73-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Our Losses, Our Gains 1940-43 Pt. 4


Giuseppe D’Agosto was the son of Francesco and Raffaela (nee Carnicelli) D’Agosto.  He was born in the town of Agropoli on February 20th, 1895.  The earliest record we have of his arrival in the United States is circa 1913.  He lived in Manhattan and then moved to Brooklyn, NY before 1920. 

During WWI, Giuseppe served our country as a Private in the 22nd Infantry of the U.S. Army. The Infantry had a heavy presence in New York City for the duration of WWI where they protected the citizenry by patrolling the transportations systems and roads.

In 1923 Giuseppe travelled to Agropoli for his marriage to Philomena Serrapede.  Upon his return to the United States with Philomena, Giuseppe settled in Brooklyn.  The 1925 New York State Census shows us that Giuseppe was not only a citizen but also a Civil Service employee.  He drove a truck for the Department of Sanitation.  Giuseppe continued to work with the DoS throughout the 1930s and was still at his job when the 1940 Federal Census was taken.  He earned $1872 in 1939 which was enough to put his family into the ranks of the middle class. 

Relationship Notes

Giuseppe D’Agosto’s wife, the former Philomena Serrapede, was the eldest sister of Sam Serrapede

Sam and his wife Josie were the parents of Gerry, Emily Leatrice and Sammy Serrapede.  This made Giuseppe and Philomena D’Agosto Gerry, Emily Leatrice and Sammy’s paternal Aunt and Uncle.

The D’Agosto Family in 1940

The D’Agosto family rented an apartment in the house owned by Frank Errico, located at 1170-65th Street.  Giuseppe’s status in the 1940 Federal Census differs from that of the 1925 NYS Census.  Here his immigration status is Naturalized where as in 1925 NYS Census his status is given as Citizen. 

Giuseppe and Philomena’s children were very close to Josie and Sam’s daughter Emily.  In 1940 the older children went to school with Emily.  Their names were:

Lillian, 16 years old

Frank (nicknamed Sonny), 14 years old

Emily (known as Emilia by the family), 11 years old

Martha, 9 years old

Along with Rita Errico, the youngest daughter of Vincenzo and Elisa Errico, Emily grew up with her first cousins as her best friends and schoolmates.

1942:  Giuseppe has to register for the Draft

Giuseppe D’Agosto’s WWII Registration.

Even though he was a WWI Veteran and a father of four children, Giuseppe had to register for what was known as “The Old Man’s Draft” in 1942.  The purpose of this registration was not to send older men, born between 1877 through 1897, to the battlefield.  Rather it was a means of tracking the available men stateside, their professional skills and availability to work for the war effort on the home front. 

The U.S. military was seriously challenged in 1940.  The enrollment was very low and soldiers were wearing helmets from WWI and sometimes using weapons that went back to the Spanish American War.  An all out effort was made to mobilize industry to the war effort.  To boost the number of men serving in the military the draft was instituted by passage of the Burke Wadsworth Act by Congress.

We will present family stories and anecdotes related to the draft and other related topics as part of the next series to be entitled, 74-The Serrapede Family in Brooklyn, The WWII Years 1940-1945.

Giuseppe’s Passing

Giuseppe D’Agosto’s life exemplified what the Italian immigrant could achieve in making the United States his new homeland.  He advanced from living with a roommate in Lower Manhattan while he supported himself as a laborer after his arrival in New York at the age of 18.  Giuseppe continually worked at establishing himself in America following a disciplined path we’ve seen other partriarchs in the immediate and extended family follow.  He established himself professionally by securing a job as a municipal employee for the Department of Sanitation.  He brought Philomena, his wife, to America after this was accomplished. 

As a middle aged man with four teenage children and a stay-at-home wife, Giuseppe’s draft registration shows that if required he would have served our country yet again.  According to his WWI draft registration card he had already filed his Petition for Naturalization in 1918.  This confirms his commitment to make America his new home.  What is especially poignant about the draft registration of 1942 is that Giuseppe had only one more year to live.  He contracted cancer of the stomach in 1940 and was under a doctor’s care until his passing on June 3, 1943. 

Family Story:  Martha and Emilia’s visits to Gerry

Josie went back to work full-time in the late 1940s-early 1950s.  She did not have the time to make the long trip to St. John’s Cemetery where Gerry was buried.  St. John’s is located in Queens and even today, the route from Dyker Heights, Brooklyn to Middle Village, Queens where the cemetery is located is a long one involving two subway lines and then above ground transportation by bus.  The estimated travel time is 1 ½ hours. 

