Sepia Saturday 577. Second in a photo series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.
During a 1992 genealogy road trip with my mother to her Gloversville, N.Y., hometown, we stopped at the local Carnegie Library in search of family history information.
My mom — Peg (Laurence) Charboneau — became engrossed in a set of Gloversville-Johnstown city directories searching for the answer to a question that had long puzzled her: When did her Italian immigrant grandfather Peter D. Laurence change his surname from di Lorenzo?
It turns out that’s not an easy question to answer. But a few clues narrow down the search — and some of them come from the very city directories (now digitized) that my late mom was so focused on. So let’s take a look.
Oral history about Peter
For a high school assignment in the late 1970s, my sister Amy wrote a biographical sketch about our great-grandfather Peter based on an oral history interview with our mom. Amy’s paper contains valuable details about Peter’s early years in Gloversville. N.Y. — and his surname change.
His first job was as a dye master, coloring skins in a skin mill. This is where he got his last name Laurence. When he came to America his name was Peter De Lorenzo [sic]. After getting the job in the mill, his employer called him Laurence, claiming that De Lorenzo [sic] was hard to pronounce. Peter became used to this name and had it legally changed. He worked in the mill for about five years.
I remember hearing this story growing up — and I assume it was passed down from Peter to his son Antonio, our grandfather, then on to his daughter Peg, our mother. Many thanks to Amy for writing down this oral history, as it can now be backed up with research in digital records.
Documenting Peter’s name change
Starting at the beginning, Amy’s paper states that Peter “was born in the year 1872 in a small town called Benevento, Italy. This town was in the suburbs of the city of Napoli (Naples) in view of Mount Vesuvius.”
With this curcial information, I was able to find an abstract of Peter’s birth recordFamilySearch requires free login to view records. on FamilySearch — documenting his original name as Pietro di Lorenzo. He was born in 2 Sep 1873 in Limatola, Benevento, Campania, Italia to Giuseppe di Lorenzo and Maddelana Aragosa.“Italia, Benevento, Stato Civile (Archivio di Stato), 1810-1942”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:QGYD-GDYS : 12 May 2020), Pietro di … Continue reading
Then, in subsequent city directory listings,Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1903, et al., Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. [Original sources vary … Continue reading he used Laurence [incorrectly spelled Lawrence] and Lorenzo interchangeably for awhile — perhaps while he “became used to” the new surname — before settling on Peter D. Laurence as his name of choice from 1911 on. Looks like Mom was onto something looking through those city directories!
And a delayed 1942 birth record for my grandfather Antonio, born 10 May 1902, lists his father Peter with both surnames as “Peter Laurence (di Lorenzo).”
|Peter D. Laurence/di Lorenzo in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. records (1900 – 1911) Sources: FamilySearch and Ancestry|
|1900||U.S. Census||Peter de Lorendes||5 Washburn St. (Boarder)||Leather Dresser|
|1902 (10 May)||Son Antonio birth rec.||Peter Laurence (di Lorenzo)||Delayed birth rec. on 10 May 1942 lists Peter with both surnames||Father|
|1903||City Directory||Peter Lawrence||Residence: 128 E. Fulton||Laborer|
|1904, 1905 & 1906||City Directory||Peter Lawrence||Residence: 128 E. Fulton||Junk Dealer|
|1906||City Directory||Peter Lorenzo||Residence: 128 E. Fulton||Junk Dealer|
|1909 & 1911||City Directory||Peter Lorenzo||Employed & Boards: 128 E. Fulton||—|
|1909 & 1911||City Directory||Peter Lawrence||Residence/Rooms: 128 E. Fulton||Junk Dealer|
More about Peter and photo details
Peter’s address at 128 E. Fulton St. was the home of his in-laws, Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio. At that address, my great-great grandfather Antonio, a junk dealer, also ran his business — which Peter eventually took over after marrying the eldest Curcio daughter, Mary, and moving in with the family.
Meanwhile, this post features a family photo of a handsome, prosperous-looking Peter in civilian dress — taken around 1899 at the same studio as his previous military-uniform photo.
As a bonus, the back of this photo contains what appears to be a brief description of my great grandfather — perhaps in case a colorized version was later requested.
Penciled on the back, at the top, are “Eys. D. Brown, H. Black Curly” — along with other writing that is hard to make out. As with his previous photo, Peter D. Laurence is stamped on the back — possibly a rubber stamp used by Peter for his business signature — and “Peter Laurence” is penned in red.
Up next: Peter Laurence/di Lorenzo and friends pose for a group portrait. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.
- NYS Library: A new family find in Gloversville city directories
- 1911: Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence and sons
- Circa 1904: My long-lost great-granduncle Antonio di Lorenzo
- Circa 1941: Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence, married 40 years
|↑1||FamilySearch requires free login to view records.|
|↑2||“Italia, Benevento, Stato Civile (Archivio di Stato), 1810-1942”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:QGYD-GDYS : 12 May 2020), Pietro di Lorenzo, 1873.|
|↑4||Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1903, et al., Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. [Original sources vary according to directory and year.]|