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The Real Annie Moore

When Ellis Island officially opened on Jan. 1, 1892, a 15-year-old Irish girl was the first immigrant to pass through. Annie Moore and her two younger brothers, Anthony and Phillip, had departed Cobh (formerly Queenstown), Ireland, 12 days earlier on the steamship Nevada. They were on their way to rejoin their parents, who had already emigrated to New York City.
From an article in The New York Times:

There were three big steamships in the harbor waiting to land their passengers, and there was much anxiety among the new-comers to be the first landed at the new station. The honor was reserved for a little rosy-cheeked Irish girl. She was Annie Moore, fifteen years of age, lately a resident of County Cork, and yesterday one of the 148 steerage passengers landed from the Guion steamship Nevada.

. . . As soon as the gangplank was run ashore, Annie tripped across it and was hurried into the big building that almost covers the entire island. By a prearranged plan she was escorted to a registry desk which was temporarily occupied by Mr. Charles M. Hendley, the former private secretary of Secretary Windom. He asked as a special favor the privilege of registering the first immigrant, and Col. Weber granted the request.

When the little voyager had been registered Col. Weber presented her with a ten-dollar gold piece and made a short address of congratulation and welcome. It was the first United States coin she had ever seen and the largest sum of money she had ever possessed. She says she will never part with it, but will always keep it as a pleasant memento of the occasion.

As the story goes, Annie eventually migrated West, married, and died at 46 after being hit by a streetcar. Genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak discovered, however, that that Annie Moore was born in Illinois. She subsequently set up a contest on her blog to find out what happened to the Ellis Island Annie Moore. In August, Smolenyak announced that she and other genealogists had traced Annie’s life to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. According to them, Annie married a bakery clerk and had 11 children. She lived the rest of her life in the same neighborhood, died of heart failure at 47, and was buried in a cemetery in Queens. –M. L. Liu


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