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
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.
The SS Canada’s Passenger List
Complete passenger list for the SS Canada.
Header for the SS Canada passenger list.
Close-up of entries for Giuseppe, Letizia and Giuseppina (Josie).
Answers to Questions on the Passenger List: Letizia and Giuseppa
Passenger No. 23
Name: Scotti, Letizia
Occupation: Farm Laborer
Can Read/Write: Yes/Yes
Last Place of Residence: Italy, Agropoli
Name and Address of nearest relative in country from when came: Her brother-in-law, Giuseppe Ruocco
Destination: Wilmerding, PA
Passenger No. 24
Name: Muro, Giuseppina
There are three things to notice from Letizia’s answers:
- She worked during her time in Italy as a farm laborer.
- The official who recorded her answers mistakenly wrote in that she had stayed with a brother-in-law named Giuseppe Ruocco. That is incorrect.
- Letizia’s husband did not have any brothers named Giuseppe. Her mother-in-law was Giuseppa Ruocco. We think this is the best answer. Ancestry has been notified of a transcription error in the original document.
A question not on the ships passenger list but which immediately came to mind was: Would Letizia have been travelling on her own with just her three year old daughter during the two week voyage? Given the conservative nature of Southern Italian culture and the strictly defined gender roles at that time we say the answer was “No.”
Answers to Questions on the Pasenger List: Giuseppe Comite
Passenger No. 22
Name: Comite, Giuseppe
Can Read/Write: Yes/Yes
Last Place of Residence: Italy, Agropoli
Name and Address of nearest relative in country from when came: Mother, Antonia Ruocco
Destination: Wilmerding, PA
At first we did not think a connection existed between the Scotti and Comite families until we saw the surname Ruocco for Giuseppe’s mother. We went to Imagines Maiorum to look up Giuseppe Comite. We found that his mother is entered as the wife of Girolamo Comite. Her full name was Antonia Ruocco di Raffaele. We then looked through all the charts for the Ruocco family in Agropoli but did not find this Antonia listed as a daughter in any Ruocco family. If she were she’d have a cross reference to her husband’s entry in the database.
We located additional information and a possible match for Giuseppe Comite in the 1920 Federal Census. This information will be presented in the next posting. We also will forward to Anthony Vermandois for review.
Discussion with US on Sunday, June 28, 2015, 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
We believe that Giuseppe Comite accompanied Letizia and Giuseppina on the trip to America as part of the plans made by Nicola and his family for the voyage. The role of women and their place in the family was very clearly defined even in the families of some second generation Italian American women.
Family honor and the reputation of the family name would be compromised by any indiscretions a woman engaged in. The position of the family in a community was also judged by the morality of the women in a family. It was expected that a woman out on her own should be accompanied by her husband, parents, a brother or a chaperone. Even idle gossip could do much damage to a woman’s reputation as well as cause others to look down upon the family. These were the attitudes and norms in place before our ancestors immigrated to America. We then considered how the Culture of Honor was modified and adapted after our ancestors settled in the United States.
Uncle Sammy does not remember being chaperoned when socializing as a teenager. However, my late mother who was 11 years older than Uncle Sammy, did tell me she never had any privacy as a child. Until she was 16 and received a betrothal ring from my Dad they usually went on double dates or events hosted by his parents at home. These events played out during the 1940s through 1950s.
As I came of age in Dyker Heights during the mid-1960s my girlfriends and I were allowed to go to dances at JHS 201 or dances sponsored by the Confraternity Classes at St. Bernadette’s Church. At these events teachers or parents were on hand to keep watch. Nothing went on inside where the dance took place but it wasn’t unusual for the so called “bad girls” to wait outside for a car to pick them up and go for a “little drive somewhere” and then return to the dance 20-30 minutes later. Our peers would talk snidely about what was going on. We knew that if any of us ever got into the car with that kind of a girl and the boys she knew we could expect to walk to school on our own and find another table at lunch in the cafeteria.
The older brothers of two of my junior high school friends showed as much interest in their sisters as their fathers did. In these families the fathers were old enough to be closer to the first generation of immigrants than the second generation of Italian-Americans in terms of attitudes. When my other friends and me visited these girls their fathers and brothers were friendly and respectful inviting us all to join in for a snack and some conversation. We were asked about our parents, where we lived, how we liked school and what time did we have to be home. I think this reflected a desire to know who their daughters and sisters were socializing with.
In Dyker Heights at that time, the world was a very small place. You were judged by the company you kept. If your girlfriends were known to be flirts and runarounds or having sex the same was thought of you. The kind of boys you’d want to date like the good students, the shy boys who smiled nicely at you or whom you wanted to work with on a class project would shun the company of the “bad” girls. It was quickly impressed upon my friends and me that we had to use our conscience as our guide and be aware of the consequences of our choices of friends. In other words we had to think very carefully and not let our emotions wreak havoc on our lives.
The consequences were very real. For me at 14 the idea of being expelled from the close relationships I’d enjoyed with my friends since 7 years of age was unthinkable. When a girl with a bad reputation approached me in class or the lunchroom I was polite but brief quickly falling in line with expected behaviors. When my friends saw something like this happening they’d come over with a flurry of questions about something they needed to ask me. I said good-bye and joined them at our regular lunch table. It was something we did for each other whenever we could. The result was that I got through Junior High School and High School without any substantive gossip circulating about me or my friends. Other than the usual comments about the fact I was too skinny so I might be sick and my friends were chubby so they must eat because they feel insecure there wasn’t much for anyone to say. None of it was true but it could’ve been much, much worse if we’d behaved other than we did.
Passenger List for the SS Canada
DetailYear: 1912; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1912; Line: 23; Page Number: 52
TitleNew York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957AuthorAncestry.comPublisherAncestry.com Operations, Inc.Publisher Date2010Publisher LocationProvo, UT, USA
Women in Italy
Monday, September 12, 1955
“Impressions on a Tour Abroad”
As recorded in this newspaper article a group of women on tour of Italy noticed how Italian women were chaperoned.