Emily always remembered the kindness of her cousins Martha and Emilia whom she said went to St. John’s around Easter and Christmas.  They would visit Gerry’s gravesite and leave flowers.  Whenever asked if Martha and Emilia went to visit another family member’s gravesite Emily became very quiet.  She answered yes but that was all.

Having the documentation for Giuseppe D’Agosto’s life and his death certificate filled in a part of the details of the events that impacted the lives of the Serrapede family curing the years 1938-1943.  The loss of Gerry in 1941 and the loss of her Uncle Giuseppe D’Agosto in 1943 contributed to a time in Emily’s life when she became aware of human mortality.  While she did not mention her Uncle’s passing the years of 1941-1942 are ones in which only her cousins came to the fore in her stories and memories.  What she related events of this time period lacked the wider view of her family stories from before and after this period.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, October 8, 2016 11 to 11:30 a.m.

The 1940 Federal Census records the D’Agosto family living at 1170 65th Street in Dyker Heights.  When Uncle Sammy was growing up he always visited Aunt Philomena and his cousins at the house they owned located on 71st Street near 14th Avenue.  This is the house I also remember when, as a little girl, my parents sometimes visited Emilia D’Agosto Granito.  I remember playing in the driveway with Emilia’s daughter Annie.

Giuseppe’s death certificate states that the place where he passed on was at the apartment the family rented at 1170 65th Street.  As a result, we are not sure when Philomena moved into the house on 71st Street but that is the place where our memories and family stories are set.

Uncle Sammy remembers that cousins Lillian, Sonny, Emilia and Martha lived with their mother for many years.  As they graduated high school and went to work they each contributed to the running of the household.  This agrees with what my Mom told me.

Uncle Sammy stayed at Aunt Philomena’s house on 71st Street for a week when he was a child.  At the time he was very into playing cowboy.  One day during the stay, he made a lasso out of a rope.  He succeeded in landing the lasso onto a table lamp which quickly fell over and broke.  This was followed by a great upset until Cousin Lillian came and calmed everyone down.  The matter wasn’t over, however.  When Uncle Sammy got home he heard about it all over again from Josie.  He was much more careful when playing at being a cowboy after this.

Lillian, Sonny and Martha moved out after they got married.  As was the custom amongst the 1st and 2nd generation of Italian-American families, one of the children lived with the widowed parent and took care of them.  Philomena’s daughter Emilia remained in the two family house with her mother after her marriage to David Granito.


Italian-American Identity

Chapter 44:  “Italian Families”
From:  Ethnicity and Family Therapy:  Third Edition

By Joe Giordano, Monica McGoldrick, Joanne Guarino Klages
Published by Guilford Press
Wellesley High School Research, Wellesley, Massachusetts

WWI Army Card for Giuseppe D’Agosto
Army Serial No. 379-182
New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919

“22nd Infantry Regiment (United States)

US Passport Application for Giuseppe D’Agosto
Issued Date:  May 12, 1923
Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925>>1923>>Roll 2256 – Certificates: 285350-285849, 11 May 1923-12 May 1923  

Marriage of Giuseppe D’Agosto to Philomena Serrapede
July 28, 1923 in Agropoli, Salerno, Campania, Italy
Imagines Maiorum

New York State Census of 1925
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 60; Assembly District: 16; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 59

The Old Man’s Draft

“The Old Man’s Draft”
The Newberry-Blog of Chicago’s Independent Research Library
Posted on July 21, 2012

America in WWII (blog)
“Your Number’s Up!”
By Carl Zebrowski

CarynSchulenberg.com (blog)
“The Old Man’s Draft”
Publ. 8/14/16 by Caryn

The Legal Genealogist (blog)
“Liable for training”
by Judy G. Russell | Jul 14, 2015

3 thoughts on “73-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Our Losses, Our Gains 1940-43 Pt. 4

  1. So good to read one of your family history posts. They are always so filled with love and warmth, like your family, I’d imagine. I never knew the reason for the Old Man’s Draft—so thank you for that insight. I am so grateful they did it because for many of my relatives it has been a very useful source of information.

    1. Amy, That was quite a discovery for me, too! The Resources section contains the links to more details about that Draft. Due to time constraints I had to compress the findings.

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