BURBANK, Calif.--The highlight of Friday at the SCGS Jamboree was the banquet with keynote speaker Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. Megan, who's know to everybody in the genealogy world, spoke on "Right Annie, Wrong Annie--Annie Moore of Ellis Island," an absolutely riveting and poignant story of correcting the historical record about the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island in 1892.
The background: When Ellis Island opened in 1892, there was a ceremony to welcome the first immigrant off the S.S. Nevada. That ceremonial immigrant was an Irish girl named Annie Moore from County Cork. She arrived with her two brothers, Philip and Cornelius, to join their parents who were already in America. Upon arriving she was given a $10 gold piece to commemorate the occasion. Then she and her brothers disappeared into the teeming streets and tenements of New York.
As Ellis Island was being renovated in the late 1980's, interest in Annie Moore was renewed and efforts made to find out what became of her. One elderly lady whose mother had been named Annie Moore came forward with "the rest of the story." Annie, it seems, had married and moved to Texas. And that was the story the media and two countries accepted. Except Megan.
Working on a PBS documentary at the time, Megan researched the matter and concluded that the "Annie" everybody else was celebrating was the "wrong" Annie. For one thing, she had been born in Illinois, not Ireland! Megan did not know what happened to the "right" Annie, but she was confident that she probably had not moved to Texas!
After several years of grousing about the matter, Megan eventually decided to take action. She offered a prize of $1000 for anyone finding the "real" Annie Moore. What followed was an amazing effort by genealogists and others to solve this historical mystery. Marshaling this evidence, Megan found the descendants of the "right" Annie, some of whom knew, some of whom had no idea, about their ancestor.
Megan's presentation was enhanced by a multimedia show that was outstanding. This was one not to have missed. Some elements of it are at this link on Roots Television, including the incredible film produced by a class of 11 year-olds in Ireland, called From Cork to New York: The Annie Moore Story.
Megan's story of the search for Annie Moore may be the single most interesting discussion of solving an historical mystery that one may ever hear.
Light Moment: As such things go, there were some problems with the microphone. Megan tried to solve the issues by moving the lapel mike from one spot to another on her blouse. That seemed to work until she suddenly stopped and announced, "My mike just slid into my pants! . . . Actually, kind of an interesting sensation!"
Learn more about Annie Moore at the Annie Moore Memorial Project.