The research of genealogist Anthony Vermandois provides the basis for this week’s posting. At his website, ImaginesMaiorum-Ancestors from Campania, data from vital records is presented for inhabitants of Agropoli and other towns from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. We have used his charts of descent for the d’Agosto family of Agropoli to present the family background of Giuseppe D’Agosto.
Giuseppe’s surname is spelled as d’Agosto at Anthony’s website. The vital records we have obtained through Ancestry display variations. After Giuseppe came to America we see his surname spelled as D’Agosto, Dagosto or D’agosto. We are using the spelling of D’Agosto since this is the one we have seen written on the back of the photos we have and also a postcard from Giuseppe’s daughter Emilia.
The charts of descent for the D’Agosto family of Agropoli can be viewed at Imagines Maiorum.
Giuseppe D’Agosto is related to Uncle Sammy and I by his marriage to Filomena Serrapede.
-Filomena Serrapede was:
–the eldest sister of Sammy’s Dad, Sam Serrapede.
–Sammy’s Paternal Aunt
–Emily Ann’s Great-Aunt (along her maternal line)
In Posting 45-Muro Family in America: Josie comes to Brooklyn we traced the series of events which forced Josie Muro to leave her hometown of Wilmerding and come to Brooklyn sometime in late 1928 or early 1929.
Josie was introduced to her future husband Sam Serrapede after she came to Brooklyn. According to the records we have so far, Sam was living with his sister Filomena and her husband Giuseppe D’Agosto after he arrived in the United States. The relationship between Sam and his sister Filomena remained loving and strong from childhood onwards. Uncle Sammy and my late Mom grew up enjoying the company of their D‘Agosto cousins, Aunt and Uncle. The narrative of Filomena and Giuseppe’s lives and their coming to America is an important part of the relationships detailed in subsequent postings. We will, therefore, focus on Giuseppe D’Agosto’s early years in America. Like many young patriarchs of the immediate and extended family in the first generation, he emigrated from Italy when he was single. Giuseppe obtained employment and filed his naturalization papers before returning to Italy where he married Filomena before bringing her to America.
Overview of Giuseppe D’Agosto’s Lineage
Pedigree Chart for Giuseppe D’Agosto.
Giuseppe was the son of Francesco d’Agosto and Raffaela Carnicelli. He was born on February 20, 1895 in Agropoli, Campania Province in Italy.
Based on the research of Anthony Vermandois at ImaginesMaiorum we know that Francesco was born circa 1861 to Giuseppe and Marzia (nee di Crescenzo) d’Agosto. His father’s profession is entered as bracciante, colono and lavoratore in the records reviewed by Anthony Vermandois. Bracciante means agricultural worker. Colono is translated as “settler” but I have seen discussion forums where some participants think it refers to tenant farmer. No information on Francesco’s mother Marzia is available at this time.
Francesco’s first marriage to Maria Figliola produced three children for whom Anthony located birth records. They were:
Giuseppe (b. 1886)
Domenico (b. 1888)
Emilia (b. 1892)
We estimate that Maria passed away sometime between 1892 and before 1894. Francesco married his second wife, Raffaela Carnicelli in Agropoli on April 7th, 1894. From the second marriage were born:
Giuseppe, b. 1895
Maria, b. 1897
Maria Carmina, b. 1899
Carmine, b. 1903
Maddalena, b. 1905
Antonio b. 1908
Annina, b. 1915
Uncle Sammy and I think that the child named Giuseppe, born in 1886, died. This would account for Francesco’s first son by Rafaella being named Giuseppe. It was the custom to name the first boy after the husband’s father. If the child died young another boy born into the family would get that name.
Giuseppe’s mother, Rafaela Carnicelli was born on November 22, 1867 to Giuseppe Carnicelli and Maddalena Taddeo. Her father was a fisherman.
According to the 1920 Federal Census, Giuseppe came to America in 1913 when he was 18 years old. We have located the WWI draft and discharge records for Giuseppe which provide details of his life between 1913 and 1918. Even though he was only in the country for four years when he registered for the draft he already had filed his declaration of intent.
Giuseppe and the WWI Draft Registration: Exemption Requested
WWI Draft Registration Card for Giuseppe D’Agosto.
On Jun 8, 1917 Giuseppe registered for the draft. He was living at 122 29th Street near the historic Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. He was working as a laborer for the Jersey Central Railroad on Pier 10 at the North River. Wikipedia has a detailed explanation of how the part of the Hudson River where the piers were located came to be known as the North River. Some say it was a designation created by the Dutch. Piers 1-20, according to Wikipedia, fell into disuse as the 20th century progressed. They became part of a landfill when the first World Trade Center was built in 1973. Giuseppe may have loaded cargo from the Jersey Central Railroad onto or off of the ships which docked at Pier 10.
Discharge papers for Giuseppe D’Agosto at the end of WWI.
