1911: Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence and sons

Sepia Saturday 583. Ninth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

A blog series featuring photos of my maternal Italian ancestors from the Laurence-di Lorenzo-Curcio family album. Photo: Molly Charboneau

By 1911 — when the photo below was taken — my maternal Italian great-grandparents Peter Laurence (nee Pietro di Lorenzo) and Mary “Mamie” Curcio had been married 10 years and were raising their children in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

Yet a decade after their 1901 marriage, they still did not have a home of their own and were living in the crowded Curcio household — with Mamie’s parents and younger siblings as well as her maternal uncle Michael Del Negro and his family! (See table below.)

There must have been bunk beds galore to house so many people in the one-story wood-frame home at 128 East Fulton Street — a property that also contained the Antonio Curcio Junk Yard out back, where Peter worked for Mamie’s father.

The Laurence family of Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. in 1911. My great-grandparents Peter and Mamie (Curcio) Laurence and sons Antonio W., 9, in front of Peter and Joseph B., 8, in front of Mamie. Antonio is my maternal grandfather, looking dapper next to his younger brother in a sailor-style outfit. Scan by Molly Charboneau/Charboneau-Laurence Family Collection

A crowded household

New York State and federal census enumerations for the early years of my great-grandparents marriage shed light not only their lives — but also on what must have been a common immigrant experience in the early 1900s.

Living together in a multi-generation home, as the Laurence family did in the Curcio household, allowed for the pooling of resources, housekeeping and childcare — and even the operation of a family business — until the Curcio children were ready to set up their own households.

And even then, the Laurence’s didn’t move far. The 12 Wells Street address below is right around the corner from 128 East Fulton St.

Laurence, Curcio and Del Negro Families in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Censuses – 1900-1920 – Sources: FamlySearch and Ancestry
Census Year Address Laurence Curcio Del Negro
US 1900 128 E. Fulton Street Antonio Antoinette and 8 children Michael Mary and 2 children
NYS 1905 128 E. Fulton Street Peter, Mamie, Antonio, Joseph Antonio Antoinette and 8 children Michael Mary and 4 children
US 1910 128 E. Fulton Street Peter, Mamie, Antonio, Joseph Antonio, Antoinette and 7 children Michael Mary and 7 children
NYS 1915 128 E. Fulton Street Peter, Mary, Antonio, Joseph Antonio Antoinette and 6 children
US 1920 12 Wells St. Peter, Mary, Tony, Joe
Detail from a 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the one-story Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back.

The Curcio-Laurence family business

The oral history in my family is that, as my great-great grandfather Antonio Curcio’s health declined, my great-grandfather Peter took over running his father-in-law’s junk yard (see map detail) — transforming it with the addition of a garage/filling station and an auto repair shop. And census records bear this out.

In the 1920 federal census, Peter, 45, is enumerated as a Junk Dealer — and my grandfather Antonio, 17, is listed as a Junk Collector.

But by 1925, when the New York State census was taken, Peter, 52, was operating a Gasoline Station and my grandfather Tony, 23, was an Auto Mechanic.

The 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map[1]Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1912. Map 15. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_006/. Accessed 12 Aug 2021.detail shows the one-story Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back.

Alas, all the buildings are gone now — but what I wouldn’t give for a photo of my Italian ancestors’ house and the shop from back when it was open!

Up next: More on my Italian ancestors of Gloversville, N.Y. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1912. Map 15. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_006/. Accessed 12 Aug 2021.

17 thoughts on “1911: Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence and sons”

  1. Molly,

    You do such fantastic work finding out about your ancestors. I think about how we complain about being too crowded in our small home when our three kids were small but we really didn’t know what crowded was compared these families. I can’t imagine sharing small quarters with multiple families. While we might shutter to living under such circumstances as that, there were a lot of good people to come from those humble beginnings becoming successful businessmen and I would say the families were closer knit and loyal. Those two things alone are being lost over time. Thanks for sharing another peek into your family’s past. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Laura. I have been hunting for photos of old Gloversville, but most of them are of center-city areas, not the outskirts where my ancestors lived. Will keep at it, though!

  2. I am catching up on your posts today and just commented on the full house – and in this post the numbers increased exponentially! One would have to work at finding a few moment’s peace.

    1. So true! And to top it off, my grand-aunt Rosie (Mamie’s younger sister) told me and my mom that neighbor children were also welcomed in to eat pasta with the family. The Curcio-Laurence family definitely lived a community life.

  3. This is a beautiful photo. I’m sure families were more resilient in times gone by. I’m not so sure that we could cope today with multiple families under one roof. It so great that you were able to get the map of the junkyard

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I love this photo of my maturing great-grandparents and their sons. I was inside the Curcio home a couple of times when I was little, and in retrospect can’t imagine how they all fit in there. Perhaps there was an attic that was not counted as a second floor? But still, it must have been crowded!

  4. It’s fascinating how your story on Peter and Mamie uses the many little details you’ve uncovered to sketch out their lives. It’s enough for us to imagine how the family changed and evolved with the times. I laughed at the census taker’s distinction of “junk dealer” and “junk collector”, as I’m sure he was scrabbling to write Peter’s answer to the question, “And what does your son do?”

    It’s interesting to see in the family photo the effects of a decade of change in Peter and Mamie’s faces. “Careworn” comes to mind. I think Peter’s lapel pins have some significance, and with his tie pin and ring he looks more like a prosperous merchant than a junk dealer. The boys’ sailor uniforms are also great examples of children’s fashions from the era. I bet they wore them for several years.

    1. Thanks so much, Mike. I agree with you about my g-grandparents’ careworn faces. They not only had their own family to worry about, but Mamie (as the oldest) and Peter (as her husband) bore a great deal of responsibility for the Curcio family as well. I am also curious about the pins in Peter’s lapels — one of which is surely for the Silvio Pellico Society. But, alas, the photo is not sharp enough for an enlargement to tell us.

    1. I just got a training on Sanborn Maps, which are now digitized, so I have begun putting them to good use. My next post will feature three of them to chronicle the Curcio family business.

  5. What a packed house that must have been! The determination of immigrants everywhere. How I envy you those Sanborn maps…they offer so much detail.

    1. Thanks, Pauleen. A shame you don’t have similar maps. I am actually using them again in the next post for a timeline of the Curcio house.

  6. When I was 7, my Mom’s brother, enlisted in the Navy, was assigned to a ship that would be out to sea for several months & his wife (Mom’s sister-in-law/my aunt) and their little toddler son came to stay with us. We only had a two-bdrm house. I don’t know where everyone else slept? I just remember sleeping on a roll-away bed in the dining room and thinking it was something of a lark. 🙂

    1. Children are so resilient, as you point out. When my Mom and I interviewed her in 1992, my great grandaunt Rosie Curcio (my great-grandmother Mamie’s sister) had wonderful memories of living is the busy Curcio household, as crowded as it was!

  7. Fascinating to consider the multi-family household, where duties were obviously shared (I’m thinking of kitchen) as well as conversations. Probably constantly, and children growing up with their cousins, how very Italian!

    1. Interesting you should mention the kitchen. Attached to the house on the map detail, there is a rectangle with the number 1 on it (for one-story). That was the kitchen/dining area of the house, where Peter made a table by adding legs to a wooden door! What a lively gruop that must have been at the table — they probably had to eat in two shifts 🙂

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