For years Paul Linehan stepped onstage to sing a ballad a few faraway place and an individual who appeared to haven’t any connection along with his life.

The tune describes an adolescent who walked by means of Ellis Island’s doorways in New York Harbor greater than 130 years in the past:

… the primary to cross the edge

Of that isle of hope and tears

Was Annie Moore from Eire

Who was solely fifteen years

Linehan is a 54-year-old main faculty instructor {and professional} singer in County Kildare, Eire. And so far as he knew, when he began performing “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” as a part of his repertoire, being Irish was the one factor he and Annie Moore had in frequent.

“I loved singing the tune,” he says, “however it was a few distant historic determine for me.”

A stunning discovery in 2016 modified his perspective on the tune – and adjusted his life in methods he by no means anticipated.

That yr Linehan discovered the primary immigrant to reach at Ellis Island wasn’t merely a distant historic determine. She was his cousin – extra exactly, his first cousin thrice eliminated.

All these years as Linehan had been singing the ballad, an American genealogist had been trying to find Annie Moore’s descendants. With the assistance of a fellow family tree buff in Eire, she tracked down a number of of Linehan’s members of the family. Linehan says they had been as shocked to study of the connection as she was thrilled to search out them.

“This was fully out of the blue. … We didn’t know something about this,” he says.

Greater than 4.5 million Irish immigrants arrived in the US between 1820 and 1930. And now, about 31.5 million folks within the US declare Irish ancestry.

Linehan notes it’s not unusual for folks dwelling in Eire to cross down tales of family who left. However that hadn’t occurred in his household.

After discovering his household’s reference to the primary of greater than 12 million immigrants to cross by means of Ellis Island, Linehan was impressed to go on a journey of his personal.

“The story of Annie Moore has led me locations and has gotten me concerned in a inventive course of I by no means anticipated,” he says.

This spring, he’s again onstage singing “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” as soon as once more. And he’s singing a group of recent songs, too, as a part of a present he’s written about Moore’s life.

There’s nonetheless a lot to be discovered from Annie Moore and her story, Linehan says, and he’s decided to share it with a wider viewers.

The story of Annie Moore captivated audiences from the second she arrived on American shores. On January 1, 1892, reporters from New York newspapers appeared on as Moore walked by means of the big double doorways of the brand new federal immigration depot at Ellis Island. She’d traveled on the SS Nevada on a 12-day journey from Queenstown, Eire, with two youthful brothers by her facet.

This archival photo from 1891 shows a view of the Ellis Island immigration station in New York Harbor.

In its headline describing the day, the New York Instances described Moore as a “rosy-cheeked Irish woman.” The New York Tribune’s headline famous she’d made the journey to hitch her mother and father. “SHE GOT SEVERAL PRIZES,” the New York Herald identified.

In keeping with the newspaper accounts, a Catholic priest blessed Moore and a high official handed her a $10 gold coin to commemorate the event. Then she and her brothers had been escorted to a ready room to reunite with their mother and father, who’d been dwelling in New York for 4 years.

From there, {the teenager}’s celeb light. However her identify grew to become a storied a part of American and Irish immigration historical past.

You possibly can see it on a pub in New York Metropolis, a Nationwide Park Service boat and even an AI platform that goals to assist match refugees with communities the place they will resettle.

There’s a statue of Annie Moore on Ellis Island, and one other one – displaying her along with her brothers – within the Irish city the place they set sail.

Visitors at Ellis Island in 2006 look at a statue that depicts Annie Moore, holding her hat in the harbor breeze. Ireland's president unveiled the statue in 1993.

However who was Annie Moore? And what grew to become of her after her much-celebrated second within the highlight?

These are questions that skilled genealogist Megan Smolenyak has thought of for many years.

“She’s my grand obsession. Each time I attain the end line, she finds a strategy to pull me again in,” says Smolenyak, who additionally works as a chilly case researcher for federal investigators, delves into the household histories of celebrities and was as soon as the chief household historian for

Smolenyak was engaged on “They Got here to America,” a PBS documentary about immigration, practically 20 years in the past when she began to dive into information as she labored to inform Annie Moore’s story. Widespread lore and even a couple of books had beforehand informed the story of an Annie Moore who’d moved to Texas, married a descendant of a well-known Irish patriot, been one of many first White settlers in New Mexico, run a resort and died in a streetcar accident.

However Smolenyak, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, says she found one thing stunning when she appeared up Census information: That individual Annie Moore was born in Illinois.

For years, historians had been telling the story of the flawed Annie Moore.

So what was the actual Annie Moore’s story?

With a lot uncertainty and a deadline looming, Smolenyak lower Moore from the documentary. However she stored asking the query.

Discovering the reply appeared like an unimaginable job, given {that a} identify like Annie Moore is nearly as frequent as John Smith.

“It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” Smolenyak says.