On his draft registration Giuseppe requested an exemption from service citing that he was the sole means of support for his parents. Although his exemption from the draft was not granted the record of his discharge shows he was not stationed overseas. He was inducted into the Army on May 2, 1918 and assigned to Company L 22nd Infantry as a Private. Giuseppe was honorably discharged on June 5th, 1919.
We have seen a similar request for an exemption in the draft registration for one of our family’s paesanos, Saverio Cuocco. Uncle Sammy and I questioned why young immigrants not yet naturalized had to register for the draft. We also wanted to know how and who granted exemptions from military service.
Exemptions from serving in the U.S. Military during WWI
The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives (GG Archives) has a complete listing of Questions and Answers about the World War I Draft process from a publication that came out in 1918.
We learned that in order to increase the number of servicemen the President was authorized to draft all men who had filed their Declaration of Intent to become U.S. citizens. Exemptions were not easily given and required review by the President of the United States. The process involved documentation and signatures from local and national officials prior to review by the President. We think that in all fairness, immigrants like Giuseppe who were drafted and served stateside during WWI achieved the fairest outcome given the requirements in place at that time.
For the details please see the answers to Questions 16, 42, and 52-57 at the GG Archives using the link provided in the Resources section.
Immigrants in the Army during WWI: Learing English while in Basic Training
News articles from the time period being reviewed bring the events to life. We get to hear and sense the voices of the day in a way that is never achieved from textbooks alone. If time permitted it would be beneficial to compare what history books have to say about immigrants serving during any time of war and then contrasting/comparing the findings with reportage from publications of that time period. Since we do not have the luxury of this kind of leisurely review we dove right into the search for a news report on immigrants in basic training during WWI.
Sam Houston State University’s website has an excerpt from the Harper’s Monthly Magazine published in 1918 that paints a vivid picture of the challenges officers had training immigrants who barely understood enough English when first brought to camp. To compound matters, there were illiterate Americans who had problems comprehending what they had to do. Some did not even understand where they were located. One American from the mountainous regions of the South thought he was in France already. It took several officers many days to convince him he was only a few hundred miles from home.
The officers spent up to two hours each day teaching English to all the immigrant recruits without any consideration being given as to what the native language of each man was. The Roberts Method was used to teach English through listening and visual cues to link the words with what is being enacted before them. No attention was given to grammar, reading or punctuation. The idea was to drill the meaning of the words into the mind through giving detailed examples by motions and objects. For example, to learn about getting up in the morning and what each step of that process should be and how it is described an officer would show the troops each action and the word that was used for it.
The reporter concluded that greater effort must be made by the country as a whole to ensure all immigrants the proper education at any time, not just war time, so that they quickly become integrated into their new country and productive members of society. Based on the results he saw while at camp, the reporter left convinced that the Roberts Method was effective in teaching basic English speaking and comprehension skills. The link to the excerpted article is in the Resources section.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, November 22, 2015 11:00 – 11:41 a.m.
The members of the first generation of our families in America did not pass on any stories about their time of service during WWI. As a result, our discussion took a different turn.
Uncle Sammy responded to the article from the 1918 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine entitled “Uncle Sam’s Adopted Nephews.” He said that differences in educational levels do have an effect on how draftees behave during basic training. Uncle Sammy said that in 1963, when he served in the National Guard at Fort Dix, New Jersey, there was a one young man who came from Tennessee. He had never worn shoes prior to serving in the Guard. “This guy,” Uncle Sammy told me, “Thought the Guard was the best thing that happened to him. He obeyed every order without question.”
The other members of the unit who had high school and college level coursework were a different sort, Uncle Sammy continued. They offered more of a challenge to the commanding officers. As an example he told me about one exercise where the infantry was fully outfitted. As part of the exercise, they had to storm up a hill to win a fort. Every third or fourth bullet fired from the fort was a tracer that created a phosphorescent glow. The infantry had their packs on their backs which made storming the hill very difficult. The infantry member from Tennessee went up the hill without questioning. But Uncle Sammy was part of the infantry that questioned the strategy for the attack. In protest they did not go up the hill. Like Uncle Sammy, these infantry members had high school diplomas and had completed some or all of their college coursework. In protest they remained at the bottom of the hill.
The commanding officers were furious. They told the protestors that they would be court marshalled. The leader of the protest countered that the strategy was flawed. There was no way the unit could have won the hill without help from an air strike. Helicopters should have attacked from air first to help weaken the enemy which outnumbered the troops at the foot of the hill. The leader of the protest said more lives would have been lost trying to take the hill that would have been worth it. Other members of the protest group also wanted to know if the fort was that important that they should “die” to obtain it.
Uncle Sammy said the commanding officers could not answer these questions. There was no further talk of court martial. The penalty the protestors paid was forfeiture of their passes home for two weeks.
Translation of Bracciante
Translation of Colono
North River (Hudson River)
The Selective Draft-Questions and Answers-World War I
Immigrants in the U.S. Army during WWI
[Excerpted from Fred H. Rindge, Jr., in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Vol. 136 (1918), pp. 281-289]
Sam Houston State University