Monday, July 17, 2006

$1,000 Reward for Ellis Island's Little Orphan Annie

OK, that’s a bit of a misnomer. The Annie in question wasn’t an orphan in the usual sense, but she is in a genealogical sense because her true story has been lost. What am I talking about?

Devout Ellis Island fans like myself are well aware that the first immigrant to land there was Annie Moore, who arrived from Ireland with her brothers, Anthony and Phillip, on January 1, 1892. She was greeted with much fanfare and a $10 gold coin. You can read all about it here and see her arrival record here (note: you may have to sign in to view it; registration is free).

Since then, she’s been commemorated in statues at both Ellis Island and the Cobh Heritage Centre, and has crept into American national lore. She’s celebrated in St. Patrick’s Day parades. Pubs are named after her in New York City and St. Pete Beach, Florida. Books have been written about her.

This is all well and good, so what’s my point? Well, not surprisingly, since she’s a historical celebrity of sorts, folks want to know what became of her. And many sources gratify this curiosity. Here's an online example. And here are a couple of additional examples, the first from Coming to America, a children’s book based on her story (registered users can see the whole page by going to, searching on "Coming to America," selecting the "search inside this book" feature, and entering "1958"), and the second from a booklet I purchased at the Cobh Heritage Centre over in County Cork, Ireland.

Of course, this is a great story. It’s a classic go-West-young-woman tale riddled with tragedy. Who doesn’t like that? If only it were true.

The problem is that the Annie Moore whose story is told time and time again – and whose photo is even displayed in the American National Tree (and companion book) at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center – is the wrong one.

How do I know? I researched her for a documentary. Guess what? This Annie Moore was born in Illinois, not Ireland.

I didn’t want it to be true. In fact, I tried for document after document, hoping to discover that it was just an accident that “Illinois” had been scribbled on a single paper. But nope, it was Illinois. I've got this Annie's marriage record. I've got her obit. I've got her death record. I've got all her census records. I know where she's buried. I even have a recollection from one of her daughters printed in a local history publication -- no mention of Ellis Island anywhere. And her parents and siblings don’t match those of Ellis Island Annie in any of these docs either.

I actually did enough research to figure out how this myth started circulating. Let me be clear about one thing: there’s been no attempt to deceive on the part of anyone. What happened is that a family fell prey to an elderly relative’s fanciful tale – an innocent exaggeration that morphed into indisputable family lore. How many times have we all seen this happen? Over time, this now-deceased woman’s wishful thinking claimed more victims, as folks simply accepted her version of reality as truth without questioning it.

I’ve let this be for a while. Occasionally, I’ve made an attempt to learn the truth – to discover what became of the real Annie Moore of Ellis Island fame. But so far, I haven’t succeeded. It’s a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack situation. And that’s where you come in.

I’m offering $1,000 for the first proof of what became of Ellis Island’s true Annie Moore. This is not a joke. Those of you who are familiar with my Honoring Our Ancestors Grants program know that I put my money where my mouth is.

I want to know the truth, and I’m hoping some great genealogists out there can unearth it. So try to solve the mystery yourself or join up with a research buddy and tackle it. For that matter, why not make it a project for your local genealogical society? Or just spread the word. Together, we can find out what happened to Ellis Island's Annie Moore.


At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read Ellis Island record States Annie was 13 yrs old upon her arrival
But the write up says she is 14 years old and on American Park network Museaum project says she was 15....Does anyone have an actual DOB?

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering. The Ellis Island story says that Annie Moore was 14. The image record says 13 and also she is listed as the 2nd person on the page. So how does that make her the first person registered???

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Yes, there's confusion over her actual age and date of birth. Some accounts claim it was her birthday, but I would take that with a grain of salt. And if you read all the newspaper articles about the opening of Ellis Island, you'll see that she was the first person who actually entered (although an older fellow was supposedly pushed aside with a "ladies first" insistence). Some articles also mention one or two of the other early arrivals, such as the one who's listed first in the manifest.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger AA said...

I was wondering if Annie married a Patrick O'Connell. Or was it only the other Annie?

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

It was the other Annie Moore who married Patrick O'Connell. So Ellis Island Annie could have married into any surname -- or not married at all. Am hoping someone can enlighten us all!

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NY Times article dated 2 Jan 1892 states:
"The trio came to join their parents, who live at 32 Monroe Street, this city"
Is anyone able to look up that address in a NYC directory for that year? Perhaps that could give us at least her father's name, assuming the address is correct, of course.
I tried the 1890 NYC at ancestry, which has:
Barry David, h 32 Monroe
Curry Bernard, smith h 32 Monroe
No mention of Moore there.
Diane Rigden, Columbus, Ohio

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Joe said...

