Family stories are hard to find once your older relatives are gone. On my mother’s side, my grandmother was the best source – and she didn’t know her father since he passed away when she was little. I’ve heard rumors he was a small man compared to my great grandmother that was large. He worked in the mines and had a hard life. I’m sure that the mines contributed to his lack of ability to fight the flu in 1918. That flu killed off large amounts of middle aged people and was one of the worst epidemics in history.
Stories I’ve heard include how my great grandmother would work in the garden and stop long enough to come in, have a baby and go back out. My great grandfather had applied for citizenship and my great-grandmother would have gotten it through him if he hadn’t passed away before completing the process. Stories sound like she was always afraid they would send her back to Italy and not let her come back to the US if she tried to visit family back home.
The story I had heard was that they started in Clinton IN and then moved to Westville, IL. My great-grandmother came over to the US with three girls in tow and passed through Ellis Island. After coming to the US a daughter Theresa died in Clinton IN as a child. The story is that Theresa was the name of a sister to my g-grandmother so she named my grandmother Theresa since she wanted to use the name (after the first Theresa had passed away). The grave of the first Theresa in Clinton supposedly washed away many years ago.
Can you imagine coming to a foreign country on a LONG boat trip with three girls afraid that one would get sick and cause the new country to deny you entry? My great grandparents left everything they new behind to come to the US with very few possessions to start over with.
Stories of Italy that my grandmother remembered included that they lived above the barn in Italy. The heat from the animals kept the house warmer. My aunt Kate also told stories filled with superstition. One I remember involved a beggar coming to the door in Italy and a relative throwing hot coffee out that landed on the beggars face. A few days later a dog showed up at the door with a burnt face and they were sure it was the beggar. Of course these stories come to me not even second hand, but third hand in this case. My Aunt Kate was one of the youngest kids and she told me many years ago. If only I had used a tape recorder then to preserve the stories….