29 October 2017

What To Do When You Can't Solve the Mystery

Mixed in with my relatives in the 1930 census I have a mystery family. I've been gathering evidence, but I still don't know who they are.

This 1930 census shows the Ferro family living with my Saviano family. Who are they?
How is Patsy Ferro my great uncle's nephew?

The more pieces I find, the closer I get to solving this mystery. That's why I created a timeline of found facts.

You can use this process to help solve your own family tree mysteries.

It all began with an extra family in the 1930 census. Living with my grandmother's uncle Semplicio Saviano and his children were:
  • Patsy (a nickname for Pasquale) Ferro, age 29, married for 10 years, born in Italy, a building contractor. He is listed as Semplicio's nephew.
  • Josephine Ferro, age 26, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's niece.
  • Antonette Ferro, age 6, born in Italy. She is listed as Semplicio's grand-niece.
If Patsy was really Semplicio's nephew, then either his sister or his wife's sister should have married a man named Ferro. But they didn't.

I found five more documents for the Ferro family.

1923 Ship Manifest

On 12 November 1923, Pasquale Ferro arrived in Boston. He was from Baselice, Italy, which happens to be the hometown of my grandfather, Adamo Leone. Since my grandmother was Semplicio's niece, is Adamo Leone the relative of Pasquale Ferro?

Pasquale states that he is joining his cousin Leonardo Canonico at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx. Well, now. Isn't that a coincidence? That is where my newlywed grandparents lived. The building had only three or four apartments, and all but one belonged to my closest relatives.

I recognize the name Canonico as a common name from Baselice, Italy, too.

The ship manifest originally stated that Pasquale Ferro was leaving "nobody" behind in Italy. That was crossed out and "wife Gusolo" was typed in. I'll come back to that name in a moment.

1925 New York State Census

On 1 June 1925 there is a Pasquale Ferro, carpenter, boarding with a family named Ria at 310 East 153rd Street in the Bronx. This is only a couple of blocks away from his 1923 location. It says Pasquale has been in the U.S. for two years.

I'm not entirely sure this is the Pasquale Ferro I'm looking for.

1930 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro went back to Italy to retrieve his wife and daughter.
Pasquale Ferro returns to the USA with his family.

On 10 January 1930, Pasquale Ferro arrives in New York City with his wife and daughter. He is a U.S. citizen with a passport issued on 12 July 1929. He lives in my grandparents' building at 260 East 151st Street in the Bronx.

His wife's name is Giuseppina (Josephine, in English) Chiusato. I've done extensive documentation of birth, marriage and death records from the town of Baselice, Italy. Chiusato is not a name I've seen in the town. But Chiusolo is a common name there. "Chiusato" was typewritten on the ship manifest.

My educated guess is that "Chiusato" and the "Gusolo" typewritten on Pasquale's 1923 ship manifest were both meant to be Chiusolo. This is a tidbit I would have overlooked if I hadn't gathered these documents together.

Also on the ship in 1930 is Pasquale and Giuseppina's daughter Antonetta. She is six years old, just as she was on the 1930 census where I found her the first time.

1930 Census

This is the same document I discussed in the beginning of this article. Two facts to add are:
  • Patsy was naturalized in 1923. But since he arrived in the U.S. in November 1923, this seems like a mistake.
  • The family was living at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx.
1940 Census

Now Pasquale and his family are living with several of Semplicio Saviano's grown children at 1010 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. Pasquale is 40 years old and not working. He is listed as the cousin of Anthony Saviano, who is the head of household. Pasquale and his daughter Antonette are naturalized, but his wife is still an alien.

1950 Ship Manifest

Pasquale Ferro traveled alone to Italy in 1950 and planned to stay for three months. The manifest states that his passport was issued on 28 June 1929. This is not an exact match of the date on his 1930 ship manifest, but I know this is the same man.

His home address is 980 Van Nest Avenue in the Bronx. At the time of her 1947 death, Semplicio Saviano's daughter Columba lived at this same address.

