Island and see it happened in 1897.  Was the immigration center shut down for three years?  Did immigrants still come through but accommodations were not as good? I have paperwork for my great grandfather who appears to have gone through Ellis Island in 1899.  Then his son travels through Philadelphia in 1900, we couldn't figure out why that would be. Was it because the immigration center was closed at that time?  The rest of the family comes in three shifts.  His daughter in 1901 is detained at Ellis Island until her gets here, etc.
Thank you,
Johanna Pertuis

Susan J. Gordon

Immigration continued through 1897 - 1900, in lower Manhattan. I wish I knew, for sure, the answer to Johanna's question (above) but there are good responses here, - 

Jx. Gx.

RESPOSE TO Johanna Pertuis and Susan Gordon:

Your questions require a little background history. Prior to the opening of Ellis Island in 1890, individual states, rather than the Federal Government, regulated immigration into the United States. Castle Garden (now Castle Clinton), located in the Battery of Lower Manhattan, served as the NY State immigration station from 1855 to 1890. After the Federal Government took control, it began construction of the Ellis Island immigration station.  During the time that the station was was being built, the Federal Government used the Barge House at the Battery for processing arriving immigrants (April 1890 to Dec 1891). After the fire of 1897 destroyed the Ellis Island facility, the government temporarily re-opened the Barge House for immigrant processing (June 1897 to Dec 1900) until a new facility was built at Ellis Island using fire-proof brick.

To take this one step further, during World War I when Ellis Island was taken over by the military, arriving immigrants who would otherwise have been processed at Ellis, were processed aboard the ship they arrived on.

Jeffrey Gee