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Iconic emigré Annie Moore had roots in North Cork


She has come to symbolise the story of Irish emigration but now over a century after she became the first emigrant to pass through Ellis Island in New York, Annie Moore has been traced back to Ireland and roots that lie deep in North Cork.

Long something of a mystery and indeed the victim of mistaken identity up until 2006, Annie Moore, whose maternal family originate in Dromtarriffe, is finally about to have her story told thanks to the effort of American genealogist, Megan Smolenyak.

The woman who traced President Obama's Irish ancestors to Moneygall in Co Offaly, Megan was working on a TV documentary on immigration into America in 2002 when she began researching Annie Moore and tried to find out both where she came from and what happened to her.

Annie, aged 17 and her two younger brothers, Anthony (15) and Philip (11) departed Cobh ( or Queenstown as it was then ) on 20th December 1891 when they joined five other Irish people among the 145 steerage passengers on board the SS Nevada bound for New York.

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After 12 days sailing on the SS Nevada, they arrived in New York Harbour on New Year's Day 1892 and they were ferried from the ship to step into history by becoming the first immigrants to land at the new Ellis Island Immigration Inspection Station.

Megan's research led her to discount the Annie Moore generally assumed to be the Irish emigrant when she established that the woman who lived in Texas had actually been born in Illinois and instead she traced the Irish Annie Moore to the Lower East Side of New York.

"Annie had come to New York in 1892 with her younger brothers, Anthony and Phillip to join their parents Matthew and Julia who had come over before them and I established that she married the son of German immigrants, Joseph Augustus Schayer in 1895 and they set up home in Rutgers St."

"They later moved to nearby Cherry St and I was able to trace her descendants - she had 11 children but five of them died before the age of three - all from different causes but all of which could be traced back to poverty- they lived in a tenement in a tough neighbourhood."

Annie died herself of heart failure on December 6, 1924 at the age of 50 at her home on Cherry St on the Lower East Side and was buried with six of her children at Calvary Cemetery in Queens where in July 2006 Megan identified her previously unmarked grave.

Megan duly tracked down Annie's descendants and organised a reunion for them in September 2016 but her curiosity about Annie's Irish relatives grew and conscious of next year being the 125th anniversary of Annie's arrival in New York, she set about tracing Annie's Irish relatives.

Her research led her to trace Annie's father, Matthew to Watergrasshill and Annie's mother, Julia Cronin to Booleymore, between Rathcoole and Dromagh in the parish of Dromtarriffe from where the Cronin family moved to Kilcoolishal near Little Island in East Cork.

Matttew Moore married Julia Cronin in Glounthaune in 1870 but the couple later moved to Cork city where they had five children with Annie, the middle of five children, being born when they lived on Old Youghal Road and baptised in St Patrick's Church on the Lower Glanmire Road.

When Megan tracked down Annie to Cork city, she made contact with Irish genealogist, Tim McCoy- or as she calls him - "Annie's champion in Ireland" and when she traced Annie's Irish descendants to Mayfield in Cork city, Tim made contact with Annie's Irish relative, Tom Long from Mayfield.

Megan explained that she had tried to trace Annie's father's family only to discover that they had also emigrated but Annie's mother's family back in Booleymore in Dromtarriffe had provided her with the link to find Tom Long and his cousins in Cork city.

"Annie's mother, Julia Cronin had a brother Timothy Cronin and Timothy had a son, Richard Cronin so Annie and Richard Cronin would have been first cousins and Richard Cronin's grandchildren would be Annie's first cousins, twice removed.

"Tom Long and his siblings and cousins are Richard Cronin's grandchildren so they are Annie's first cousins twice removed so they are as close as you are going to get to Annie in terms of her surviving Irish relatives," said Megan who traced the family through census data and death notices.

Last week, Tom and his sister, Lila and his cousins, Noel and Frank Brett and Eilis Linehan gathered with Tim McCoy at Annie's statue at Cobh from where she departed for the US as they reflected on the discovery that they were first cousins, twice removed to someone so famous.

"I had no inkling at all that we were related to Annie Moore, " said Tom "it was a huge surprise to us but we were all delighted to discover we were related to her - the honour of it really but there's also an element of sadness when you think of all the emigrants like her who left Ireland."

Noel Brett from Ballyvolane echoed his cousin's thoughts. "When you think of the poverty of Cork at the time and how the family here in Ireland must have felt seeing her going off at the age of 17 looking after her two brothers to head off to a strange land - it's very poignant."

Noel's sister, Eilis Linehan said that the family were aware of their links with Glounthaune but had no idea that their ancestors came from Dromtarriffe and they were anxious to make contact with Megan Smolenyak to learn more about their famous ancestors.

"We would often come to Cobh with visitors" said Eilis "and we would often show them the statue of Annie Moore- I always thought that she might be an orphan so I'm just glad to learn that she had a family and I'm just amazed to learn that we are related to her."

Tom and his sister and cousins are anxious to find out more about their famous relative and plan to quiz Megan in more detail on the family links and the American genealogist is only more than willing to fill them in on the story of the young girl who symbolised Irish emigration to the US.

Said Megan:"For me, finding Annie's Irish relatives was like a mixture of satisfaction, relief and delight because I think of Annie as like a bridge between Ireland and America and finding only her American relatives was telling only half story - now we can tell the full story of her life."