Taken altogether, these six documents tell me a lot about Pasquale Ferro.

But they don't tell me how he's related to me.

I found two Social Security records for Pasquale's wife, Josephine. These records provide her birth date in Baselice. But I've downloaded the 1904 Baselice birth records to my computer, and she is not there. I have her parents' names, too, so I will work with those and see where it gets me.

The trail goes completely cold on the young girl, Antonette Ferro.

There is one more document that I viewed on my iPad the other day, but can't seem to find again. It was a New York City deed or mortgage that included Pasquale Ferro. I don't remember what other name was on this document, or who I was searching for at the time. I viewed every page in my browser history without finding it.

That one missing document may be a big piece of this puzzle. Or it may be a different Pasquale Ferro.

One thing is certain: You've got to take notes on your searches. The very next thing you find may be the answer to your mystery. But you'll need those notes so you can be sure.

27 October 2017

1925 Death Photo Holds a Clue to My Ancestor's Life

Last time, I wrote about the long and winding journey of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. Since then, I've been trying to find out something more about his life in the Bronx, New York. He lived there with this family from 1898 until his death in 1925.

1912 New York City newspaper clipping
My great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino did
business with 2 Bronx breweries.

I found some newspaper clippings from 1912, 1913, and 1922, but they were not about Antonio. They were about my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. Giovanni was the son-in-law of Antonio.

Giovanni's news clippings were about real estate transactions. They each involved the building he owned at the corner of Morris Avenue and East 151st Street in the Bronx. I knew that building. My mom was born there, and it was her parents' home until the 1970s.

In these real estate transactions, Giovanni seems to be selling the building, or part of it, to the Westchester County Brewing Company of Pelham, NY. But then he's selling it again as the "agent" of the Ebling Brewery.

A ribbon from an Italian mutual-aid society
My great great grandfather Antonio
Saviano wore this ribbon in his coffin.

I'm confused. I'm going to have to locate details about those business dealings in some city archive.

I was hoping to find that Antonio Saviano was somehow involved in these sales, but I have no proof of that.

So, once again, I'm fixated on the ribbon pinned to his suit as he lay in this coffin in 1925. This is the only photograph I have of Antonio.

Today I rescanned that 1925 photo at 1200dpi—the highest resolution my scanner can do.

I think it's clear enough to read his ribbon now. I used Google to fine-tune what I thought I saw, and find something that matches.

Here's what I found: Societá Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S.S. Delle Grazie.

On the ribbon, you can see Societá at the top. Then there are some initials, then Maria S.S., and finally Delle Grazie, Bronx, NY.

In 1931, after Antonio died, Societa Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S. S. Delle Grazie, Inc. filed as a domestic not-for-profit corporation. They could have been in existence long before they incorporated in 1931.

I learned today that Italians who came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s formed local mutual-aid societies. These societies helped new immigrants adjust.

When I was a little girl, I remember the old Italian men sitting on the sidewalk in the Bronx, playing cards around a folding table. My mom said they belonged to a men's club. Now I feel pretty sure their men's club may have been the mutual-aid society.

Antonio's 1925 trail is kinda cold. But I'm hopeful there may be a crack in this case soon!

24 October 2017

Answers Lead to More Questions About My First Immigrant Ancestor

Growing up, the family members I knew and saw on holidays were almost entirely the descendants of one man: Antonio Luigi Saviano.

Most of us didn't know his name. He was the father of our grandparent or great grandparent.

But four years ago my mother pulled out a photo of Antonio lying in his coffin. He died in the Bronx, New York, several years before she was born.

Was my first immigrant ancestor a shrewd businessman?
Was my first immigrant ancestor a shrewd businessman?

I'd been researching my family tree for about 10 years at that point. The branch of the family where I'd made the least progress was Antonio's branch—the very branch I'd known my whole life.

