The gift of a “genealogy goldmine.” When the clipped newspaper articles are practically crumbling in your hands, you are viewing photos of people born in the 19th century, and the scent of paper older than 100 years lingers in the air, you know you were gifted the “genealogy goldmine.” That is what my mother’s cousin – a Ferraro cousin – gifted me the other day. You probably saw the photo of Angelo Ferraro on Facebook wearing the top hat and his Italian military medals with the explanation from the Italian article describing his military campaigns. That piece of gold and the stories she shared were the best part!
Someone in the family kept clippings, pictures, and programs related to these early Italian immigrants in my ancestry. I am guessing this collection of memorabilia may have been started by my great grandmother Helen and continued by one of my great aunts after she passed. There are many names in the “goldmine” I have heard, but can now put into context in the music industry. Not to mention, there is another little mystery surrounding Immigrant #3 ~ Retired Army Captain and Merchant Angelo Ferraro and who he may have been working for in New York City before he passed away in Ohio in 1926. More on that later after I sort it out.
In 1910, my great grandfather and 6 other Italians apparently formed the Italo-American Forwarding Company in Chicago. The description of the company in the torn pages from a publication we will never be able to name describes it as an import/export business that specifically specializes in Italian, French, and Spanish goods. They claimed to have a New York office. In the 1910 Chicago Census, Carmine was listed as a fruit broker. Perhaps the Italo-American Forwarding Company imported produce. You can see Gerry Valerioti and Angelo Scarnecchia were members of the incorporation and Antonio Ferraro is the Vice President! Could Antonio have been in charge of the New York part of this enterprise? Maybe he really spent time in Chicago?
Another clue I found on Antonio was a translated copy of a letter Carmine wrote to Antonio on February 1, 1948 that was sent to the “Augustinian College” at Santa Rita del Carmine, in Aversa, Caserta. Was Antonio really the religious brother then? What does this mean then about abandoning wife Elisa? Below is a current photo of the Complesso del Carmine in Aversa.
The Augustinians left in 1959 and the complex closed in 1980 after it was damaged by an earthquake. If you are wondering where Aversa is, it is a town about 5 miles outside of Napoli.
So now we know where Antonio was in the 1940s. Did he have a family in Italy? What was going on with this guy? We now know he lived until at least 1948. Could unraveling the next little mystery about my second great grandfather Angelo Ferraro lead us to another clue on Antonio in New York City? Maybe.
Immigrant Carmine Costantino Girolamo Angelo Ferraro was born in 1878 in the Montecalvario neighborhood of Naples Italy and came to America as a Franciscan priest in 1904. He was my great grandfather. Montecalvario is a northern neighborhood in the Quartieri Spagnoli, an infamous section of neighborhoods created in the 16th century by the Spanish rulers. In short, they housed the troops that controlled the populace and crushed rebellions. It is a neighborhood known for high crime and unemployment.
When my great grandfather was born, his father was a merchant and his parents named him after his mother Filomena Napolitano’s father Carmine, in the Italian naming tradition. Carmine was the second son, and would therefore be named after his maternal grandfather. The family lived on Via Pignasecca, #16. See: On This Day in 1878. Carmine was one of 6 children. The others were in order of birth: Antonio (oldest child), Angela Maria, Gelsomina, Elena, and Giovania.
Late in life, my great grandfather wrote an essay on the state of opera in America published in Who’s Who in Music in 1954. At the back of the book was his biography, written by him. He put in there that he attended high school at the Naples Royal Military College/Reale Accademia Militare. It is also known as Nunziatella. This is a link to the English Wikipedia entry on Nunziatella. He also put in there that he attended the Naples Conservatory of Music Naples at San Pietro a Majella. You can read about that conservatory at this Wikipedia link. One more note about his Naples education in the biography was that he had a Ph.D in Literature and Romance Languages. Since his father was a retired military officer, Capitano Angelo Ferraro, I can see he might have attended the Nunziatella, but of course, we don’t know if he attended for a few years or just one year.
By 1899 he was in the Italian Army for two years as a Lieutenant. He stated later in a federal file I obtained here that his Italian military service was completed in 1901. That would have made him 23. He is the only great grandfather I have that I cannot obtain his military record from Italy. The Archives of Naples claims the draft year he belonged to was destroyed by allied bombing in WWII. I wonder if that is really accurate.
