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American Tale
9/1/2007
During Ellis Island's busiest days, an immigrant family's saga stands out.
 
Last April marked the 100th anniversary of the busiest day ever on Ellis Island: April 17, 1907, officials processed 11,747 arrivals - twice the typical day's 5,000. That was the middle of the port's most active month, when 197 ships arrived.

Daniel Lynch, a Connecticut genealogy buff and consultant to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation <ellisisland.org>, became obsessed with one family's story amid the throngs of passengers. “The entire thing was spawned by my favorite book, The 20th Century Day by Day, which I read a few pages of each night,” he says. “There was a two- or three-sentence blurb about the Natte family from Holland who had lost children at sea and given birth to a baby at Ellis Island.”

Using passenger lists, Port of New York records and New York Times articles, he pieced together the family's story. The Nattes - 38-year old Evert, his wife, Cato, and their eight children - left Holland in l907 on the SS Potsdam. After a few days on board, 8-year-old Marie fell ill with diphtheria. She died two days later. The day Marie was buried at sea, her 6-year-old sister Klazina succumbed to the same disease.

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