Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What I Learned Wednesday: 6 April 2011

The weekend started out with lots of promise: promise of time to spend researching my family. As it wore on, however, that promise started to disappear, sucked up by household chores and the need to take advantage of fleeting good weather to pull weeds, run errands, and do other so-not-genealogical chores. By Sunday evening, I could see that research time was once again going to be limited to a couple of late-evening hours: maybe a little bit of transcription or some entry of information into my genealogy database. In other words, a bit fat zero for for the week.

Then I got a call from my mother-in-law, who was replying to some questions I had e-mailed her. I had asked her to help me narrow down the dates of death of a couple of her aunts so that I could request copies of their Social Security applications, which, I hoped, would contain the maiden name of their mother, i.e., my mother-in-law’s grandmother. She told me what she could remember about the aunts - including lots of reminiscences - and although she wasn’t certain about exact dates, she thought the ones I had sounded right.

She continued to remember family stories, the subject switched over to my father-in-law’s family, and he came to the phone to talk to me. Suddenly he remembered: “I think we have some kind of document with Judy’s grandmother’s name on it.” He must have started to rummage through some documents, as I could hear him describing the documents - birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates. I held my breath; this was genealogical gold he was talking about. “I still can’t find one with her name.” At this point I didn’t care; what he was looking at was what I wanted, no matter which relatives they concerned. “Oh, here it is, Judy’s mother’s birth certificate: “Her name was Angiola [later changed to Julia] D’Arco, her father’s name was Nicholas D’Arco, and her mother’s name was Vengenza [he spelled it out] Rossi.”


Now I didn’t even need to send off for the aunts’ Social Security applications (though I probably will, anyway); as a matter of fact, I sort of had her name already, though I hadn’t realized it: it was on the 1910 census.

I just thought the census taker who had recorded the Nicholas D’Arco family in 1910 couldn’t figure out the names.

Well, maybe he couldn’t spell them very well, but he had them right:

Dargo, Nicholas
Vincenza Rose [Rossi]
Rosie Rose [Rossi] [this is the name that really threw me for a loop]

To my amazement, I was able to find Vincenza/Vengenza and Rosie (listed as her sister on the 1910 census) on my first try at the Immigration Records on Ancestry using the year of immigration provided on the 1910 census - 1907. She had originally been transcribed as Vincenzo Laughter - the transcriber’s attempt at the word “daughter.”

The entry on the passenger list is another goldmine of information - if only I can read it all.  (Note:  The line above the entries for Rosa and Vincenza is included in these images in an attempt not to cut off any information.)

Last Permanent Residence: Salerno [and what looks like] Cava [de] Tirreni

Name and address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came:

mother/grandmother - De Donato [?Angela], Cava [de] Tirreni

Final destination: NJ, Jersey City

By whom was passage paid: Brother-in-law

Whether going to join a relative or friend; and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address: Brother-in-law, Vincenzo D’Arco, 225 Fairmont Av., Jersey, NJ

Place of birth: Salerno, Vietri sul Mare

A few things are not quite clear, both literally and figuratively.

Is Rosa/Rosie Vincenza’s mother or her sister; the passenger list indicates twice that she is her mother, while Rosie is described as her single sister on the 1910 census. She is old enough to be either. Because Italian women did not take their husbands' names, she would appear to be her sister. If she is her mother, she either shared her husband’s name or Vincenza could actually be an illegitimate child.

I do not yet know how brother-in-law Vincenzo D’Arco was related to Vincenza’s future husband Nicholas D’Arco - perhaps a brother?

In the last image, I cannot make out what the “mark of identification” is in the first column of the middle line. And I am not quite sure about the name of the “mother/grandmother.”

This is definitely a brickwall breakthough, but I learned something even more important this week: when you interview relatives, don’t take it for granted that they are aware that items such as vital records are important information to a genealogist. I never asked my in-laws these questions; now that my father-in-law knows how important such documents are, he is going to scan them and send them to me.


  1. Chills! I love this. Love the fact that our dear, dear families often have no clue what we are looking for. Love the fact that if we just hold our breath sometimes and let them talk we will learn amazing things. I'm so pleased for you.

  2. I couldn't wait to read this, and wasn't disappointed. Such good advice you gave...I could picture you on the phone, patiently, of course. What a lot of new information...Happy Dance. Although your work isn't over, I think you are anxious to take the next step.

  3. Now I know what that loud banging noise was earlier this week - - the bricks crashing down!


    Have fun with the next leg of this journey!

  4. Susan - Thanks for your encouragement! I really took too much for granted and should have thought to ask these questions first!

    Barbara - Good thing we weren't Skyping, because they couldn't see the wild expression on my face and my arm pumping the air!

    Carol - It's funny; the discoveries seem always to come when I'm not expecting them.

  5. Don't you just love when that happens? I had a cousin send me some pages from my great-great-grandmother's journal this week. Thanks for sharing!

  6. That's amazing Greta! All that good stuff just sitting there and they didn't have a clue how important it would be to you!

    Happy for you!!

  7. I'm so happy for you! This is wonderful information.

  8. Yikes-chills for me too : ) congrats on the break through!

  9. Ooooooo! You have given me hope that I just haven't asked the right questions!! Congratulations on your breakthrough!