30b-Muro Family in Agropoli-The house where Josie was born

Left to right:  Cousin Italia, Grandpa Sam and Grandma Josie in front of the house in Agropoli, July 1976.  The man in the back might be Grandpa Sam’s younger brother Luigi.

Old Town of Agropoli, July 1976

When I was in Agropoli with Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam, I let my mind wander whenever the conversations changed from English and went back into the dialect they knew so well.  Even though I had 3 years of Italian language classes in Junior High School I could never make out what my Grandparents were saying.  Pronunciation between their dialect and the Italian I learned in school differed greatly.  In class I learned to pronounce “the school” as “la scuola” (la skwola).  Grandpa Sam pronounced it  differently so that it sounded like “la schkwolla”.  When I tried out that kind of pronunciation in class my Junior High School teacher was quick to say, “Stop speaking that dialect.”  It was that kind of an attitude that discouraged me from taking the Italian language classes seriously when I was in High School even though the teachers were much better.  By the time I got to Italy I depended on my Grandmother to translate everything.

View from the home where Nicola, Letizia and Josie lived in the Old Town of Agropoli.

When we went to visit the house where Grandma Josie was born I took note that my Great Grandmother Letizia loved living there.  I was showed the room with her favorite view.  It was stunning.  Below was the view of a castle tower and outwards stretched the sea.

There was a story as to why there were no stairs going up to the white door with the little window but I never asked my Grandmother to repeat it to me.  It was one of the many details I thought I’d ask about later but then I forgot.  WhatI can remember is that after we came out of the cool interior of the house, the day was even brighter and hotter than before.  We spent some time with Grandpa Sam’s niece-by-marriage Carmela Serrapede.  She lived in the house nearby, to the right of where Grandma Josie is standing in the photo.  There was a lemon tree in the yard there.  The lemons were as large and juicy as oranges.  Carmela generously sprinkled sugar on some cold lemons from her refrigerator and to my surprise they were very tasty.

I wondered what Letizia thought of the smoke stacks, railroad tracks and green mountains of Wilmerding after coming to the United States.  None of those views would equal the beauty of the view from her house in Agropoli.  I think the security of Nick having steady employment, good food, health care and an 8 year public school education for the children  may have been the better part of Letizia’s new life in America.

 

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30b-Muro Family-Letizia and Giuseppa leave for America

Acknowledgement

We have used the charts of descent for the Muro and Comite families as the basis of this week’s posting. This data is available at Imagines Maiorum-Ancestors from Campania, a site where genealogist Anthony Vermandois presents vital statistics and marriage banns for families in Agropoli and other nearby towns.

We have also used the passenger list of the SS Canada for Letizia Muro’s voyage to New York. Please see the Resources section for link.

Muro family link: http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=368

Comite family link: http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=559

Relationship Notes

Letizia Scotti Muro was:

  • Sammy’s Maternal Grandmother
  • EmilyAnn’s Great-Grandmother along her maternal line.

Giuseppa grew up to become:

  • Sammy’s Mom
  • EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother

Nicola and Letizia Marriage

Nicola and Letizia were married on January 9, 1909 in Agropoli. Anthony Vermandois lists a voyage that Nicola made to America in 1909 but so far we cannot locate such documentation.

Birth of Giuseppa (Josie)

Nicola and Letizia’s first child, a girl, was born on November 1, 1909. They named her Giuseppa, in honor of Nicola’s mother, Giuseppa Ruocco Muro.  In America Giuseppa was known as Josie.  Only her younger sister Philomena called her Giuseppina.

Departing Agropoli, Arriving in America

Letizia arrived in New York City with Giuseppa (Josie) on August 13, 1912. They left Naples on July 30th, 1912.