In 1904 he acquired a passport to come to America as a Franciscan Priest at the Questura in Naples. When did he have time to study the priesthood? That is a very good question. My grandmother had a letter from him stating he did missionary work in Peru as well. This had to have happened before he first came through Ellis Island. In my previous post about the first time he put his foot on U.S. soil: On this day 112 years ago… he traveled to America with his mother and sisters (excluding Giovania) to meet their father Angelo and brother Antonio in Brooklyn. Carmine was NOT detained at Ellis Island.
By 1906, according to the word of mouth of my forebears, Carmine had left the priesthood. There are conflicting stories on where he was a priest. I have heard NYC and all of the towns in Ohio that begin with a “C.” I did check with the archival center for the Diocese of Columbus to see if he was a priest there. Why Columbus? Because that is where I found him in the 1907 Columbus Directory living with his parents at 394 Goodale. Whatever happened to made him leave is no bother to me, and since I have no document or record to say why he left, you are just going to have to use your imagination. They couldn’t find anything on a priest with his name.
It is my understanding that at that time, if you can believe the librarian at Columbus, Columbus had the largest little Italy second to NYC, so it is natural that they had the Italian language newspaper L’Eco there.
In 1908, Carmen married Helen Kirsch before a Justice of the Peace in Chicago. I would like to take this opportunity to remind my cousins that Carmen and his brother-in-law Jerry Valerioti seemed to move to the same places during this time period. Jerry and Carmen’s sister Angela Maria were detailed a few weeks ago here: Immigrant #2: Angela Maria Ferraro Valerioti – Mother of a Renowned NYC Investigator and a NYC Refuse Company President. Approximately one month before the birth of my grandfather, also named Carmen, in May 1909, my great grandfather filed his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States with an occupation recorded as “teacher of foreign languages.” In the 1910 census I found what I thought was the incorrect people or was another case of an indexer on Ancestry making the census 1910 census entry whatever they wanted like when they called Fritz Eckebrecht “Grity” Eckebrecht. But the name of the spouse, Helen, and child incorrectly spelled Carmein, and birthplaces of the parents, even though it should say Switzerland for Helen’s mother, was too coincidental. See for yourself-
And I was also thrown off by my great grandfather’s occupation/industry:
The “W” next to fruit stands for “working on his own account, not an employee or employee.” Hmmm…Helen must have been pregnant at the time of that census because their son Angelo was born that year. When he was naturalized in 1911 his occupation was listed as “broker.” Then I knew for sure that was my great grandfather. Also in 1911, Helen and Carmen welcome their oldest daughter Philomena Mesta. Not only was she named after her paternal grandmother Filomena Napolitano, but her maternal great grandmother in Switzerland was named Regina Anna Maria Catharina Josepha Philomena Gentinetta.
Back to that biography he wrote for Who’s Who in Music with a mention of his Chicago education. He stated he had a D.O. from Chicago Medical University. Hmmm….
The family moved 4 times in the following years until 1920, moving between Ohio, New York, Chicago, and back to Ohio and had four more children: Louis, Anna, Helene, and Victor. Before a 1914 move to New York I found an odd newspaper article that referenced C. Ferraro from Youngstown, Ohio in 1912. At that time my great grandfather’s sister Elena was living in there with her husband Angelo Scarnecchia. I am not positive it is my ancestor but below is the article regardless.
That article is another one that goes into the “Hmmm category” isn’t it? There was no opera singer named Armanno Vittorio though. I tried to find him. Nor was this tenor in anymore newspaper articles from this time period. But there was and still is a Colon Theatre. It is called Teatro Colon. You can just draw your own conclusions this article because I just don’t know if it means anything or not.
We also have a photo of my great grandfather that I tried to date to the 1910s. He was posing with what looked like a gavel, white gloves, a mantle, and an apron. For a while I thought that was the photo at his naturalization until a friend of mine showed it to her husband, a Mason, and he explained that was a Masonic mantle and with the white gloves it meant he was the Grand Master. I don’t know what town or state it was from.
