Family Trees – beyond the charts

I have been doing genealogy research of my relatives for nearly 20 years, and have found some very interesting connections. In addition, I am in frequent contact with a cousin in Italy. However, I am still curious about the little details that you don’t actually find in the records. I realized something new just last week.

I went with my friend to the Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City, where a display of Modernist Art was featured. These are the artists after the impressionists and before the abstractionists. We followed the winding halls to an area with photographs fromton between passengers who were wealthy and passengers in steerage. I thought that the comparison was not stark enough. It was very neat and orderly.

We looked at one another and came to the same conclusion at the same moment. Our own ancestors, his from Scotland, mine from Italy, would have been in steerage. It would have been cramped, smelly, uncomfortable, and probably lacking in privacy.

After all, they left the old country because of hard times. They were poor. They also knew that they would probably never again see the green hills of Scotland or feel the balmy breezes of South Italy. For young women who were alone, or accompanied only by a brother, it must have been frightening.

Before boarding in Naples, my grandmother and her sister were married (by proxy) to their intended spouses, two brothers originally from the same hometown. This was 1921 and new rules required that they have a sponsor/friend meeting them. So when Jennie and Maria prepared to debark, their intended spouses Domenico and Raffaele were there to meet them. The ship’s captain performed a civil marriage ceremony. A few days later, they were married in a Catholic Church. They landed in Boston, not Ellis Island in New York, and moved from there down to southern Connecticut where most of the relatives still reside.

They had said farewell to Mama and Papa, and they soon realized how they missed home and family life. But they could not go back.

About @LatelaMary

Author of 14 self-help books, five still available: Prepare Him Room, Ten Steps to Peace, Healing the Abusive Family, Moments for Mothers. Breaking the Boxes: critique of institutions vs. individuals. Work-in-progress: Memoir (Sorting out Secrets)
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