Friday, February 23, 2018

Grandpa's Journeys Shed Light On My Own

Pietro Iamarino looking dapper in New Jersey
My grandpa, Pietro Iamarino, in New Brunswick, NJ.
My Grandpa lived in the same house from the time I was born until two years before he died. Whenever my family was in the Bronx, we stopped in to visit him. All those weekend visits to the orthodontist when I was a kid with braces, my dad and I would stop in to visit Grandpa. Years later when I was grown, I made the trip from New Jersey to visit Grandpa.

He was always there.

Yet Grandpa had been so many places. In 1920, at age 18, he left home in Italy to come to America. After Ellis Island, he went north to a Boston suburb. There he joined his mother's brother, Antonio Pilla.

my grandfather's declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen
Grandpa was quick to declare he was staying in America.
A short time later, Grandpa was in western Pennsylvania working as a laborer. There, in 1924, he filed his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States of America. He was still in Pennsylvania three years later when he became a citizen.

Now an American citizen, Grandpa didn't seem to have a steady job or profession. His next move, I think, was his family's suggestion. Grandpa moved to Ohio.

Within eight months of becoming a citizen in Pennsylvania, my grandfather, Pietro Iamarino:
  • had taken a job as a laborer in the Carnegie Steel Mill in Youngstown, Ohio
  • was a boarder in the home of Pasquale Iamarino (his father's second cousin)
  • married his landlord's daughter, and his third cousin, Lucy Iamarino.
But Grandpa wasn't finished with his travels. After the steel mill he worked for the railroad along with Pasquale Iamarino. He famously said his railroad job "stinks on the ice," so he packed up his wife and two kids. They moved to the Bronx, New York, and lived for a time with Grandpa's uncle Giuseppe. Grandpa became a jeweler—a much cleaner job than working in a mill or a railyard.

He continued his nice, clean jeweler's job in the Bronx for almost 15 years. But he wasn't finished. My grandmother became ill and wanted to move back to Ohio near her parents. So that's where they went. On her deathbed in 1954, my grandmother told my dad to go back to the Bronx and marry his childhood sweetheart—my mom.

By 1955, my parents had married and had a child. They invited Grandpa to live on the first floor of their townhouse in the Bronx. Yup. He was back in the Bronx.

In 1959 Grandpa remarried and bought the house where I would visit him for the rest of his life.

I wanted to map out Grandpa's travels from Italy to New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio to New York to Ohio to New York for one reason.

My Southern Italian grandfather did NOT take a ship from Naples to New York like all my other relatives. That would have been too direct for him.

Grandpa's 1920 ship manifest
Grandpa sailed from where?!?!?
When I began my genealogy research in 2003, the first document I found was Grandpa's ship manifest. I didn't understand why, but his manifest didn't say "sailing from Napoli". It said "sailing from Cherbourg". That's in France. Northern France.

Cherbourg is a 24-hour car ride from Grandpa's hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy. And you know 18-year-old Grandpa didn't take a car that distance in 1920. I imagine he traveled for weeks to get to northern France. And then he spent 12 days on the Atlantic Ocean.

I have no documentation of that part of Grandpa's journey. He never spoke about his early life.

Judging by the rest of his travels, I'd like to think he acted like a student backpacking his way through Europe. He traveled for a while, stopped to do some odd jobs for money, and continued his way north.

Oh, he did make one other journey. In 1958, before he remarried, he made a trip back home for the first time since 1920. His father Francesco had traveled back and forth from Italy to America five times! He had visited Grandpa in Ohio in 1929. But Francesco died in 1951.

Grandpa did get to see his mother one last time during that visit to Italy. Imagine that? He left home as an 18-year-old boy and didn't see his mamma again until he was a 56-year-old man.

Aha! Now it seems like fate that I've lived in New York, California, New York, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. I am, after all, an Iamarino.

Stay connected! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and know the moment a new article comes out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Want to receive email notifications about new posts? Email me at