The page on which Letizia and Giuseppa are listed contains only one other passenger who was also from Agropoli. His name was Giuseppe Comite.  At first it was easy to think he had no connection with Letizia.  The Comite surname was not familiar and had not come up in previous research sessions.  We then had to recall the customs and attitudes the first generation of immigrants had concerning women and the code of honor they lived by in matters of women and family.  With this in mind we think that Giuseppe was a travel companion to Letizia since at that time a woman with a 3 year old child would not be permitted to travel so far on her own.  It was a matter of honor that a woman be chaperoned, if not by her parents, then by a brother or a male relative to protect her.

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30a-Culture Break: Italian Genre Painting and the Woman’s Role

Images of Italy from the Past

I recently discovered the artwork of Italian genre painter Giovanni Battista Torriglia while researching articles for the Muro family. His paintings were a delight to view and on further consideration I found they contained enough elements to tell a story set in the Italy of long ago.  I decided to learn a little more about him and the style in which he painted.  I hope you will enjoy Torriglia’s artwork and perhaps see a story or two in the paintings that follow the background information on this topic.

What is Genre Painting?

When the Reformation began in the early 16th century, Northern European art took a different direction. The demand for large scale works of art with religious themes began to decrease.  Paintings were commissioned by the rising class of merchants and businessmen who wanted small scale works of art to display in their homes.  Scenes from everyday life as well as landscapes and still life were much in demand.

Some critics in Europe held that genre art had no moral to teach but time has shown this is not true. In many paintings a moral message is made through the details in the background or the arrangement of people in the scene or in the choice of setting.

Genre Painting in Italy

The earlier masters of Genre Painting were Dutch artists such as Vermeer. He worked to infuse a sense of light in all its variations–reflected, hazy, subdued, glittering–into his paintings. One of Vermeer’s best known paintings is “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”  This use of light also influenced the genre painters of Itay.

As the Italian aristocracy became bored with religious artwork during the waning years of the Renaissance, the appearance of genre art began to take hold. Although in real life the upper classes did not want to see the poor and the common people cross their paths, the images of their life became sought after in the form of small paintings depicting scenes of the poor and their lives.

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29-Culture Break: An 18th Century Italian Wedding

While researching wedding customs in 19th and 20th century Italy, Uncle Sammy and I discovered the artwork of Giulio Rosati.  He was an Italian painter who depicted scenes from 18th and 19th century life, as well as exotic imaginings of life in the East.  We hope you will enjoy this painting of an 18th century Italian wedding.  The color and detail in this painting make it a delight to view.

The Wedding, 1885

“The Wedding”
by Giulio Rosati (1858-1917)

 

 

 

 

——————————————-

“The Wedding”
by Giulio Rosati (1858-1917)
Public Domain Image
WikimediaCommons

Giulio Rosati
Bio
All Art Classic
http://www.allartclassic.com/author_biography.php?p_number=750

 

 

29-Station Break: Cassone, il coredo and biancheria

The bride prepares for her new home

As in previous centuries, the love for fine linen tablecloths and bed sheets embroidered or trimmed with lace continues in Italy. This youtube video provides a good overview of the range of modern biancheria (embroidered sheets, pillowcases and bed spreads) available for the bedroom.

While Nicola Muro was away in the United States during the early 1900s, Letizia Scotti was making preparations for their marriage. At the turn of the 20th century women throughout all of Italy prepared a chest filled with a beautiful array of linens and lacework pieces to be used in their new household.  Most of the pieces were made by the future bride.  Others were purchased or received as gifts.

Letizia’s daughter Josie was my beloved maternal Grandmother. She gave me a lace tablecloth that Uncle Sammy and I think dates back to the 1930s.  Josie had an appreciation and preference for these kinds of things all her life.  Such sensibility comes from living in a home where simple beauties like these are part of everyday life.  Letizia’s sisters outlived her and were known as excellent homemakers. Not just for cooking and cleaning but for creating a sense of home as a place of beauty. In the kind of home Josie created, and such keepsakes as this lace tablecloth, we find a link to Letizia and the matriarchs who came before her. We can envision the kinds of hope chest and linens Letizia brought to her marriage.

