With None of My Relatives Aboard

The Mayflower departed from Plymouth, England, 395 years ago today

Raise your hand if you think Italians should be allowed in America!

My Italian ancestors didn’t venture to America until about 1900, steerage. I’ve told this story before but it’s worth repeating. My maternal grandmother was born a twin, but the twin and her mother died after childbirth. Her father died a year later so my grandmother was raised by cousins who decided she should go to America. Alone. Age 9. Long deep red hair braided, bright blue eyes, Angelina was shipped to New York where it was expected she’d be met by cousins already in Brooklyn. They didn’t show up and didn’t show up and didn’t show up, to the point that the officials at Ellis Island were obliged to send her back to Italy. Last minute the cousin appeared, took her to Brooklyn where she was promptly told she had to earn her keep. She worked at a hat factory. No formal education then. She married at age 16, not quite an arranged marriage but yes in the sense that my grandfather Dominic was from a nearby town in Italy and the families knew each other. My grandfather had come to New York earlier than my grandmother so the families felt he was already secure. He was two years her senior, a wise old man of eighteen.

At sixteen, Nana not only was a newlywed but they moved to Ohio where they worked a farm until my grandfather started his own business.

Fast forward, grandpa was successful and they lived a comfortable and simple life. Nana an amazing gardener, her huge garden terraced down the hill of their house on Lake Erie. She cooked what she grew. Preserved the leftovers in a root cellar in the basement for use over the winter. She had  a prized weeping willow tree which you can see behind her right shoulder up in the yard.


I’m guessing she was in her 80s in this photo my cousin sent me recently – she mowed her own lawn into her 90s, lived to be just over 100. She lost her sight to cataracts that she was too afraid to have repaired but knew every footstep of her house without much sight, and could still crochet and cook. She was a hardy woman, never a harsh word for anyone, a great friend and neighbor, an amazing grandmother. She may not have come over on the Mayflower but she’s MY Pilgrim.

4 thoughts on “With None of My Relatives Aboard

  1. What a story and a wonderful picture. She looks like the perfect grandmother and I bet she was.
    Do you know what happened to the Italian cousins who put a little girl on a ship by herself?

    1. You know, I don’t. I have traced my roots on both sides of my family, even been to the tiny peasant villages where everyone came from, and met some very distant cousins, but no one around now would remember.

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