Sepia Saturday 578. Fourth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
Valuable family history information often gets lost with each succeeding generation — unless it is recalled, retold or written down.
Yet sometimes, even in the recalling and retelling, a story or a person may be inadvertently left out.
That appears to be what happened with my great-granduncle Antonio di Lorenzo — brother of my great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence/di Lorenzo.
Fortunately, unearthing family history is a collaborative effort. That’s how oral history, genealogy research and a serendipitous photo caption by various family members helped resurrect Antonio and restore him to the Laurence/di Lorenzo branch of our family’s tree.
Forgotten in the 1970s
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 Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, who did not recall any of Peter’s family coming to the U.S.
Not much of his life [in Italy] is known, but it is known that he joined the Italian army at the age of 20. After four years of service he came to the United States. He was the only member of his family to come and unless he met a friend here he didn’t know anyone.
Mom was just 18 when her grandfather Peter died on 15 Nov. 1944 — relatively young for her to know much about his earlier life, let alone that he had a brother.
Resurrected in the 1990s
Fast forward 20 years to 1992, when my mom and I made a family history trip to her Gloversville, N.Y., home town. While there, we interviewed two family members: Mom’s grand-aunt Rose Curcio (Peter’s youngest sister-in-law) and one of Mom’s Italian-American cousins.
Imagine our surprise when they each told us Peter had a brother! His name was Antonio — and they said he came to Gloversville, N.Y., where he stayed for a while, but he didn’t like it and returned to Italy.
Peter’s obituary, which Mom and I got on the same trip, corroborates their story.
The survivors are his wife. Mary, and two sons, Joseph and Anthony Laurence, the former proprietor of a drug store in the North-end; also one brother, Anthony of Italy.
Antonio’s U.S. studio portrait confirms the story
Of course, family tradition could be the source of the obituary detail. But when I recently began digitizing my Italian ancestors’ photos, I discovered the above studio portrait of Antonio — taken in the U.S. — which more tangibly supports the oral history.
My maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — wife of Peter’s oldest son Tony — thoughtfully noted Antonio’s name and relationship on the front of the photo. On the back, faint blue printing says W. H. Pearse, Photographer with what looks like a State Street address.
On Ancestry, I found a 1915 Schenectady city directory that lists William H. Pearse, photographer, at 459 State Street in Schenectady, N.Y.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. William H. Pearse, 1915, p 423.
Schenectady is not far from Gloversville — and earlier city directories show that W.H. Pearse previously operated his photography business from nearby Syracuse, N.Y., and Utica, N.Y., from the late 1800s. Pearse’s stamp on this photo confirms that my great-granduncle Antonio di Lorenzo did indeed spend time in the U.S.
Up next: Antonio di Lorenzo’s ship arrives in New York Harbor. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.
- 1899: Introducing my Italian great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (di Lorenzo)
- Circa 1899: Peter Laurence and pals pose for a photo
- 1900-1911: When did Pietro di Lorenzo become Peter Laurence?
- 1901: Peter Laurence (di Lorenzo) marries Mary “Mamie” Curcio
|↑1||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. William H. Pearse, 1915, p 423.|