The Lace Tablecloth

Grandma Josie’s lace tablecloth.

 Grandma Josie gave me this lace tablecloth when I began discussing with her my plans to decorate an apartment of my own one day. This was in the spring of 1983.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked. “You should decorate your room right now!”

She went into her room. When she came back Grandma Josie handed me a box that was very yellow and old.

I took the lid off the box, unwrapped layers of tissue paper and carefully took out the exquisite lace table cloth shown in this photo. My Mom remembered seeing the tablecloth only a few times.  Many first generation Italian immigrants had special table cloths, doilies and bed linens that would come out only on holidays or when relatives came to for an extended visit.

Close-up of the lace table cloth.

On subsequent visits to Grandma Josie’s house she told me how she had learned embroidery and sewing as a child because these skills were part of what a woman brought to the marriage. The works of her hands would beautify her home with lace doilies, embroidered tablecloths and even guest towels made of linen with a crocheted border.

Grandma Josie rarely spoke of her mother Letizia because she died quite young. The story of her passing varied depending on who I heard it from.  She was the kind of person who was very open.  There were a few questions my Mother told me never to ask and those concerned Letizia.  The subject was a painful one for my Grandmother.  This is why I accepted this gift without asking any questions since she gave it to me so purposefully and without any further comment.

With these thoughts in mind, I spent several evenings researching what the preparations for marriage were in an effort to draw closer to Letizia as a young woman. What follows are my notes taken during reading various online sources.

In my readings I learned that families also bought items to add to the Coredo (dowry). Uncle Sammy and I wonder if this lace tablecloth is older than the 1930s and if, perhaps, it was an item in Josie’s own hope chest.  If any reader knows how this tablecloth can be dated please post in the comments.  My Uncle and I do not know how old it is or what type of lace work it is.

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28a-Nicola Muro-From Agropoli to Wilmerding PA 1906

Acknowledgements

The genealogical charts of descent for the Muro family created by Anthony Vermandois were used at the beginning  of our search for immigration data on Nicola Muro. The Muro, Scotti and Rizzo  family charts are available for viewing at Anthony’s website ImaginesMaiorum-Ancestors from Campania.  Please click on the links below each surname to go to the respective charts.

Muro

http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=368

Scotti

http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=229

Rizzo Part A

http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=425

Rizzo Part B

http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=426

The other material used for this posting is credited in the Resources section.

Relationship Notes

Pedigree chart for Nicola Muro.

In this posting we examine the nature of the relationships between Nicola and his travelling companion when he came to America in 1906. Nicola was the son of Pietro and Giuseppa (nee Ruocco) di Muro.

Nicola was:

  • Sammy’s maternal Grandfather
  • EmilyAnn’s Great Grandfather

Pedigree chart for Mariano Scotti.

Mariano Scotti was:

  • Sammy’s Great Uncle
  • EmilyAnn’s Second Great Uncle

by his marriage to Rosa di Muro. The marriage record lists Rosa’s surname as di Muro instead of Muro.  Rosa was Nicola’s sister.

Mariano and Nicola became brother-in-laws by marrying each other’s sisters as follows:

  • Nicola Muro married Letizia Scotti on January 9, 1909.
  • Mariano Scotti married Rosa di Muro on April 1, 1911.

What’s with the name: Muro or di Muro?

As of June 6, 2015 further review of Anthony’s charts of descent reveal that the family name appeared as either Muro or di Muro on documents in Agropoli.

Nicola’s surname appears as Muro on the passenger lists and vital records here in the U.S. Anthony Vermandois has entered the surname as di Muro in Agropoli depending on which documents he is using.  The surname Muro also appears in Agropoli.  We have decided to keep the names as they appear on the existing records available to us.  This means that since Rosa appears only as Rosa di Muro, daughter of Nicola and Giuseppa di Muro,  we shall leave her name this way.