On her weblog, Smolenyak supplied a $1,000 reward for anybody who might assist her unearth the reality.

Ultimately, researching Moore’s youthful siblings gave her the clues she wanted to unlock the thriller.

Michael Shulman nonetheless remembers the decision he obtained from Smolenyak.

“Is that this Michael Shulman, the son of Anna Moore Shulman?” she requested him.

At first, he feared the caller was a debt collector. When she stated she was a genealogist, Shulman says he knew immediately why she’d reached out.

“I stated, ‘Oh, are you in search of Annie Moore?’” Shulman remembers. “After which there’s this pregnant silence on the cellphone.”

A National Park Service boat named for Annie Moore now circulates the waters near Ellis Island.

Smolenyak appeared bowled over by his response. However Shulman, a monetary adviser in Chevy Chase, Maryland, says his department of the household had grown up listening to about their connection to the legendary immigrant for years.

“We’ve all the time identified that Annie Moore, our grandfather’s sister, was the primary individual at Ellis Island,” he says.

Shulman put Smolenyak in contact along with his sister, who’d discovered many particulars of their household historical past from their mom. She supplied the final identify of the baker’s son Moore had married: Schayer.

That, Smolenyak says, was a key element that pointed her in the proper course. “Ultimately, I had one thing to go on,” she says.

One other key piece was a naturalization certificates New York’s information commissioner helped monitor down for Philip Moore, which helped verify that members of the family had remained in New York Metropolis. Church information additionally helped confirm extra particulars of the story.

Smolenyak says she’ll always remember the way it felt when issues lastly began coming collectively after years of looking.

“That second once you resolve the thriller that you just’ve been dwelling with for a very long time, that’s what motivates me,” Smolenyak says. “To lastly get traction on her, that’s step one to inform her story. It was a really particular second.”

Regardless of what the tune lyrics say, Smolenyak says the actual Annie Moore was 17 when she arrived at Ellis Island. Some information give a distinct age; Smolenyak says that’s as a result of Moore possible lied about her age to get a decrease fare, a typical follow.

The true Annie Moore by no means traveled out West, based a resort or perished in a streetcar accident. Her story, Smolenyak says, was far much less eye-catching. And that, in line with the genealogist, is what makes it so highly effective – and necessary.

“She was a lot extra consultant of the American immigrant,” Smolenyak says.

After arriving in New York’s Decrease East Aspect, it’s possible Annie Moore by no means left, Smolenyak says. She married Joseph Augustus Schayer, the son of a German baker. Through the years, they lived at a number of addresses within the neighborhood. That they had at the least 10 youngsters; many didn’t survive.

“She watched half of them go to the grave by the age of three,” Smolenyak says. “For those who take a look at their demise certificates, it’s a wide range of causes, however all of them monitor again to poverty. All of them tie to life in tenement slums.”

Moore herself died when she was 50 years previous. Coronary heart failure was listed as her reason behind demise.

In 2006, Smolenyak unveiled her findings at a press convention on the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. A gaggle of Moore’s American members of the family sat within the viewers, swapping tales. They’d come from throughout the US after being contacted by Smolenyak. And to the genealogist, one other factor was putting.

In 2016, genealogist Megan Smolenyak introduced the American and Irish branches of Annie Moore's descendants for the first time in New York. Here she stands with Paul Linehan of Kildare, Ireland, whose great grandfather was Moore's first cousin, and Michael Shulman of Chevy Chase, Maryland, whose grandfather was Moore's brother. They are holding a photo they believe shows Moore and her brothers after they arrived at Ellis Island.

In her presentation, she confirmed a slide of 10 surnames of Annie Moore’s descendants. Many ethnicities had been represented within the group.

“I favored that her household was usually American. Inside only a couple generations, they climbed the socioeconomic ladder they usually had married folks with all kinds of various backgrounds. That, to me, is a part of the magic,” she says. “Annie’s story is our story.”

Moore, like so many immigrants who got here after her, left the whole lot she knew behind for the promise of a greater life.

“Particularly once you’re speaking about Annie’s section, the Ellis Island age, folks making that call – boy, that took guts,” Smolenyak says. “One of the best they had been going to do was talk by letter (with the family members they left behind). It was like going to the moon.”

“Annie Moore – First Immigrant,” Linehan’s present about his cousin’s life, begins with a wake.

It’s the sort of gathering that may ceaselessly occur earlier than members of the family set out for the US. They grew to become so frequent that the Irish developed a brand new time period to explain them: “American wake.”

“In Eire, when folks had been emigrating, it actually was thought of a wake – that somebody was lifeless and wouldn’t be returning,” Linehan says.

Feelings had been blended.

“The ambiance was that blend of pleasure from those that had been leaving and the disappointment of those that had been remaining, with the data that this was the final time that they’d see these folks,” Linehan says.