For those who are interested, an excerpt from the New York Times article about the opening of Ellis Island and Annie Moore can be found online at: Annie Moore - First Ellis Island Immigrant

Happy searching, everyone. This is great fun, Megan :)


At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Raymond Kilius
This is from the SSDI Index at Rootsweb.
Field Value Records Results
First Name ANN* 1111643 1111643
Birth Date 18770101 657 18

Viewing 1-18 of 18
Name Birth Death Last Residence Last Benefit SSN Issued Tools Order
ANNA SCHAIER 01 Jan 1877 Nov 1967 02062 (Norwood, Norfolk, MA) (none specified) 025-36-8368 Massachusetts SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA TOBIN 01 Jan 1877 Feb 1968 06078 (Suffield, Hartford, CT) (none specified) 041-34-9467 Connecticut SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE OCONNOR 01 Jan 1877 Nov 1966 11209 (Brooklyn, Kings, NY) (none specified) 068-42-2339 New York SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA HOWARD 01 Jan 1877 Oct 1966 13456 (Sauquoit, Oneida, NY) (none specified) 134-40-0664 New York SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA SCHLOSSER 01 Jan 1877 Jan 1973 16505 (Erie, Erie, PA) (none specified) 171-38-5170 Pennsylvania SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA ROBINSON 01 Jan 1877 Jul 1969 19141 (Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA) (none specified) 204-28-9949 Pennsylvania SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE ROLLINS 01 Jan 1877 Oct 1975 11433 (Jamaica, Queens, NY) (none specified) 234-14-4955 West Virginia SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE T BRYAN 01 Jan 1877 15 Apr 1967 (V) 31778 (Pavo, Thomas, GA) (none specified) 256-80-8300 Georgia SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE FUNCHES 01 Jan 1877 15 Nov 1971 (V) 32955 (Rockledge, Brevard, FL) (none specified) 266-02-6122 Florida SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA VERBOFSKY 01 Jan 1877 Jun 1972 44130 (Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH) (none specified) 273-44-5378 Ohio SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA DOUGLAS 01 Jan 1877 Nov 1965 60409 (Calumet City, Cook, IL) (none specified) 316-24-8477 Indiana SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE LOVE 01 Jan 1877 Apr 1980 49102 (Berrien Center, Berrien, MI) (none specified) 330-44-7386 Illinois SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA BOZARTH 01 Jan 1877 Nov 1962 (Illinois) (none specified) 348-07-2083 Illinois SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA M JARVENPAA 01 Jan 1877 15 Jul 1966 (V) 49930 (Hancock, Houghton, MI) (none specified) 366-54-1898 Michigan SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA AIGNER 01 Jan 1877 Sep 1968 53233 (Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI) (none specified) 391-12-7794 Wisconsin SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNIE WILSON 01 Jan 1877 Jun 1977 35211 (Birmingham, Jefferson, AL) (none specified) 418-86-8432 Alabama SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA HUNSAKER 01 Jan 1877 May 1968 92262 (Palm Springs, Riverside, CA) (none specified) 507-68-7447 Nebraska SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
ANNA DAVIS 01 Jan 1877 Aug 1971 93257 (Porterville, Tulare, CA) (none specified) 568-78-7863 California SS-5 Letter
Add Post-em
Viewing 1-18 of 18


(V)=(Verified) Report verified with a family member or someone acting on behalf of a family member.
(P)=(Proof) Death Certificate Observed

At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Megan:
I've sudied the first vessels arriving in 1892, as well as that famous manifest.
My extensive essay "Ellis Island and the Making of America' (Genealogical Journal, v.23 #2,3,4, 1995) is mostly about EI myths and misconceptions, and the extraction project.
It mentions that my reading of the manifest clearly shows she is 13, with her brothers, on the way to meet parents Matt & Mary in NYC.
Why don't folks look at the manifests?
I was the primary developer of the LDS automation project, and still I have that basic question.
As you and Lou may recall, one of the big PR meetings for EI, with the President, recognized Annie's daughter.
Are you saying the EIRC had the wrong descendant?
PS: I'm teaching Pensions, Naturalizations, Italians, and Divorces at the annual BYU Week in August. Let me know if you need more details (after that)!

At 7:06 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Raymond and Jayare,

Well, if her date of arrival really was her 15th birthday, this is an excellent tactic! 18 is a lot to follow up on, but certainly doable. Thanks for sharing. Of course, as Jayare points out, the manifest says she's 13 -- but it's hard to say which is more accurate, the manifest or the assorted newspaper articles. In my experience, both offer a little room for confusion.

And yes, I'm saying that Ellis Island had the wrong descendant. The records I found on the Annie Moore profiled at Ellis Island (the one who went West and was eventually killed in an accident in TX) and elsewhere indicate Illinois, rather than Ireland, as her birth place.

