Annie Moore

Registry Hall Windows Ellis Island

She was the first person to immigrate to America through Ellis Island, the first of 12 million. She arrived the first day that it opened. It was New Years Day 1892 and it was also her fifteenth birthday. Arriving on the SS Nevada, bound from County Cork, her two younger brothers and an Irish longshoreman hustled her to the head of the line, with cries of “ladies first.” She was greeted by the Superintendent of Immigration, who presented her a $10 gold piece, which she promised to never part with. She then promptly disappeared into New York City. For years it was thought that she had met an untimely death that after marrying an Irish patriot, she had died beneath the wheels of a street car in Texas, at the age of 46.

Then in a 2005 case of historical revisionism that enhanced a legacy instead of subverting it, a team of genealogical adventurists, led by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, tracked her down. She had never left New York City. Instead, she led a poor immigrant’s life on the Lower East Side, married a baker and had eleven children, only half of which survived childhood. She died in 1924. She has great-grandchildren now, descendants with Irish, Jewish, Italian and Scandinavian surnames, “poster children” for immigrant America. Annie Moore came here with no more than dreams, but stayed here and enriched this country with her diversity.

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