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Ellis Island - The Beginning of a New Hope

15/08/2013 11:11 BST | Updated 15/10/2013 10:12 BST

With the trouble at home spiraling and work short on the ground, many Irish families took the opportunity to pursue a new life across the Pacific Ocean to the Land of The Free. One particular journey heralds a new start for many, and that was the journey to the new Immigration Bureau on Ellis Island. It doesn't sound very significant but it was an important moment in time for many Irish immigrants.

Among the clanging of bells and whistles, the first ship from Ireland docked at Ellis Island. The story of Irish immigration to the US starts here at the gargantuan Ellis Island Immigration Building and by contrast the first person to step foot through its doors was the diminutive Annie Moore.

Leaving her native Ireland to join her parents and pursue a new life in America, Annie left the 12 day grueling journey behind her and along with her younger brothers. Stepping forward to register Annie was handed a $10 gold coin by Colonel Weber who gave a short welcoming address. It must have been one of the most bewildering and exciting days of Annie's young life.

Many stories have been written about Annie and her life but many were misled into thinking that someone else was the real Annie Moore. It was a classic tale of immigration -Annie headed west to live the American Dream with her husband (a descendant of the Irish liberator Daniel O'Connell) and was tragically killed by a car at the age of 46. A keen genealogist discovered the mistake and set off on the trail to find out what happened to the real Annie Moore.

It transpires that the real Annie went onto live in New York with her Parents and brothers and a few years later she married German immigrant Joseph Augustus Schayer, with whom she had 11 children (only 5 survived to adulthood) and led a relatively poor existence. Annie died at the age of 47 from heart failure.

The life of the Irish immigrants in America for many was a tough life. Having left their homeland on a quest to search for a better life, most of the immigrants found themselves living in squalid cramped conditions providing no sanitation and cholera was rife. Often berated by locals (when posters declaring 'No Irish' first came to be seen) and finding work hard to come by the land of plenty was nowhere to be seen. Scared that the new immigrants would take away the few jobs that were around and in the belief that they would do the work for less than the going rate, created anti-Irish and anti-Catholic rioting, there was a lot of unrest between the groups during the American Civil War (as depicted in the film Gangs Of New York).

It would be nice to believe the tale of the other Annie who had a relatively successful life in comparison and her untimely death leading her to become an almost fairy-tale like character. However, despite all the hardships the real Annie would have faced, she made a life for herself in her new home, created a family and now has a long line of proud descendants.

In a fitting end to Annie's story, her gravestone has been recovered by a genealogist in 2006 and in a dedication ceremony in 2008 her new headstone, a Celtic cross made from Irish blue limestone was unveiled. A statue of Annie stands at Cobh and also at the Ellis Island Immigration Centre. Not so much folklore but another true story that has developed from a little genealogical research.

A fascinating story of success in the face of adversity from someone whose tentative years were spent building this incredible journey, a journey that with a little bit of research uncovered myths and reinstated the fact that if you delve deep enough into your ancestors past there are secrets and stories to be found.