For as long as I’ve been with my wife, I’ve known that her paternal grandfather was an orphan. In fact, that’s where the family got it’s name, it’s the Italian equivalent to the American-Doe. He died when my father-in-law was still young, and from what my wife’s maternal grandmother said, it was due to black lung. Nona (pronounced Naw-nah, which is Italian for Grandma) would know, she was there. The two families became quite close soon after they all entered New York City. In fact, it was Nona, my wife's maternal grandmother that gave my father-in-law his first bath!
Well, years later as I began my search into the family history, I found two rather interesting facts. First of all, her paternal grandfather, Natale, was not an orphan! I was able to find his birth registry on line, in Italian, along with the signatures of his parents. My mother-in-law now thinks it may be her husband’s grandfather that was the orphan, I haven’t gotten that far back yet.
Once I found his birth registry, I continued to dig and found him on a passenger list coming from Italy to America. Imagine my surprise (the second one) when he was listed as an American! It turns out, Natale had left Italy as a young man and came to America to find work in the Pennsylvania coal mines. As both my wife and I were bred and buttered in the Bronx, I never thought we had anything in common with Loretta Lynn. After he made enough money, he was able to go back the the old country, marry Giuseppina, and return to the United States and start his family. How tragic that his work in the mines, the source of his minimal fortune, was also what took his life at an early age. He gave his best years to the cold, dusty, tunnels of coal, deep within the Pennsylvania mountains. As we'll see, this is another similarity that the Irish and Italians had over the years of their immigration.
As for Natale, I know they’re still out there in the vast sea of fragile, yellowing documents; those two passenger lists showing him coming to America for the very first time and then returning to his family. His citizenship papers were done in Pennsylvania, and those need to be found as well. Someday, I hope to find more information about Natale, maybe when my wife, daughters, and I can visit family in Italy.