A soggy day outside but inside the meeting room of her adopted city’s genealogical society all was warm and fuzzy.
Most press conferences start late. This one didn’t. Either there was time pressure on the room’s allocation, or the organizers were just bursting to get the story out.
In this case it was the latter. The event went on for almost two hours and there were still people around at the end.
This then, was that rare kind of press round up. All in the room were interested to the point of impatience in what was going to transpire beyond the usual professional courtesies.
The off was at three and just about right on that mark, Brian Andersson, keeper of New York City’s historical record, was up and running with the news that Annie Moore never left town, never went west, never got killed by a street car in Texas and is now resting peacefully in an unmarked grave in a Queens cemetery.
Annie’s peace is about to be seriously disturbed.
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, the genealogist with the eponymous family trees who led the charge for truth in the Annie Moore story, steered the room through an historical detective story by way of slides.
One of the images was of a New York Times story in 1977. That was the 100 the anniversary of Annie Moore’s birth and the paper of record was wondering if it was possible that Annie was still alive. What stories would she tell, the paper wondered.
Sadly, Annie was long gone by then. But her full story was yet untold.
By the end of Friday’s gathering it had moved on by giant strides in a room where genealogy is king and Annie, for 120 minutes or so, was reigning queen.
A dozen of Annie’s descendents sat in the front as Smolenyak Smolenyak and Andersson unraveled an immigrant tale of Ireland, New York and America.
Annie had arrived in New York on the SS Nevada. The ship disgorged its first and second-class passengers at a Manhattan pier. Annie and the steerage passengers were carried to Ellis Island on ferries.
Get this, said Andersson, Annie had made the last short journey on a ferry called the — wait for it — J.E. Moore.
Information kept pouring forth, from the podium and the seats. Annie, someone said, had lived in King Street in Cork City before emigrating. Someone else had doubts about that. More work ahead for the Annie fan club.
The family members, some meeting each other for the first time, traded stories and family lore. Photos, some of them borderline daguerreotypes, were produced to astonished gasps and pointed fingers.
Michael Shulman from Maryland, a great grand nephew of Annie, said that all the first names in his family had tended to be Irish sounding, a testimony to “our Irish family.”
Julia Devous, a great granddaughter who had flown in with her sister from Phoenix, could hardly contain her excitement. She was meeting a whole passel of new relatives, descendents of Annie’s brother.
Her father, who had passed away ten years ago, would have been so proud, she said. This was proof positive of his New York and Irish heritage.
It was that kind of gathering. Proof positive met affirmation met pride.
Annie Moore, you had to think, would have been wryly amused. She was famous, then obscure and now famous again.
Such is life; and its aftermath too.