Annie Moore, from Cobh, County Cork, came through the doors of Ellis Island 120 years ago aged just 15. Now the historic red brick building will be turned into a museum to teach visitors about immigration.

Officials say that half of all Americans have family ties to Ellis Island and now the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is bring new life to it.

The first part of the National Museum of Immigration, which will cost $20 million in total, opened last fall.

The “Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890” exhibit uses video screens and audio recordings to show how and why new Americans arrived before Ellis Island became an immigration center. It includes the stories of those who arrived slave trading ships.

A second exhibit will open next year and will focus on newcomers, restrictions and regulations.

Also, President of the foundation, Stephen Briganti, honored two well-known Americans whose grandparents had waited on line at Ellis Island – the former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and New York architect Richard Meier.

Irish-based Angela Lansbury, the beloved London-born actress, currently on Broadway in Gore Vidal's "The Best Man," fled Britain with her family in 1940, just days before the London blitz. A star of film, stage and television for seven decades, Ms. Lansbury has received five Tonys, six Golden Globes, three Oscar nominations, and over 15 Emmy nominations. The "Murder She Wrote" star became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1951. She now lives in rural County Cork.

Lansbury watched the video presentation of her journey before giving a short speech. She said, “You’re looking at a bit of a puddle at this point ... So many memories ... This really was the land of opportunity.”

Each honoree received a framed copy of the original ship's passenger manifest documenting the arrival of their family through Ellis Island or another port of entry.

The Foundation's database of ships’ passenger records and the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island documents the arrival of the more than 17 million immigrants, as well as travelers and crew members who came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892-1924.

The Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards are given annually to a select number of immigrants or their descendants to celebrate the Golden Door to America for the 17 million immigrants who came through the Port of New York and Ellis Island. The B.C. Forbes Peopling of America® Award, sponsored by the Forbes Family, honors immigrants who arrived at another time or through another port of entry.

They accepted their awards in the Great Hall, or registry room, where immigrants were lined up and interviewed. They would have been asked questions like “Do you have any money with you?” and “Are you an anarchist?”


Angela Lansbury is among those honored at Ellis Island Awards.