Since most immigrants came to America via ship and space was very limited, many brought only the types of items that would help them survive in the New World. Knowing that they may never see their homeland again, some brought the personal items they valued most.
Families of modest means typically left large items such as furniture behind simply because it wasn't practical or affordable to try and transport them across sees. Important pieces of clothing and valuable items that were also useful, such china and linens or pots and pans, were common inclusions. Small trinkets and jewelry were also brought along, not only because they were important to the immigrants but also because these items could be sold if the family found itself in dire financial straits.
Culture also frequently played a role in the choices immigrants made in deciding what to bring with them. People who subscribed to extreme beliefs, for instance, might leave some items behind in favor of those that were important to the practice of their religions. Ellis Island, which was the primary port of entrance into America for many immigrants during the early part of the 20th century, displays some of the personal items typically brought by immigrants for visitors to see.