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First Ellis Island Immigrant Identified

One of the most endearing stories told about Ellis Island in New York Harbor, where millions of immigrants first set foot in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, centers on the very first newcomer to step ashore. Her name was Annie Moore of County Cork, Ireland, and she was just 15 on January first, 1892, when she signed as name number one in Ellis Island's registry.

Statues of Annie now stand at both Ellis and the Irish port of Cobh. The one at Ellis Island shows her alone, clutching her hat in the breeze. The one in Ireland depicts Annie with her two brothers. Both were commissioned by Irish American Cultural Institute.

Visitors to Ellis Island are constantly asking what became of Annie. After a reunion with her parents, she eventually moved west to Texas, married, and died tragically when a streetcar hit her.

Or so the story has been told thousands of times. But it isn't true. That was a DIFFERENT Annie Moore. We know because of the research of a determined genealogist named Megan Smolenyak, who long had doubts about Texas Annie. On her Web log, called "Genealogy Roots," she offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove what happened to Annie Moore of County Cork.

Turns out, the first Ellis Island immigrant never moved west of New York City's Hudson River. She lived in Manhattan's tenement district, married a bakery clerk, and had 11 children. Several of THIS Annie Moore's descendants joined Ms. Smolenyak in telling the story at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society last month.

The real Annie Moore lived near the old Third Avenue "El," a busy line of elevated streetcars. But so far as anyone knows, she was never hit by one. She died of heart failure at age 47-- about 3,000 kilometers east of Texas, but still a long, long way from County Cork