People searching for information about their ancestral roots have overwhelmed a new Ellis Island Web site that debuted last week.
The site had 26 million visitors in its first 54 hours of operation, and many more were unable to get into the site because of its popularity, said Peg Zitko, a spokeswoman for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
"The response has just been tremendous," Zitko said.
The site, which went online April 18, includes arrival records of 22 million immigrants who entered the port of New York between 1892 to 1924.
"In the first six hours we had 8 million visitors." Zitko said. "Right then we knew we had an instant hit." Figures for this week were not available, Zitko said Wednesday.
The largest number of inquiries have come from the United States but there's also been a significant number from other countries, she said.
"We knew it would be popular because 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots back to someone who entered the country at Ellis Island," Zitko said, "but we didn't expect it to be an international phenomenon." The site began operating with 10 servers and three backups and had to add 10 more to handle the load.
Zitko said it was the top search term on the Lycos search engine last week, and only the third time in Lycos' history that a new term debuted as No. 1.
The database, found at www.ellisislandrecords.org, was put together by the foundation and the Mormon Church, which encourages its members to identify ancestors and baptize them into the faith.
Until now, the information was only available on microfilm at the National Archives in Washington or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Visitors to Ellis Island can also access the information at its American Family Immigration History Center.
By Judie Glave
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