By 1920 he was living in Warren, Ohio again and told the census taker he was a grand opera singer. In 1921, Carmen was the Director of the Youngstown International Glee Club in addition to his traveling opera singer business. According to that biography I have mentioned, he wrote that he was an opera conductor since 1922. They had their daughter Gloria in Ohio before moving back to Queens, NY where their last was born in 1924, Romauldo. That should be 9 total children. Also in 1924, my great grandfather toured Europe and took my grandfather along.
One more note about the biography – he wrote he was awarded the Order of the Crown of Italy in 1920. He wrote that title given to him was “chevalier” and that is FRENCH! It should be “Cavaliere!” I have never found anything to prove this or disprove and quite frankly I have no idea where to find out if this Order of the Crown award was given to him.
At this point, my great grandfather didn’t go anywhere for a few years and ran his music school. In October 1931 he married Natalie Schinitz. The following week he was arrested on suspicion of alien smuggling and ended up serving a prison sentence in Leavenworth for 1 count of mail fraud. This is the Chicago Tribune link to the article about his arrest. Basically he took money from people to bring their relatives into the country. He was a model prisoner, worked in the prison infirmary, and was released after serving only 1 year of his 2 year sentence. The only objection to his being paroled came from his brother-in-law, Helen’s brother, Albert Kirsch. Yep.
His 9 children were split between three homes while he was in prison. Two daughters when to live with a niece in New York (probably Margherita Valerioti, I have no proof), the oldest boys, including my great grandfather, went to live with my great great grandmother Anna Heinzen Kirsch, and the youngest stayed with Natalie. While he was in prison, there is a bit of evidence that Natalie divorced him, so I believe then the youngest children would have gone to live with their grandmother Anna Heinzen Kirsch. I have no proof of that though.
By 1940 he had moved back to Brooklyn and was living with two of his daughters. He began using the name Mario Carmen and was listed as vocal instructor with the industry “opera” in the 1940 Federal Census under the name Mario Ferraro. He taught singing until he suffered a heart attack in 1962. He passed away on September 5, 1963 and the name Mario was used on his death record with Carmen.
Final Thoughts on this Posting
There are a ton of oral stories associated with my great grandfather. I only stuck to what was found in the paper trail he left in Italy and across the country. It was very easy to find records about him and to locate articles about him. I have no doubt that I haven’t found everything yet-this includes all of the articles about my great grandfather’s federal case in the Chicago newspapers and also one from the New York Times. You may be reading this and think I should have included more of them. Maybe you are right.
I have a story about trying to get his birth record from Italy the same time I was trying to get a copy of his case file from the Department of Justice by filing a Freedom of Information Act Request. The Department of Justice told me I couldn’t have the United States Attorney’s file on a man born in 1878 because: 1. I hadn’t proven he was dead, even though he was born in 1878; and 2. They weren’t positive I was a United States citizen.
So I appealed their decision on my Freedom of Information Act Request. That same day that I mailed my appeal to Washington D.C., which is about two hours away, I mailed my request off to the Commune of Naples, in Campania, Italy. It was October 31st. Naples is a place that is over the ocean on another continent and stuff… Two weeks later to the day I had my great grandfather’s birth record in my United States mailbox. Then on December 27th, I received a letter from the United States Department of Justice that they were reviewing my appeal. It is easier to get records from Italy you see. I never got the case file from the Department of Justice.
Columbus, Chicago, Warren, and Youngstown City Directories
The New York Times
Wikipedia and Various Travel Websites
Cook County Birth, Marriages, and Death Records
Warren County Death Records
New York City Death Records
Who’s Who in Music, 1954
Family photos, memorabilia, documents, and letters
The nice people at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court
Diocese of Columbus
next immigrant: My other immigrant great grandfather
Immigrant Angela Maria Ferraro Valerioti was a younger sister of my great grandfather Carmen (Carmine) Ferraro. Because she was the oldest daughter, Angela Maria was named after her paternal grandmother Angela Maria Delle Cave. She was born about 1881 in Naples and came to America with her mother and sisters to meet Angelo Ferraro, on April 28, 1904. Like her father Angelo, she was detained at Ellis Island, as indicated by the “X” next to her name. Unlike Angelo, we know the reason for her detainment. By scrolling to the detained passenger listing at the end of the manifests in the archive’s batch, it was written that she was detained because Angelo was late picking all of them up. As soon as he arrived they, they were released to go with him and live in Brooklyn.
