Annie Moore From Ireland
statue in Cobh, County Cork
(click to make picture larger)


On New Year's Day, 1892, the first shipload of immigrants approached American's new reception facility at Ellis Island, in New York's harbor.  The first person down the gangplank was an Austrian man.  He politely stepped back in deference to a 15 year old Irish girl named Annie Moore, making her the first immigrant to enter the United States through Ellis Island.  In at least two respects, this incident was symbolically appropriate.

First of all, it had been the Irish who primed American society for the waves of immigrants from many other lands who were to pass through Ellis Island into the New World.

And second, Annie Moore represented a feature of Irish immigration unique among all other immigrant groups.  Of all the countries that sent immigrants to America in the late 19th and 20th centuries, Ireland was the only one to send as many women as men.  During several decades Irish female immigrants actually outnumber males, in stark contrast to the migrations of Italians, Poles, Hungarians and Greeks, among whom males overwhelmingly predominated.
Out of Ireland, The Story of Irish Emigration to America, by Kerby Miller and Paul Wagner, 1994


Plaque in Cobh, County Cork
(click to make larger)


Four out of ten Americans can trace their heritage via Ellis Island.  Like the Statue of Liberty, it has been a powerfully evocative symbol to generations of immigrants.

Ellis Island opened in 1892 in the midst of an industrialization in the United states that drew eager workers from dozens of foreign nations; at its height in 1907, more than one million people came through its doors.  It decline began shortly after World War I, when Congress imposed severe restrictions on immigration, reflecting the attitudes of a society grown wary of foreigners.  After 1924, immigration slowed to a trickle and Ellis Island fell into disuse.  It was closed in 1954.
Ellis Island, Gateway to the American Dream, by Pamela Reeves 1998


Thanks to Janet Sandberg for contributing the Cobh pictures.


Ellis Island books at Amazon

If Your Name Was
Changed at Ellis Island

I Was Dreaming to Come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project

Journey to Ellis Island


Ellis Island Website


Searching Ellis Island Passengers Made Easy
using Stephen Morse's forms



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