Annie Moore’s Picture in Today’s New York Times

Courtesy of the Family of Anna Moore Shulman

Relatives Say Photos Depict Ellis Island’s First Immigrant

Published: December 28, 2009
For more than a century, she was lost to history. Three years ago, she was rediscovered. As it turned out, the first immigrant to set foot on Ellis Island when it opened on Jan. 1, 1892, an Irish girl named Annie Moore, did not go west and die in Texas, as had long been believed, but spent her days as a poor immigrant on the Lower East Side, dying in 1924.

A picture said to be of Annie Moore, found in a scrapbook.

Now, relatives have found two photographs of the woman they believe is the real Annie Moore.

“It is of Annie, probably in a photography studio with a baby girl, maybe a year old, in her lap,” said Michael Shulman, Annie’s great-nephew.

The story of Annie Moore, who set foot on Ellis Island on her 15th birthday, is memorialized in song and in bronze statues in New York Harbor and Ireland.

In 2006, Mr. Shulman joined four generations of descendants of Annie Moore Schayer to celebrate her rediscovery by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, a genealogist, who teamed up with Brian G. Andersson, the New York City commissioner of records, to figure out that Annie never left New York, as had long been believed.

“Megan called a few months ago, and we were just chatting,” Mr. Shulman recalled. “Then I mentioned it to my sister, Pat Somerstein, and we said, ‘Let’s start a real hunt for a picture.’ “She found one in a collection given to her by a cousin. The back of the picture is inscribed ‘Ma Schayer.’ The clothing and the quality of the picture indicate that it’s of the right time period.”

Schayer was Annie Moore’s married name. The photograph is of a woman with an infant (Mrs. Schayer and her husband had at least 11 children). A second photograph, believed to be of Mrs. Schayer years later, was found by Maureen Peterson, one of Mrs. Schayer’s great-granddaughters, in a scrapbook.

“Like the photo of Annie with a baby, this one also says ‘Mama Schayer’ on the back,” Ms. Smolenyak Smolenyak said. “Maureen believes that the handwriting is that of her Aunt Geri, who passed away in 2001. Geri was the so-called ‘crazy aunt’ who constantly insisted that her grandmother was ‘the Annie.’ She’s the reason why some of the current generation knew this part of their family history.”

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