So Linehan determined to think about what Annie Moore’s final night time in Eire would have been like. In that scene, he performs her uncle, who she and her brothers had been dwelling with for years earlier than they left for the US.

He invitations members of the viewers to hitch in as they sing conventional Irish songs and Annie Moore performs conventional Irish dances onstage.

“That was an necessary level for me to have within the present, that notion of the Irishness, that unbeknownst to her, she was going to be forsaking as nicely,” Linehan says.

After she left in December 1891, Annie Moore by no means returned to Eire

Little is understood about Annie Moore’s funeral.

It wasn’t till 2008 – 84 years after her demise – {that a} tombstone was erected at her beforehand unmarked grave at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

After Smolneyak’s sleuthing put them in contact, a gaggle of her descendants led a marketing campaign to offer Moore’s grave a marker befitting her place in historical past.

For decades after her death, Annie Moore's grave at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York, was unmarked. In this photo, genealogist Megan Smolenyak points to the grave the day she first visited it in 2006. Some of Moore's descendants helped lead a fundraising efforts for a gravestone, which was unveiled at the site in 2008.

Lots of of individuals got here to the dedication ceremony.

“It was actually superb,” Smolenyak remembers.

Along with members of the family, Brendan Graham, the novelist and composer who wrote “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” was amongst those that attended the occasion. Ronan Tynan, one of many famed Irish Tenors, carried out the tune, which contains a mournful chorus describing the uncertainty of arriving at Ellis Island and the disappointment of leaving your house behind:

Isle of hope, isle of tears

Isle of freedom, isle of fears

Nevertheless it’s not the isle you left behind

That isle of starvation, isle of ache

Isle you’ll by no means see once more

However the isle of house is all the time in your thoughts

Traditionally, genealogical information in Eire have been a lot tougher to navigate, Smolenyak says. It was a decade after tracing Moore’s American members of the family when she lastly managed to trace down Moore’s Irish descendants in a course of that she says took “appreciable digging and a splash of excellent fortune.”

After she did, they advised Linehan can be the right household consultant to journey to New York in March 2016 and sing a part of “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” earlier than a gaggle of dignitaries at a gala honoring Irish American historical past.

On April 2 Linehan will carry out that tune as soon as once more in his present about Moore, earlier than an viewers within the Irish county the place she lived for the primary 17 years of her life.

“We’re bringing Annie Moore again to Cork,” Linehan says, noting that he expects lots of his prolonged members of the family to be there for the present.

“That is the primary time, in a way, that we’ll have the chance to have a good time her and to acknowledge her in our hometown, and have a gathering in her honor,” he says.

Subsequent yr, 150 years after Annie Moore’s delivery in Eire and 100 years after her demise in New York, Linehan is hoping to discover a means for the present to make the identical journey his cousin made 131 years in the past.

He’s nonetheless trying to find monetary backing and never but positive how he’ll get the present to New York. However he is aware of American audiences will join with the efficiency.

“A 3rd of Individuals can hint their ancestry to Ellis Island. … A lot of American greatness has been tracked again by means of these immigrants who got here,” he says.

For now, he says, his focus is on getting ready for the musical’s upcoming efficiency in Cork and doing the whole lot he can to share its message, which Linehan says is as related at the moment as it will have been when Moore made her journey.

Immigration, he says, is “very a lot a reside concern” in Eire, the place practically 75,000 Ukrainians have taken refuge up to now yr.

Linehan hopes viewers members will notice, as he did as soon as he discovered about his reference to Moore, that it wasn’t way back that members of their very own households needed to make such troublesome journeys.

“We not have to depart our nation. However now others are coming to us. And so…how will we clean the highway for them by way of their settling in?” Linehan says. “Annie Moore and her household had the identical wants as a household from Ukraine coming to my faculty in Kildare. Persons are in search of security for his or her household. They’re in search of bettering their life.”

This sculpture in Cobh, Ireland, depicts Annie Moore and her two younger brothers, Anthony and Philip.

Linehan says his present doesn’t sugarcoat how exhausting life was for Moore and different immigrants who got here to the US. And people particulars of her story, he says, are sometimes what resonate most.

He’s heard folks within the viewers crying throughout a tune that describes the various youngsters Moore misplaced. And after the present, many spectators have approached him to share tales of their very own ancestors’ struggles to make it in the US.

A very powerful takeaway from the present, Linehan says, emerges in its closing tune, when Annie Moore comes to appreciate that her troublesome life paved the best way for future generations to succeed.

Because the actress who performs Moore belts out a triumphant melody, Linehan sings the concord.

That is the primary time he’s written a musical, and it hasn’t been simple.

However on the finish of every present, Linehan says he seems out on the viewers and smiles – grateful that he’s had the possibility to assist his cousin’s voice be heard, and that so many individuals are listening.

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