By 1905, Angela Maria, or Maria as she was called, had married immigrant Gerardino (Jerry) Valerioti and had her first child, Albert in New York City. I found Jerry living in Waterbury, Conn. in 1904. He was employed as a barber. By 1907 Maria and Jerry had moved to Columbus, Ohio where he was employed as a masseur. She stayed close to her parents and siblings who also were living in Columbus. Her daughter Margherita was born in Ohio.
From there, in 1908, Maria and Jerry had moved to Chicago where they had their son Umberto and Jerry once more found employment as a barber. Again, Maria and her brother Carmen appear to be in close contact, because at this time, Carmen had also moved to Chicago, was working as a language instructor in Chicago, and was getting married to Helen. Maria had two more children in Chicago – Angelo and Celestino Vincenzo (Charles) before moving.
By 1913, like Carmen, Maria and Jerry were back in Columbus where Jerry continued his profession as a barber. By 1918, Maria and family had moved to the Bronx and that is where we pick up Jerry having to complete his World War I draft card. According to the card, he was employed in his own business at that time – wine dealer at Monte Vesuvio Cellar Company. I still haven’t been able to find Jerry’s entry into the country but am aware the surname isn’t common. Censuses say he entered the US between 1894 and 1899 and was naturalized about 1908. A few Valerioti are present in Naples today and the rest are present in Calabria. Seeing the name of his own wine dealing company, I suspect he was as Neapolitan as Maria. But am not entirely convinced of that yet.
In 1919, Maria passed away in NYC and was buried in Calvary Cemetery. In 1920 Jerry was employed as a salesman for a steamship company. In 1925 he was involved in selling real estate. According to the 1930 Census, he was a laborer in construction, and also in 1930, he was on Carmen’s letterhead as “Representative” in the International Opera Association Company Carmen had based in Chicago. That fact makes it clear that Jerry seemed to be in contact with his brother-in-law Carmen after his wife’s death. Jerry re-married to a woman named Mary by 1925, and it is apparent that he adopted her son Michael. She died at some point before 1928, because he then married Immaculata Rongo. He also adopted her daughter Gloria.
I traced Maria’s children. Umberto was deceased by 1925. Her daughter Margherita appears to have died in Las Vegas in 1976. I couldn’t determine whether or not she ever married. Charles (Celestino) and Angelo both married Italian-Americans and stayed in New York and raised families there. Charles Valerioti was a president of a refuse company called C.A. Refuse Company based in Mount Vernon, New York. An article posted below from Tarrytown, NY has a mention of his refuse company as well as a grand jury proceeding.
Charles was never charged with anything and didn’t appear to be involved in the Mount Vernon incinerator issue that brought about the inquiry.
The oldest child of Maria, Albert, was in the newspapers too. An article about private investigators featured in articles across the country said he was a former New York City Police Officer. It also stated he was the head of the United Stated Army Security Office on Long Island during WWII, but I have found no proof he was ever in the military. So I am not clear what that exactly means. He ran a business called the United Service Detective Bureau on Broadway. The company was formed in 1954 and closed in 1983.
In 1959, Albert was elected President of the International Council of Investigators at the Waldorf-Astoria. This council is still in existence today. Albert took all kinds of cases, some involved background checks, some involved security for royalty, some involved investigating murders for rich murder defendants, etc. The picture below comes from the newspaper. Unfortunately we have no photos of Maria.
Is that the Ferraro chin? Was his investigatory nature inherited? Was it a Ferraro trait?
I have not found any Find-a-Grave memorials online for any of Maria’s descendants. I also never found Jerry after the 1930 census. Charles and Albert and their families were mentioned in Carmen Ferraro’s Farewell program at Carnegie Hall from 1962. How many of my cousins reading this met the Valeriotis? I am going to keep looking for obituaries for Maria and her children and will try to determine what happened to Margherita.
As for Maria’s children – WOW. You never know what you will find in online newspapers articles.
Waterbury, Columbus, Chicago, and New York City Directories