45-Muro Family in America: Josie comes to Brooklyn, 1929

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Josie Muro in 1929.

Introduction

Josie Muro was the daughter of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro. She was born in 1909 in Agropoli and came to the United States with her mother in 1912. Her father came a few years earlier in order to secure work and a place to live. The family settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.

Josie came up to Brooklyn, NY sometime between 1928 and 1929. My Mom told me of the events leading up to it in a general way but without too many details. As a child, Uncle Sammy learned of a similar version of the story.

The information obtained from our reviews of the 1920 Federal Census in Wilmerding and the 1925 New York State Census entries for Brooklyn, NY helped fill in the spaces that existed in our knowledge regarding the story of Josie’s coming to Brooklyn. We shared what we knew. Then using the factual evidence from the Census records created a time line that provides us with a framework to better understand events that were in place before, during and after Josie’s move to Brooklyn.

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43-Muro Family in America-Nick, Rose and Family 1922-1930

Relationship Notes

Josie Muro was the daughter of Nick and Letizia (nee Scotti)  Muro.  She was:

–Sammy’s Mother
–EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother

Elissa Scotti Errico was:

–Letizia’s youngest sister
–Wife of Vincenzo Errico
–Josie’s maternal Aunt

Rosina Aiello Marasco was known as Rose by the family after her immigration to America.  We will use that name in this and future postings.  Nick Muro married Rose about late 1921-early 1922 after the death of his first wife Letizia.

Introduction 

Josie Muro is not recorded as a member of the Muro household in the 1930 Federal Census.  In the late 1920s she went to live in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York and got a full-time job.  Uncle Sammy and I were never sure who Josie stayed with during this time.  We reviewed the earliest photos we have of Josie, as well as the 1930 Federal Census entries for our relatives in Brooklyn.  Through our discussions we were able to create a timeline that helps us narrow in on who Josie stayed with and an estimation of what year she came up to Brooklyn. 

The timeline provides the backdrop which validates two family stories about Josie which I have been told.  The version my Mom told me differs only slightly from the one my Uncle shared with me.  Postings number 43, 44 and 45 will present the story as we go through the timeline.  Preparing this series has helped me finally make sense of both versions of the story.  I’ll wait until posting number 45 to let you know which one I now believe is the correct version. 

The Muro Household 1922-1930:  A growing family 

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Close-up of the 1930 Federal Census entries for the Muro household.

According to the 1930 Federal Census, Nick now owned the building where the family lived.  This was the property Nick received as a settlement after the death of his son Ernest.  The building, which had a store on the ground floor and an apartment above it, was located at 298 State Street.  In 1930 it was valued at $4,000. 

We don’t know what caused the Census Enumerator to list Nick’s wife as Lucy instead of Rose but we’ve entered a correction at Ancestry.  Another error which made it hard to find this record was an error in the data entry to Ancestry’s database.  The surname Muro was misspelled Mino.  Thanks to the help of Ancestry forum participants we finally found the record. 

Between 1923 through 1925, Rose had three children by Nick.  They were: 

Raymond (Raymie), born October 14, 1923
America (Igo), born October 20, 1924
Albino (Beno), born November 26, 1925 

With three children so close in age, Rose needed the help of the oldest daughter in the household.  This is where Josie’s assistance with housework and babysitting were necessary.  By 1930 the family totaled 11 people.  Josie is not one of the household members listed since she was already in Brooklyn by this time.  In addition to Nick and Rose the household in 1930 consisted of: 

Peter 17 yo
Louis 15 yo
Philomena 13 yo
Rosa (Rosie) 10 yo
John 14 yo
Raymond 6 yo
Americo 5 yo
Albino 4 yo

Philip Gimelko, a 31 year old tinsmith, living with the family as a boarder.  

Nick worked as a machinist for Westinghouse Air Brake Company.  Since he was employed full-time we are not sure who was minding his grocery store during the day.  Rose would not have time since there were too many children to care for. 

Josie Muro:  The earliest photos we have

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Josie Muro circa mid-1920s.

