Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Sunday, June 4, 2000

I spent six hours at the Rutgers University library yesterday. The big reason I wanted to go their was to look at their copies of Italians to America to see if I could find my great-grandfather and his parents listed for their trip to America in 1883. Unfortunately, despite what the catalog says, volume 1, which covers 1883, seems to be missing from the stacks. They've got another copy of it in the Special Collection, but that's not open on weekends. Feh. I looked through volumes 2 through 9 for other Brandis, and found a bunch, but none with their village of origin listed. I was also looking for some of Laura's relatives, like Francesca De Rosa who came with her parents in hot pursuit of her brother Raffaele who eloped, or Philip Saracco, but I didn't find them either. Maybe they're in the missing volume too.

Shifting to plan B, I spent some time with the microfilms of Paterson, NJ city directories, and found a goldmine of information about Laura's families. I started with the 1904 directory and didn't find anyone in it (I should recheck, though; my notes don't mention if I looked at 1902, which I should have, and I found a number of variations in spelling in later years). Philip Saracco (Laura's great-grandfather) makes his first appearance as a weaver in the 1905 directory, gaining a promotion to loomfixer by 1907. His first name varies over the years to Felippi and Filippo and eventually back to Philip, and the last name showing up as Sarracco and even, in the case of the 1920 Census, Sarracio. Sisto Pantano (Laura's great-grandfather) first appears (as "Sixty") in 1909 as a shoemaker; after a couple of years his names settles to "Sisty", and the last name doesn't vary at all. Vittorio Minnocci (Laura's great-great-grandfather) appears as a laborer in 1910, but by 1913, he's a grocer and the names is spelled "Minoccie". In 1914, he's a grocer and a maccaroni manufacturer in two different locations.

I looked at directories up to 1916, then skipped ahead to 1934 and 1935, where I found Luigi Lombardo (Laura's grandfather) working as a bobbinmaker and living with his wife Albana; that's two years after Laura's dad was born, so I'll have to look through the directories some more to try and pinpoint when they all showed up. Francesca Saracco (Laura's great-grandmother) is listed as the widow of Philip, so he died sometime before 1934. John S and Adeline F Pantano (Laura's grandparents) are listed as teachers, and they moved down the street between 1934 and 1935. They may have needed more room. In 1934, Vittorio Minnocci is listed with his wife Anna living with their son Arthur and his wife Vienna, but in 1935, Anna is listed as the widow of Vittorio, and there's an entry for Vittorio saying that he died on December 15, 1934, age 71.

It's amazing what you can figure out by looking at these directories. There's a lot more to the story, like relatives coming over for a few years, then going back to Italy, all that you can figure out just by looking at the city directories.

With about a half hour to go before the library closed, I decided to look at the Soundexes for the 1920 Census. I found loads of information there, too. Laura didn't know about any siblings for her Aunt Jo (still alive at 96!) or Aunt Vic (also still alive and 81), but I found three brothers and two sisters living in the "Sarracio" family on Ward Street in 1920. Likewise, in "Cisto" Pantano's house in Prospect Park (apparently they moved out of Paterson between 1916 and 1920), Laura's grandfather John had four sisters we didn't know about. And Laura's great-great-grandfather Victor (Vittorio) Minnocci had at least one other daughter other than Laura's great-grandmother Felice. I'll have to look in the 1910 Census, though; they may have mostly moved out by 1920, and I didn't have time to look for other Minnoccis, as the library was about to close by the time I got to them.

All in all, it was a hugely productive day, even if I didn't find the information that initially spurred me to go up there. I celebrated with a stromboli and a beer afterward; Italian food seemed appropriate. :-) The New Jersey State Library in Trenton has the first 12 volumes of Italians to America, so I'll have to go there one of these weekends. They've also got something like 60 volumes of Germans to America, which would be useful to find my great-grandfather's first wife. I'll also have to return to Rutgers one of these weekends to pore through the New Jersey Census returns and the years of city directories I didn't get through.

Posted at 3:24:22 PM