This year I went on a quest to find out where Antonio and his wife Colomba Consolazio came from. Here's what I knew already:
  • According to his World War II draft registration card, their son Semplicio was born in Tufo, Avellino, Italy.
  • I had looked at microfilm of vital records from Tufo. I found Semplicio's birth and the earlier birth of a son—Raffaele Vitantonio Saviano. I knew this baby did not survive because it was a younger Raffaele who came to America in later years.
  • Antonio and Colomba moved less than 10 miles from Tufo, Avellino, to Pastene. Pastene is a small section of Sant'Angelo a Cupolo in the neighboring province of Benevento. They had 3 children there: my great grandmother Maria Rosa, Raffaele, and Filomena.
  • It was in Pastene that Maria Rosa met and married my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. They had their first child there, but he did not survive.
  • Antonio began travelling to America in 1890, three years after the birth of his youngest child. He was my first ancestor in any branch to do so.
  • He was 47 years old at the time. That's a bit on the old side for the first of his three cross-Atlantic trips.
  • He brought his son Semplicio to America and left him there. Then in May of 1898, Antonio returned to the Bronx with his wife and his children Raffaele and Filomena.
  • The family left for America one month after the marriage of my great grandparents. That means my great grandmother did not have her family there to support her when she gave birth to her son Carmine in December 1898. And she didn't have their support when Carmine died a short time after.
Let's stop there for a moment. Something strikes me about my great grandparents and their ill-fated baby boy, Carmine.

Maybe my great grandparents never planned to come to America. Baby Carmine was born just shy of eight months after their wedding. There was nothing stopping them from coming to America with the rest of the family.

Maybe it was only the shock of Carmine's death, and his possibly premature birth, that drove the couple to leave their home.

Maybe if Carmine had lived, I would be an Italian national.

That aside, let's look at what I learned about my great grandparents Antonio Saviano and Colomba Consolazio this year.

Working backwards from the Tufo births of their children Semplicio and the first Raffaele, I discovered that Colomba had two brothers living near her in Tufo. I found the marriage record for one brother.

His place of birth, and the town where his parents still lived, was not Tufo. It was the neighboring town of Santa Paolina.

My next step was to view microfilm of the vital records from Santa Paolina. Sure enough, I discovered that Antonio and Colomba were married there. They had a baby girl before Raffaele and Semplicio named Maria Grazia. She died after four days.

Colomba was born in Santa Paolina, but her real name was Vittoria Colomba. I learned her parents' names and her grandparents' names.

And on their marriage documents I learned the origin of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. He was not born in Santa Paolina where he married and began his family.

He was not born in Tufo where he moved and had more children.

He was born in Pastene! The very town to which he returned, had more children, and from which he left for America.

Antonio Saviano, my first ancestor to come to America, travelled in lots of circles. He went from Pastene to Santa Paolina to Tufo to Pastene, completing a very small circle. He went to America and back to Pastene three times. Finally, he brought his family to America and settled down…age of 55!

Antonio lived to be 82 years old. He outlived his wife Colomba by five years, but he died surrounded by this four surviving chlidren.

I learned that he was:
  • a shoemaker (calzolaio) in his youth
  • a dealer or merchant (commerciante) shortly before his first documented trip to America
  • a day laborer two years after settling in America, and
  • had his "own income" by the time of the 1910 census.
Was Antonio an independent businessman? Are his accomplishments the reason his son Semplicio and my great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino became the owners of apartment buildings and agents for a local brewery?

Was Antonio a wheeler and dealer? What was the source of his "own income"? It may be nothing, but his cause of death was a toxic infection of the kidneys and the heart's inner lining. Were these infections related to the Bronx's underground beer cellars of the time, owned by the breweries with which his son and son-in-law did business?

I've often wondered if my family owned those particular apartment buildings because of their access to the beer cellars. This would make them good partners for the breweries.

The discovery of Antonio Saviano's origin and travels shed a lot of light on him. But now I find I have a ton more questions.

I think it's time for some Bronx brewery history lessons!