1909: The Laurence Brothers, Antonio and Joseph

Sepia Saturday 595. Seventeenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

The last post introduced my Italian-American maternal grandfather, Antonio W. Laurence, at about the age of two — looking dapper in a studio photograph taken in Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

To my surprise, after publishing that post I discovered another studio photo of him, which appears to have been taken the same day. In the second photo, below, my grandfather seems more serious/coy but just as cute — and it’s easier to see the interesting tailoring details on his suit and hat, and the embroidered embellishment on his shirt.

My grandfather Antonio W. Laurence at about age 2 (circa 1904). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Along comes a younger brother

In the circa 1904 studio photos, my grandfather — the first born son of Peter and Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence/di Lorenzo — posed alone.

But soon enough, he was joined by a younger brother — Joseph Bernard Laurence. And around 1909, dressed as little sailors, they traveled together to the photographer for the set of portraits shown below.

From left, Antonio and Joseph Laurence (circa 1909). My grandfather Tony would have been about age 7 and his brother Uncle Joe about age 6 when this photo was taken. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Tony and Joe appear close in age in these photos. I knew my grandfather was born on 10 May 1902. But what about Uncle Joe? So off I went to do an online search for his date of birth.

Finding Uncle Joe’s birth date

Census indexes often list Joe as born “about 1904,” based on his age when the census was enumerated. But he did not appear in the online New York State birth index for that year.

However, a WWII draft registration card gave his date of birth as 21 Oct. 1903 — information presumably provided by Joe himself.[1]Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line accessed 1 Nov 2021]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, image 1620.

From left, Uncle Joe and my grandfather Tony (circa 1909). Joe was about 6 and Tony about 7 when this was taken. Scan by Molly Charboneau

With this new information, I searched the 1903 index of New York State births and turned up a different day of birth for Uncle Joe — 22 Oct. 1903, one day later than what he told the draft board!

However, since there are no other Josephs listed in the 1903 birth index with a Laurence or Lawrence or Lorenzo or di Lorenzo surname who were born in Gloversville on or near that date, this is probably him.

Which means that Uncle Joe was born just 17 months after my grandfather Tony. No wonder they appear so close in age! And how handsome they look in their sailor suits and hats — the perfect picture of well-behaved sons to send to the relatives back in Italy.

Up next, the sad tale of the other two Laurence brothers. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line accessed 1 Nov 2021]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, image 1620.

15 thoughts on “1909: The Laurence Brothers, