The Life of Annie Moore

By Terri Paajanen

If the name doesn’t ring any bells with you, she was the first person to immigrate to the United States through the famous port at Ellis Island.

history of Annie Moore and Ellis Island

Annie Moore was the first person to come to the USA through Ellis Island.

More than 12 million people arrived in America at Ellis Island between the years 1892 and 1954, coming from all parts of the world to live in the United States. But on the first day, it was 15-year old Annie Moore who was first. She was coming from County Cork in Ireland with her 2 younger brothers (Anthony and Phillip). Their parents were already in New York having travelled previously to get established. Annie and her siblings had spent 12 days on a ship, in the steerage compartment.

To commemorate her arrival, she got a $10 gold coin and there is now a statue of her on the island. Seven hundred other people were processed that day after Annie.

The story of Annie Moore’s life after that famous day went like this: she grew up in New York but moved out west to follow the American Dream and pioneer spirit of the times. Eventually, she came to live in Texas where she died in a street car accident in 1924.

Thanks to the research of several genealogists, it was uncovered that this wasn’t Annie’s story after all. There was another Annie Moore in Texas, but she was not the same one who had been through Ellis Island in 1892.

Well-known genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak worked with Brian Andersson (who was on the New York Commission of Records) and Patricia Sommerstein (a relative of Annie Moore) to uncover the accurate history. They worked with the staff at ProGenealogists.com to see what actually happened to Ms. Moore.

As it ends up, Annie never moved out of New York after all and spent the rest of her life in the Lower East Side of the city. Married to Joseph Schayer, she had 11 children. Of those eleven, only 5 survived to adulthood and there is a continuing line of descent from her family today. Through their investigation, the genealogists learned that poor Annie was buried in an unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery, not far from Ellis Island. Funds were raised and she now has a fine headstone to mark her final resting place.

If you feel she may be part of your own family tree, I have a few more genealogy details. She was born on April 24 1874 in County Cork, Ireland. Her parents were Matthew Moore (1852 – 1907) and Julia Cronan (1857 – 1927), and she was married to Joseph Augustus Schayer. Annie Moore died in New York on December 6, 1924.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak’s blog has an entry about all of this, and some further details on how her research into Annie Moore’s life developed.

I found this story to be a very good example of how known historical “facts” can be wrong and that all information should be personally researched on your own if you want to get to the bottom of any genealogical tales.