BTW, a thousand thank you's for leading that incredible extraction project! I wonder just how many millions have benefited from it??

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Would love to hear more!

Take care, Megan

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone read the newspapers for the day that Annie arrived? My newest ancestors to America came in 1856 entering at Castle Garden. There was a listing of all the passengers and a big story because their ship had rescued passesngers from another ship that was sinking. Maybe there was a big story in the newspapers that day giving information about her as the first person.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Yes, folks have been checking newspapers. You can see some of what's been found here:

Take care,

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! I too have a file that has grown over time in an attempt to document both the "real" Annie and also the origins of the unintended imposter. I have read all the NY news articles of the day and some appearing on the same page conflict one another, so we can't rely on those...but the clues help.

More Details at:

I've come up empty on city directory searches, but will dig my file out and see what else I can find.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hey Dan,

Welcome to the party! Maybe you can crack this case. I came up empty on city directories, too, but suspect there are more clues in NYC records.

Take care,

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

As Jayare suggested, I checked the manifest. I don't see the names of any parents. Am I missing something?

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Questors,

I think Jayare slightly misspoke. The names of the parents are not in the manifest (a manifest from 1892 would rarely have such juicy tidbits!). I think Jayare probably meant that Annie's age is found on the manifest, but other details were found in newspaper articles that appeared at that time.

Take care,

At 2:41 PM, Blogger tracystancil said...

It seems we have to know the names of Annie's parents if we are to know when we have the right Annie Moore in any records. This sure is a tough one as I can't seem to locate a census record. Of course we don't know that the family remained in NYC, but that seems the greatest likelihood. Being Irish, the Moore's were in all probability Catholic. What Catholic parish was 32 Monroe St. contained in ? Those parish records may hold the key. I've tried to discover the proper parish on line. It seems there is a Church of St. Joseph on Monroe St. which could be the one we need.
Also there was an Anthony Moore who died in 1902 about 24 yrs old, and his age matches very closely Annie's brother Anthony who was 11 in 1892.

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to the coin? If it was a special should be traceable to a collector.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Tracy and Anonymous,

Good thinking on the church! Definitely worth pursuing. I worked on a similar Irish-immigrant case not to long ago in Brooklyn and did indeed find critical records in the nearest Catholic church. Of course, there's still the issue that there were Monroe streets in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, so it might be necessary to try several churches.

As to the coin, my guess is that if it's still out there, it's sitting in someone's attic and they don't even know they have it. Would love for it to surface. Maybe someone will show up with it one day on Antiques Roadshow!

Take care,

At 2:24 AM, Blogger CindyP said...

What about the Annie Moore mentioned in the third book from Eithne Loughrey at about Annie Moore called "Annie Moore: New York City Girl" and describes her this way in the synopsis "Amidst the glamor and poverty of New York life, Annie, now in her twenties, fights for women's rights, while the man she loves campaigns in a presidential election until war takes him far away." Is this book fiction or based on fact?
Another synopsis at says "The fifteen-year-old who was the very first immigrant of any nationality to land at the famous handling station at Ellis Island, New York, has now become a young woman of twenty. Annie returns to New York and her family and friends after her two-year stay in the Wild West. She is excited by all the opportunities New York has to offer her, but especially by the prospect of spending more time with Mike Tierney, the young man she loves..." Does this author base this story on fact? Has anyone contacted her for her sources of information?

At 2:25 AM, Blogger CindyP said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:05 AM, Blogger CindyP said...

Did the scultor, Jeanne Rynhart, have access to pictures of Annie Moore & her brothers or were these done from imagination of what she might have looked like?

At 3:53 AM, Blogger CindyP said...

These websites list some "out there" information and I'm wondering where they are getting these ideas. This website mentions a reporter who says that Mike Tierney also as being the Irish gentleman who made sure that Annie was first in line. ???

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Cindyp,

I'm afraid I can't answer all your questions, but I know that the books by Eithne Loughrey are historical fiction. They're based on some known facts, but then take a flight of fancy.

As to Mike Tierney, I'd have to go consult the articles that appeared at the time to check the name, but there really was a fellow who declared, "Ladies first!" and helped ensure that Annie would be first.

As to the statue, if the sculptor had any photos to go off of, they were likely of the wrong Annie Moore. There's one image of her as a young mother that's seen with some frequency, so perhaps Jeanne Rynhart used that for inspiration.

Take care,

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was FOURTEEN (14).

According to her death certificate, Annie Moore:

BORN: May 24, 1877

And so when she entered the US on January 1, 1892 Annie Moore was 14 years, 7 months plus a few days.


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