When Ellis Island was refurbished and reopened to the public in the 1990s the story of Annie Moore following her arrival at Ellis Island was told to the world -- a classic "Go West" immigrant tale. For many years, people have believed that Annie Moore moved West to Indiana, then New Mexico and ultimately Texas, where she died in a Texas street car accident in 1924. This Annie Moore is memorialized by bronze statues in New York and in County Cork, Ireland, her place of birth. Her story is included in the official Ellis Island National Monument guidebook. Her descendants have even participated in ceremonies on Ellis Island.
There's just one problem with the often recounted story of Ellis Island's Annie Moore. It isn't true. While researching the family for a documentary a few years ago, professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak discovered that the Annie Moore who died in Texas was actually born in Illinois, not Ireland. Other known facts also didn't add up.
So who was the real Ellis Island Annie Moore? Determined to learn the truth, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak announced a $1,000 contest to find the real Annie Moore on her Web site a few months ago for the first proof of what happened to the real Annie Moore. It took just six weeks for a group of passionate genealogists from around the country to uncover the real story. Armed with the facts and clues from her blog contest participants, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak teamed up with New York City's commissioner of records, Brian Andersson, to find the final piece of the puzzle - the naturalization certificate belonging to Annie's brother Phillip, who arrived with her on the ship from Ireland.
The Annie Moore who inaugurated Ellis Island lived with her parents for a few years at 32 Monroe Street in Manhattan before marrying Joseph Augustus Schayer, Sr. in 1895. The couple had at least 11 children. Five survived to adulthood, three of whom had children. Annie Moore died of heart failure on 6 December 1924 at the age of 47, but her descendants live on.
The true story of Annie Moore was unveiled on Friday, September 15 at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society in New York City. Almost a dozen of Annie's descendants were in attendance, as well as the Irish consul general and representatives of the Tenement Museum, the National Park Service, the National Archives and the County Cork Association. The $1,000 contest prize was split between Brian Andersson and a great niece of Annie, Patricia Somerstein, of Long Beach, N.Y. True genealogists that they are, they both donated their prizes toward a tombstone for Annie Moore, who lies in an unmarked grave in Queen's Calvary Cemetery. The owner of NYC's Annie Moore Pub also kicked in $1,000 for a tombstone, so I think she'll finally be well remembered. Other contributors recognized for their outstanding participation include ProGenealogists.com, Sharon Elliott and Tracy Stancil (who made an insightful comment in Megan's blog that sparked some of the research).