Elisa Scotti was born on September 4, 1891 in Agropoli. She came to the United States in 1912 and settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania where her twin sisters, Concetta and Letizia were living and raising their families. In the 1920s, Elisa and her husband Vincenzo moved to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York. Elisa was Letizia’s youngest sister and played a role in the life of Letizia’s daughter Josie that was very close and very important to Josie. Elisa’s youngest daughter Rita and Josie’s daughter Emily grew up as cousins and best friends.
Letizia had two more daughters, Philomena and Rose (Rosie). This family story is from Philomena’s son. I hope you will sense something about Elisa from the telling.
Everyone called Elisa, Zia Elisa, even her Grand Nieces and Nephews. This is how I address her, too, since this is how my Mom and Grandmother Josie discussed their memories with me. There was no separation of the generations and no designations such as Great Aunt, Grand Aunt, and so on. Zia means Aunt, but the manner and tone in which we used it, Grandma Josie, Mom and me, was more in the sense of Auntie.
Family Story: Made with Love
Place: Brooklyn, NY
Time: Mid-Late 1960s
Summary: A blanket made as a gift over 50 years ago keeps on giving love and warmth.
“Zia Elisa crocheted a very large, thick blanket for me. I was headed off to grad school. She said she wanted to be sure I was warm in the winters. I was to attend university in Upstate New York. Winters up there are always colder than downstate.
“The blanket endured dorm life and several moves. Here it is. It’s been washed and cleaned and hung to dry over and over.
” It was not only made with love but was made to last.”
I was amazed when I saw the blanket. It’s of the kind we call an Afghan. It is well used but is still in good condition. The design of tan and dark brown chevrons looks like it was made with acrylic yarn.
Zia Elisa’s Great Nephew wasn’t the only one who used the blanket made with love. Zia Elisa passed away in 1988. She did not live to see that her niece Philomena would also use the blanket when she needed care and went to live with her son, the one for whom Zia Elisa first made the blanket.
As told to EmilyAnn Frances May
September 30, 2014 Tuesday 6:44 p.m.
We have used the charts of descent for the Scotti family available at ImaginesMairoum, the site presenting the genealogical data compiled by Anthony Vermandois. This data has been collected from Agropoli and other towns in Campania province, Salerno.
For the other documentation used please see the Resources section at the end of this posting.
In our last posting we introduced Josie Muro. She was the eldest child in a family grew in size to 11 children by the early 1930s. Variations of a family story recounting why Josie left Wilmerding, Pennsylvania at the age of 18 or 19 to come to Brooklyn, New York provided a bare minimum of details. By using the census records and ships passenger lists for other relatives we are gaining insights into what happened to facilitate Josie’s move up to Brooklyn.
We will turn our attention to the contacts the Muro family had in Brooklyn who, we are certain, helped Josie in the very quick move her parents had her make from Wilmerding to Brooklyn. The story gets more interesting as the details fall into place.
Josie’s Zia Elisa
Josie’s mother, Letizia passed away in 1921 when Josie was 12 years old. We think Letizia was a weakened by an accident in the previous year plus the frequency of her pregnancies. Nick Muro, Josie’s father, married Rose (Rosina) Aiello Marasco in late 1921 – early 1922. We know from Josie’s own discussions with us that she had many chores and errands to perform each day to help Rose with the household.
Letizia’s two sisters, Concetta and Elisa, also lived nearby in Wilmerding. The Scotti family remained close to Letizia’s children during the lifetimes of the first generation of our family in America. Josie enjoyed long phone calls with Elisa. I remember during the times we visited, that even if she were cooking in the kitchen, she’d take time out to sit down and listen to what her Aunt was calling about.
Letizia Scotti Muro, wife of Nick Muro, passed away in 1921 at the age of 32. She left behind 5 children. Her daughter Josie often spoke of a relative named “Titsie” with great fondness. The correct Italian word for “aunt” is zia but I have heard it pronounced like “zitsie” or “titsie”, too. Whenever I visited my Grandma Josie, she got very lively if the relative named Titsie called. There was always a big smile on her face and a glow afterwards that told me this caller was someone special. My Mom said that this person was my Grandmother’s Aunt. I never asked what her name was. I took it for granted that some day I’d get around to that.
Since I hadn’t asked more questions about who Titsie was I could not be sure if she was my Grandmother’s maternal or paternal Aunt. As Uncle Sammy and I study the family history I am gaining more insight into which direct line relatives played a role in the lives of Letizia’s children after her death. This posting will provide an overview on how I came to know the identity of who my Grandmother’s Auntie (Titsie) was and why she was an important part of her life.
Pedigree chart for lineage of Letizia Scotti Muro. The names of her siblings are included.
Letizia Scotti Muro was:
–Sammy’s maternal Grandmother
–EmilyAnn’s Great Grandmother
Josie Muro Serrapede was:
–Emily Leatrice & Sammy’s Mom
–EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandma
Concetta Scotti Fasano and Elisa Scotti Errico were:
–Josie’s maternal Aunts
–Sammy’s Great Aunts
–EmilyAnn’s Second Great Aunts
The Sisters of Letizia Scotti Muro
Our research has not turned up any immigration records for the sisters of Josie’s father, Nick. As of this date (10/3/2015) the only immigration records we have for our branch of the Muro family are Nick’s.
This past summer I located documentation that Letizia’s twin sister Concetta and younger sister Elisa immigrated to Wilmerding, PA around the same time as Letizia did. Both sisters still resided in Wilmerding at the time of Letizia’s death. We will review the 1920 Federal Census entries to gain a snapshot of what their lives were like at that time.
As a little girl my mother, the late Emily Leatrice Serrapede, told me I had two Great-Grandmothers. One was named Letizia. She went to live in Heaven long, long ago. The second was Rose who lived in Wilmerding, PA near Great Uncle Peter. I loved my Grandma Josie as much as I loved my Mom. I want to know about Letizia becase she was Grandma Josie’s mother.
Mom would only tell me that Letizia had a very difficult time with her pregnancies and died at a young age. She left behind five small children who needed a mother and a young husband who needed love and companionship. For this reason, Great Grandfather Nick went back to Italy to propose to Rosina Marasco. Rosina’s husband died in battle during WWI. She had one son. Great Grandmother Rosina took on a great responsibility when she married Great Grandfather Nick. Mom always stressed that point.
When Uncle Sammy and I began our research and discussion sessions for the family history project this was the extent of what we knew about Letizia. As we researched and networked through Ancestry some memories of Letizia were shared with us. They add to the scant information we previously had.
Grandma Josie shared only one memory of Letizia with me that I have held on to all these years. When I prepared this posting I realized it fits the sketch that has emerged about Letizia based on the memories of others have shared.
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:
Giuseppa grew up to become:
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 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.