Monday, 6 November 2017

Peace outlasts Withdrawal

In October 1943, an Italian Prisoner of War travelled from Bhopal to Australia courtesy of the British Army. He spent most of the next three years at the Cowra Prisoner of War camp. 
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Shown here are: 55622 Pietro Gargano (tallest); 56000 Umberto Marangoni; 56376 Goffredi Faielli; 56412 Arturo Tempesti; 56359 Alessandro Rospi; 56504 Mario Ferrugini?; 56256 Luigi Margrini; 55608 Renato Guidotti; 56038 Antonio Panico; 56145 Giovanni De Rosa; 56507 Francesco Telese; 56397 Gabriele Sparago.
In October 1946, Pietro Gargano escaped from the camp and eloped to Sydney with his fiancee. They married on 4 November and several days later he gave himself up, wanting to be seen to observe the laws of his host country.
Italian Escapee Married Here (1947, January 14).
Barrier Daily Truth (Broken Hill, NSW : 1908; 1941 - 1954), p. 1.
It was the opening gambit in a campaign to remain in Australia, and while it did not initially succeed, eventually the outcome was secured.

To make sure that the Italian Prisoners of War were repatriated, the Australian Army assigned the 22nd Garrison Battalion to escort them out of the country. On the Otranto, which sailed from Sydney on 8 January 1947, Corporal Pietro Gargano returned to Italy under the guard of Sargeant John Schuberth.
Sgt John F G Schuberth, 22nd Garrison Battalion, Cowra
Seventy years later, while investigating his grandfather's war service, James Wall researched the ship and discovered some of the "passengers" were repatriated to Europe. Further sleuthing revealed a possible connection. 

Not long after, Pietro's son Peter met John's grandson James for the first time:
Protagonists overcome Warfare
descendants James and Peter
3 November 2017
Dickson, ACT

More on the life of -

Monday, 9 October 2017

the garden of life

One of the most valuable sections of any digitised newspaper are the Births, Deaths and Marriages columns, which also contain Memoriams and Anniversaries. Obituaries tend to be separate, and warrant their own search using that term. However, when exploring Trove, it will help to know how the prosaic was once expressed in more poetic terms. 

The Cradle, the Altar and the Grave or The Sepulchre were used in the early 1890s by one Victorian newspaper, not only using the common thread of human life but also expressing status in flowers chosen to surround the event in question. 

Churchyard Gardens. (1930, December 25). Freeman's Journal
(Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932)
, p. 10.

Of course the Cradle, the Dungeon and the Tomb is likely to be tongue-in-cheek. 

Buds, Orange Blossoms, and Cypress. (1895, April 3).
The Daily Northern Argus (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1896), p. 2

 Continuing with a floral theme, 
 Buds, Orange Blossoms and 
 Cypresses caught some 
 statisticians waxing lyrical.

In a similar timeframe, international journals recognised Buds, Brides, and Bodies: 

The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), p. 3.
By the 20th century, many of these terms were standarised as we still read them today. Trove summarises them as Family Notices in one of its facets to expedite finding - but this variety is worth noting if you use these 20th century keywords for your 19th century family life and uncover nothing. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Americanization or Anglicisation

Recently I made the trek to New York to research Italian antecedents. Despite huge swathes of content now traversable via genealogical conglomerates in minutes, some information is still only accessible on the ground. 

Atlas of the Borough of Brooklyn, 1903

The American convention of giving names to neighbourhoods within suburbs is something not easily discerned from afar. 

For example Red Hook in Brooklyn, which, amongst other influences, became a small Italian enclave when settled in the late 1890s - early 1900s. The name is still used in various locations.

Included in its special collection, the Brooklyn Public Library has a series of atlases and maps which will eventually be digitised. 

To capitalise on the time available, I attended a lecture at the New York Public Library on how to search the 1940 Federal Census. This is a rich online resource, but interchangeable names make discovery a challenge. It is not uncommon to find an Italian name for the first Census in which the family appeared after migration from Palermo, only to appear as 'someone else' by 1940. For example, Gaetana became Anna or Anita, Gesualda became Jessie, Gaetano became Tomaso then Thomas. 

Vicenzo/Vincenzo became, inexplicably, James not Vincent.* Surnames are also afflicted by this - Bellomonte becoming Belmont, Nangano was heard and written as Mangano. Eventually vowels were dropped too. This process was explained as americanisation**, although the presentation did label it otherwise. 
Courtesy Carmen Nigro,
Milstein Division, NYPL, April 2017

The origin of these names is surely not American, and despite the efforts of the Census enumerators to hide migrants in as many ways as possible, a shared appreciation of the English language allows us all to tap into the breadth of information from 1890 Ellis Island arrivals to the decennial censuses.

The key to searching the census successfully is to be aware that while names may be carried down the generations, little variations were and are also common. 

Thinking laterally, including for extended family, does help. 
Image, courtesy of Find My Past, of the family of Thomas Belmont, all given with surname as Thomas (found only by a search on the name of future son-in-law Roderick Black) 
The genealogical discovery process however, is a candidate for dramatisation and there is no better inspiration than American cinema. This is ably demonstrated by the NYPL's Irma & Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy which entices us all to delve into family secrets and mysterious name changes...

*  Finding Italian Roots - The complete guide for Americans, John Philip Colletta, PhD
** ironically spelt with an 's', or sometimes interchangeably with a 'z', in both anglicisation and americanization.