Travelling Companions: Future family members and paesanos

Among the data Anthony Vermandois has compiled on Nicola, he includes immigration information for a trip to the United States that Nicola made in 1909. Nicola immigrated on September 17, 1909 aboard the Cretic, a White Star Line ship.  He sailed from Naples and arrived in New York.  I searched many times at Ancestry but was unable to retrieve the passenger list for this voyage.

A passenger list for an earlier trip came back in the results so we will begin our review with the trip Nicola made in 1906. This trip was also made on the Cretic.  Nicola left Naples on June 2nd and arrived in New York on June 15, 1906.

Nicola was passenger number 22. He was travelling with his future brother-in-law Mariano Scotti who is entered as passenger number 23

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28a-Nicola Muro-From Agropoli to New York, 1901

Acknowledgements

We have used the database created by Anthony Vermandois at Imagines Maiorum to research several families for this posting. Please click on the surname to go to the webpage for that family’s charts of descent:

Muro

Taddeo

Rota

Ruocco

Pecora

Sarnicola

Cuoco

In order to create a snapshot of what the atmosphere in America was like regarding immigration in the U.S. during the time period this posting covers we used material provided by various U.S. government websites. The ship’s passenger list was from Ancestry.  All links are provided in the Resources section.

 

Introduction

28a-nicola20chart_zpst1ic75zh

Pedigree Chart for Nicola Muro.

 

Nicola Muro left Naples on March 26, 1901 aboard the SS. Citta di Torino and arrived in New York City on April, 13, 1901.

He was a young man, 19 years of age and coming to the United States for the first time. We wanted to know what the conditions in the U.S. were like for Nicola so we did some quick look-ups of the expenses he would encounter in 1901.  Given that he only had $10 we think he needed to find work if he planned on staying for a long time.

We then reviewed the ship’s passenger list and compared the names of other passengers from Agropoli to Anthony’s charts of descent. We wanted to know if Nicola was travelling alone or with relatives.

Nicola was:

  • Sammy’s maternal Grandfather
  • EmilyAnn’s Great Grandfather

Passenger List of the Citta di Torino-Questions and Answers upon arriving in New York City: Nicola Muro

28a-nicola20muro-190120ship20passenger20list_zps0iwwvgozPassenger List of the Citta di Torino.

 Passenger No. 21

  1. Name in Full: Muro, Nicola
  2. Age: 19
  3. Sex: M
  4. Married or Single: Single
  5. Calling or Occupation: Handwriting is unclear. It looks like the word “country”.
  6. Able to read/write: No
  7. Nationality: Italian
  8. Last Residence: Agropoli
  9. Seaport for landing in US: New York
  10. Final destination in the U.S.: New York
  11. Whether having a ticket to final destination: Yes
  12. By whom was passage paid: Himself.
  13. How much money in possession: $10
  14. Whether ever before in the U.S.? No
  15. Whether going to join a relative and if so what relative, their name and address? The handwriting is faint and unclear. The words appear to state “with Cousin” or “with Cuoco”.
  16. Ever in prison or alms house or supported by charity? No.
  17. Whether a polygamist? No.
  18. Whether under contract express or implied to work in the U.S.? No
  19. Condition of health, mental and physical: Good.
  20. Deformed or crippled? No.

Nicola stated that he was not here to seek work. All the passengers replied in the same fashion.  The ship’s passenger list does not contain a clearly written destination for Nicola in New York City.

Our family stories for Nicola’s life in the U.S. always began with his arrival in Wilmerding shortly after his first daughter Giuseppa was born. We estimated the arrival year for the family as 1911.  This new discovery provides insights into the preparations Nicola made prior to bringing his wife and baby daughter over.

We always were told that life in Agropoli was difficult and the family was poor. So we are very reluctant to believe that Nicola just came to the U.S. for a vacation.

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