Sunday, September 17, 2006

Annie Moore's Youngest Descendant

Oh . . . my . . . gosh. This last week has been a blur. I had no idea when I launched this contest how it would all mushroom. What began as a simple contest-winner announcement morphed into an event that was part-family reunion and part-press conference.
Front page of the New York Times?? Wow! And then this follow up with family details.

I'm still catching my breath, but wanted to take a moment to share my favorite photo. Above is 9-month-old Dylan, Annie's great-great-great-grandson. Off in the background is me filling the audience in on Annie's descendants. I know it's hard to make out the slide, so let me just tell you that hers is an all-American family with just about every ethnicity respresented. Surnames in her family include:
  • Schayer
  • Somerstein
  • Smith
  • Salm
  • Shulman
  • Dondero
  • Donovan
  • DeHesus
  • Devous
  • Peterson
  • Kraus

(lots of S- and D- names for some reason)

By far, one of the most amazing aspects of this experience was having a front row seat to the family reunion. It was such a kick seeing Annie's family together for the first time, comparing photos and figuring out relationships! They came from NY, NJ, CT, MD and AZ (one branch from WI couldn't make it on such short notice). When I called them, most branches already knew they were related to Annie, but one had no clue.

As to the lack of a tombstone for Annie, that's already being addressed. The winners both donated their prizes back, so that was a quick $1,000. And then the owner of NYC's Annie Moore Pub kicked in another $1,000. Not a bad start, eh?

On a personal note, I wanted to mention that, Sharon Elliott and Tracy Stancil were singled out at the press conference for their contributions to this quest. Unfortunately, none have been mentioned in any of the articles I've seen so far, so I wanted to be sure to recognize them here. Without their superior research skills, amazing turnaround times (if you ever need anything done at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, ProGenealogists are the folks to go to, as far as I'm concerned), and brainpower, we'd all still be looking for Annie.

I also wanted to thank the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society for agreeing to host this announcement-turned-press-conference on such short notice. Thanks especially to Leslie Corn for treating my outrageous request as perfectly reasonable and putting the machine into motion, and to Lauren Maehrlein for sacrificing much of her long-planned vacation to the cause.

At any rate, there's so much more I should say and so many more I should thank, but I'll end here for now. Don't you just love being a genealogist??


At 5:20 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Welcome back, Megan. And congratulations on sparking this great find. I'm hoping for a nice long article about all this. Ok, we'll let you catch your breath before posting again :)

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Paul Y said...

I was there! It was a rainy, water logged day in New York City. A Friday in September, and my first visit to NYC since before 9/11. After braving a red-eye flight from Seattle, I spent a few hours doing the "real work" that was my excuse for coming to New York.

I was late! The event was scheduled to start at 3:00, and so I was a bit panicky when my hard-to-find cab finally dropped me off at 3:10. Had it already ended? Was it already over? Would Megan still be there?

Good news - she was! In fact, it was a very big event going on. Part media circus (NY Times, Irish press, and more), part history lesson, all of it fun! I snuck in the back to find the event in full swing.

Megan was maching-gunning the group with the highlights of the race through the paper trail. Her enthusiasm for geneology kept the audience riveted. Using the modern tools of a projected PC, she shared images of old documents and photographs.

The highlight of the presentation was the various and sundry documents, including Annie's death certificate. According to it, she was born on May 24, 1877 - which means she was 14 on Jan 1, 1892. Also shown were Philip's naturalization certificate, and some church records that showed she was married in New York City.

After Megan's presentation, the awards were presented (and donated), and members of the family spoke.

It is clear to me that Annie Moore would have been very proud of what her family has accomplished. I am not a geneologist, but a friend of Megan's from way back. I know that Megan's mom would have been incredibly proud of Megan, as are we all.

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I know that kid :) Dylan is so proud to be "famous". I think this is getting to his head, he is already asking me for an agent :) ha ha.
As his mom, I get a cut, right? :) :)

I am going to keep all of the press from the event in a scrapbook for Dylan. I am so proud to share our heritage with him. And his grandmother loved seeing his picture in the NY Times yesterday!


At 4:47 AM, Blogger tracystancil said...

Megan et. al.

I hadn't checked in on the Annie Moore project in a while, since I had no access to the original documents that were needed to crack the case. I'm glad that everyone was able to pitch in to successfully solve the mystery. I'm quite sure that I didn't do anything to merit mention in your presentation . Anyway, I would have so loved to be there for the grand event. I know that Annie's spirit must have been smiling down on the sight of so many of her descendants all meeting and getting to know each other. Maybe this will inspire others to tell the stories of their own immigrant ancestors.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Kristine said...

Has anyone ever heard what happened to the $10.00 gold coin Annie received when passing through the gates? In the New York times article it says,
“She says she will never part with it, but will always keep it as a pleasant memento of the occasion,” The New York Times reported in describing the ceremonies inaugurating Ellis Island.

I wonder if she did have to part with it to provide for her family or if it was passed on and saved down generations in her family?

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the welcome back. It's been quite a ride! Enjoyed your piece on Bob Marley's roots -- a 63-year-old marrying an 18-year-old?! Not sure how to insert a link in a comment, but here it is for anyone who's curious:

Take care,

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hey Paul,

So great to see you! Thanks so much for surprising me in NYC (BTW, Paul is a buddy of mine from our college days -- Hoya Saxa!).

For someone who hasn't done a ton of genealogy, you're a quick study -- caught the May 24th birthdate, eh? Yeah, my best guess at this point is that she was 14.

Thanks also for your comment about Mom. I'd like to think she's up there raising a glass with Annie!

Take care,

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Adrienne,

Uh-oh, what have we started?! Remember me when Hollywood calls, OK?

Take care,

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Tracy,

You know, I hadn't realized until I put the PPT presentation together and tried to piece together the research trail, but your comment about the listing for Anthony in the NYC death index was the first step in the right direction. Turned out that was Annie's brother who arrived with her. That's why I wanted to be sure that you were mentioned.

And yes, I suspect Annie was very pleased seeing most of her descendants gathered together again. Even jaded journalists have remarked that it was very heartwarming.

Take care,

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Kristine,

Sadly, no one knows what happened to the coin -- although the family was so poor that it's likely it was spent at some point. Perhaps all the attention Annie's received will spark someone to go take a second look at some odd coin that's sitting in their attic and it will resurface. But for now, that remains a mystery.

Take care,

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Randy Seaver said...

Hi Megan,

I was watching your blog and my email as your Annie story unfolded while I was on vacation.

Congratulations on the work, the beautiful heart-warming story, and the great publicity.

When I got home today, I had hoped to see an article somewhere listing the details about Annie's family - spouse, kids, dates, etc. All I have seen so far is the list of surnames on this post.

I gather that Schayer was her husband's surname, and that of their children.

The last thing I did on this was back in mid-August where I went through the 1900 census for New York County and Kings County NY looking for Ann* born 1875 to 1879 and immigrated 1891-1893 who were married or widowed in 1900. I ended up with a list of about 40 names. None of them matched what I thought wasw the birth date of January 1877. However, the first name on my list was "Annie Schayer" born May 1877. Funny how that happened!

Cheers -- Randy

At 1:43 AM, Blogger Randy Seaver said...


I guess I didn't read the first line of the NYTimes article...I'm glad I guessed correctly!

Cheers -- Randy


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