Recent News Articles

What Happened to the Irish Teen Who Arrived at Ellis Island in 1892?

30 Mar 2023 8:42 PM | Anonymous

… the first to cross the threshold
Of that isle of hope and tears
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was only fifteen years

Annie Moore was the first immigrant who walked through the doors when Ellis Island opened more than 130 years ago. These days, there are statues of her in Ireland and at the historic US site. Her name is on a pub in New York City, a National Park Service boat and even an AI platform that aims to help match refugees with communities where they can resettle.

Linehan is a 54-year-old primary school teacher and professional singer in County Kildare, Ireland. And as far as he knew, when he started performing “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” as part of his repertoire, being Irish was the only thing he and Annie Moore had in common.

“I enjoyed singing the song,” he says, “but it was about a remote historical figure for me.”

A surprising discovery in 2016 changed his perspective on the tune – and changed his life in ways he never expected.

That year Linehan learned the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island wasn’t merely a remote historical figure. She was his cousin – more precisely, his first cousin three times removed.

All those years as Linehan had been singing the ballad, an American genealogist had been searching for Annie Moore’s descendants. With the help of a fellow genealogy buff in Ireland, she tracked down several of Linehan’s family members. Linehan says they were as shocked to learn of the connection as she was thrilled to find them.

“This was completely out of the blue. … We didn’t know anything about this,” he says.

More than 4.5 million Irish immigrants arrived in the United States between 1820 and 1930. And now, about 31.5 million people in the US claim Irish ancestry.

The story of Annie Moore captivated audiences from the moment she arrived on American shores. On January 1, 1892, reporters from New York newspapers looked on as Moore walked through the large double doors of the new federal immigration depot at Ellis Island. She’d traveled on the SS Nevada on a 12-day journey from Queenstown, Ireland, with two younger brothers by her side.

Who was Annie Moore? And what became of her after her much-celebrated moment in the spotlight?

Those are questions that professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak has thought about for decades.

“She’s my grand obsession. Every time I reach the finish line, she finds a way to pull me back in,” says Smolenyak, who also works as a cold case researcher for federal investigators, delves into the family histories of celebrities and was once the chief family historian for

Smolenyak was working on “They Came to America,” a PBS documentary about immigration, nearly 20 years ago when she started to dive into records as she worked to tell Annie Moore’s story. Popular lore and even a few books had previously told the story of an Annie Moore who’d moved to Texas, married a descendant of a famous Irish patriot, been one of the first White settlers in New Mexico, run a hotel and died in a streetcar accident.

But Smolenyak, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, says she discovered something surprising when she looked up Census records: That particular Annie Moore was born in Illinois.

For years, historians had been telling the story of the wrong Annie Moore.

So what was the real Annie Moore’s story?

The question is answered and a lot of other information about Annie Moore is revealed in an article by Catherine E. Shoichet published in the CNN web site at:

Blog posts

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software