Josie wrote the date and location where a photo was taken on the back of many later photos.  She did not do this for the earliest photos which made it hard for me to figure out where they were taken.  I had never seen these photos until my Mom told me about them shortly before she passed away.  At first I did not recognize my Grandmother in many of the earliest photos.  This showed me how narrow my outlook was when it came to the older generations of our family.  I didn’t think about my Grandmother’s life as a young woman.  Yet here she was, smiling and looking at me in what I believe were her late teenage years.  Uncle Sammy and I think this photo was taken while Josie still lived with her parents in Wilmerding.  When we looked at the houses in the background and compared them to photos of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn in the early 1930s most of the homes in Brooklyn were brick and of uniform shape and height.  

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Josie Muro, circa mid-1920s.

We also date this photo to the mid-1920s and think the location looks more like Wilmerding than Dyker Heights.  In the section of Brooklyn where the Muro sisters came to live and settle, each one or two family home had a stoop that was level with the sidewalk.  The steps leading to the front door were usually straight up from the stoop.

Another indication of the time is how understated Josie’s appearance is.  There is no indication of the fashionable woman Josie would be when she posed for a studio portrait in 1929 and also took photos at a location we can identify in Brooklyn.

Josie had an appreciation for fashionable clothes and accessories.  Her favorite designer was Coco Chanel.  She loved perfumes and pearl necklaces.  As I view the photos of 1929 I understand why she did not want to stay in Wilmerding and continue helping Rose with the younger children.  All these things are communicated in the studio portrait which is part of a future discussion and posting.

The next thing we had to clarify was who Josie stayed with when she came to Brooklyn.  This is where her Auntie Elisa Scotti Errico plays an important role.  In our next posting we’ll focus on Elisa and her husband Vincenzo.  They moved from Wilmerding to Brooklyn shortly after Letizia passed away. 

Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, November 1, 2015

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The corner building became the site of Grandpa Nick’s grocery store and home in the mid-late 1920s, after he fixed up the property.  The store was on the ground floor.  The family lived upstairs.  Photo courtesy Fran Marasco. 

Uncle Sammy and I do not know how Nick got the grocery store up and running during the early years of his marriage to Rose.  He worked full-time in a machine shop at Westinghouse Air Brake Company according to the 1920 and 1930 Federal Census entries.  The reason we ask this question is that we want to create a time-line of developments within the family history.  Since official records cannot always offer all the details we need it becomes necessary to mine the information available through family stories and memories.  While this is not always a sure and certain method, at least we collect what is available and have a starting point for further research and reflection. 

In the late 1940s and through the 1950s, Uncle Sammy spent 4-6 weeks every summer in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.  He stayed with his Uncle Peter and Aunt Angie.  Peter was his mother’s younger brother.  Uncle Peter and Aunt Angie had three boys:  Nicky, Robert and Petey.  He was closest to Robert and Petey.  Since Nicky was older he had his own friends and went to different places.  Uncle Sammy, Petey and Robert loved to go to the playground up the hill from Nick’s store on State Street. 

Uncle Sammy said that in some years Nick was not working at Westinghouse Air Brake Company.  He’d be at the store full-time.  When Nick and Rose’s daughters Sylvia and Susie were old enough they sometimes helped in the store, too. 

Uncle Peter had his own shoe repair shop downstairs from the home he owned.  He worked there after coming home once his shift at Westinghouse Airbrake Company was completed.  Uncle Peter worked at his shoe repair shop from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.  We think that Nick may have run the grocery store along the same lines.  If so, the store assured Nick of a livelihood during the Great Depression since there were many lay-offs or slowdowns at the plant during those years. 

Resources 

1930 Federal Census for the Muro Family

42c-Muro Family in Wilmerding-Memories of Rose Muro

Introduction

 Uncle Sammy and I thought that we would collect memories and anecdotes about Rose, Nick and their family. We first mined our own memories and then reached out to our relatives. The portraits that emerge sometimes diverge and at other times intersect. Although this posting consists of small, simple details we think it tells us who Rose was, how she handled the responsibility of raising 11 children, and why she was a beloved Grandmother and Great Grandmother to all the Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren. We also see a glimpse into how strong Nick and Rose’s desire was to improve their language skills, knowledge about current events and encouraging their children to get a good education.This posting was finalized in November of 2015.

