Truthiness Invades Our Shores: The Real Story of the First Ellis Island Immigrant

Note: Announcement to be made at 3:00 p.m. on September 15, 2006 at The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, 122 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022-1939.

New York, NY -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/07/2006 --It’s a classic case of truthiness. For years, we’ve chosen to believe an oft-told myth about Ellis Island when the truth was readily available. But on September 15th, that will change.

13-year-old Annie Moore was the first immigrant to enter our country via Ellis Island. She tripped down the gangplank on January 1, 1892 along with a pair of younger brothers, and was greeted with much fanfare. Officials welcomed her arrival and presented her with a $10 gold coin in commemoration of the special event.

Her statue stands both at Ellis Island and the Cobh Heritage Centre, the Irish emigration counterpart in Co. Cork. Everything from Irish-American cultural awards to pubs has been named after her, but she remained a mystery until the 1990s when Ellis Island was refurbished and opened to the public. Then we learned what happened to Annie after Ellis Island -- how she ventured to New Mexico, married a descendant of an Irish patriot, had a handful of children, was widowed, became a businesswoman, and died in an accident.

It was a terrific go-West-young-woman tale tinged with tragedy. Just one problem. It was wrong.

40 percent of all Americans have at least one ancestor who entered the country via Ellis Island, and in the midst of our current immigration debate, politicians allude to their Ellis Island roots on a daily basis. It’s part of the fabric of American history and who we are as a people – and yet, we’ve got the wrong Annie.

That irked genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (her real name) when she accidentally discovered that the much-touted Annie was actually born in Illinois. Determined to learn the truth, she launched an online contest with a $1,000 prize for the first proof of what became of the right Annie. It took only six weeks and an eager gang of amateur, history-mystery detectives to uncover the real story.

The true story will be shared by Smolenyak, Brian G. Andersson (Commissioner, NYC Department of Records), and family members of the real Ellis Island Annie at 3:00 p.m. on September 15, 2006 at The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (

Media Relations Contact

Merry Brickley

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