Exterior of restored Ellis Island main building, Island One.


Retracing the Steps of our Immigrant Ancestors

Slide Lecture
Ellis Island
Immigrant Cookbook
Ellis Island 1978-1980
About Tom Bernardin



What services do you provide?

I am a licensed New York City tour guide specializing in guided tours of Ellis Island. I also provide complete tour planning for groups and individuals with an interest in visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty specifically and New York in general.

I gave my first tour of Ellis Island in 1978 as a National Park Service ranger at pre-restoration Ellis Island and have been closely affiliated with this remarkable place ever since.

I generally meet guests at Castle Clinton, or on Ellis, but I can also pick up your group at your hotel.
In addition, many folks on my tours decide to purchase a copy of my book, The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook as a souvenir of their visit.

How do we get to Ellis Island?

As of January 1, 2008, a new ferry service is bringing folks to the islands. Hornblower’s website is http://www.statuecruises.com. I strongly suggest you visit their site to get the most up-to-date information. You can also call them at 1-877-LADY TIX (877-523-9849)

Hornblower now offers a convenient service. You can now purchase “Reserve Tickets” for a specific time to enter the security tent. If you don’t do this, you will have to buy a “Flex Ticket”, which is general admission ticket and requires you to stand in line for a considerable length of time.

Please note that you are not buying a ticket for a particular ferry. You are buying a ticket to enter the security tent line at a particular time. After the security process, you then board the next available ferry.

There are ferries from Battery Park in Manhattan and from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Manhattan ferry first goes to Liberty Island and then to Ellis. The New Jersey ferry first goes to Ellis and then the Statue.

Sun block in summer and warm clothing in cooler months is advisable.

How much time should we allow?

How much time do you have? From Manhattan, the ferry takes 45 minutes to Ellis. My tour takes about an hour. Then you may want to do genealogical research, see the award winning documentary Ellis Island: Island of Hope, Island of Tears, see a short play sponsored by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation (in season), and grab a bite to eat. There are also many galleries with wonderful exhibits. All in all, I would recommend at least three or four hours.

Are the facilities handicapped accessible?

Yes, they are. You can borrow a wheelchair while you visit Ellis if you leave a driver’s license with the National Park Service information desk. There are elevators to all floors.

When is the best time to visit?

I enjoy Ellis in all weather. It is always a very dramatic place even more so in rain and snow.

Can we do genealogical research at Ellis?

Yes, you can. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is the sponsor of the American Family Immigration History Center. This database contains names of 24 million immigrants thru the Port Of New York 1892-1924. You can reserve a computer terminal for 30 minutes for $5.00. Although you can do this research on line, I recommend that you do it there...as there are representatives from the Foundation there to assist you.

Before you go to Ellis you may want to collect some genealogy information from your relatives to facilitate and optimize your visit. If your ancestors came prior to 1892, I suggest you go to www.castlegarden.org.

Before you go to Ellis you may want to collect some genealogy information from you relatives to facilitate and optimize your visit.

Is there a place to eat?

Yes, there is food available on both islands and there are both indoor and outdoor dining areas. However, if you are traveling with a group, you might consider booking the Conference Room at Ellis Island for a catered breakfast or lunch. Some groups book this room for family reunions, conferences, or simply a place to drop their bags and relax.

You can also pre-order box lunches and have them waiting for you.

What is the Wall of Honor?

The Wall of Honor is the fundraising tool for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The Wall honors all immigrants to America, not just Ellis Island immigrants. This is not an official listing of immigrants that entered through Ellis. To be included on the Wall, one must register a name and make a tax-deductible donation. You can do so on line or while you are at Ellis.

There are over 600,000 names currently listed on several ‘walls’. If you are looking for a specific name, I suggest your search by donor or honoree at the Wall of Honor Computer terminals in the Baggage Room. Some people bring a crayon and nice paper in order to do a rubbing of their ancestor’s name on the Wall.


How do we book you for group tours?

I ask groups considering my tour to contact me directly. You are most welcome to call me directly at 212-229-0202 (NYC business hours only, please.) or email me at Ellisbook@aol.com.


What about individuals or couples who want to take your tour?

Yes! I give tours for individuals, families, and other small groups. Just give me a call.

Tom Bernardin
Post Office Box 1267
Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10113