 

Relationship Notes

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Pedigree chart of Rosina Aiello Marasco Muro.

Rosina Aiello was born on April 24, 1896 in Martirano, Italy to Caterina and Angelo Aiello. She married Ricciotti Marasco in the mid-1910s. Ricciotti and Rosina had one son, John, born in 1916. Ricciotti served in the military for Italy during WWI and died in battle on September 5, 1917. Rosina remained a widow until Nicola Muro went to Italy to propose marriage sometime in early to mid-1921. Nicola’s first wife, Letizia, passed away February of that year leaving behind 5 small children. Rosina and her son John arrived in Wilmerding Pennsylvania in November of 1921. Shortly after that she and Nicola married.

Rosina was called Rose after her arrival in America.

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42b-Muro Family in America-Rosina comes to America

Acknowledgement

A big thank you goes out to Francis Marasco and Rosina Coltellaro for their contributions to our family history project. Their support has enabled us to present a well rounded look into the life of Rosina Aiello Marasco Muro. Francis is Rosina’s grandson and Rosina Coltellaro is her niece.

For the first part of this series please see:

42a-Muro Family in America-Rosina Aiello Marasco of Martirano

Leaving Italy

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Drawing of the S.S. America.

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Passenger list of the S.S. America.

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40-Muro Family in America-The Ethnic Mix on State Street

Introduction

As a child I thought my Grandmother and Mother grew up in neighborhoods where the entire community was Italian-American. I was very scared about going to kindergarten. Some of our neighbors told me that the children of servicemen stationed at Fort Hamilton would be amongst my classmates. These children had travelled to different countries in Europe or different states in America. Some of their mothers were from different countries. Instead of looking forward to making new friends I became unsure of myself. I told Grandma Josie and my Mom that I didn’t want to go to Public School. Instead I wanted to attend St. Bernadette where the student body consisted solely of children from Dyker Heights.

Mom and Grandma Josie shared stories of their childhood and adolescence with me in an effort to show me that they never lived in the strictly Italian-American world my 4 1/2 year old imagination created. I was told that sooner or later the bigger world would call out for me to participate in it. Going to kindergarten was the first big step I had to take.

Uncle Sammy and I decided to check out the stories Grandma Josie shared with me and compare them with the ethnic mix as recorded in the 1920 Federal Census for the Muro family in Wilmerding, PA. We then compared our own experiences of growing up in Dyker Heights and the ethnic mix we encountered throughout our school years. This exercise showed us that official records can be used to check the veracity of the family stories. In the case of the examples my Mom gave, we learned how important it is to collect as much material on a topic from each generation as possible. This personal history is sometimes never entered to published works on a community since they can be written by people who have not grown up or experienced the life of members of the community. For this reason, we believe that researchers do a great service to the genealogical community and amateur family historians when they include interviews with the people from the community they are writing about.

Relationship Notes

Josie Muro Serrapede was:

  • Emily Leatrice Serrapede’s Mother
  • Sammy Serrapede’s Mother
  • EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandmother

Emily Leatrice Serrapede was:

  • Sammy’s Sister
  • EmilyAnn’s Mother

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39a-Muro Family in America: Letizia Scotti Muro-The Florence Nightingale of Wilmerding

Introduction

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.

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Coffee Break: Change in posting schedule

Greetings to all readers and subscribers of “Through the Byzantine Gate”.  After a long, hot summer it’s good that Autumn is here.  We’ve resumed our weekly research and discussion sessions.  There will be many, many more chapters to the Muro and Serrapede family history forthcoming.

To accommodate our work and travel schedules the frequency of posting will change.  We’re moving to a twice monthly posting rather than a weekly posting.  This provides more time to proofread and tweak the drafts created in the past.  My Uncle and I are roughly 6 months ahead in our progress.

As we near the 1940s, the availability of Federal Census records ends.  With the end of available census records a change in our approach is needed.  The question under consideration is how to move the narrative forward and keep our readers engaged.  We intend to continue looking at the story from the family perspective as well as the bigger picture.  It is our purpose to always provide a take-away for the reader.

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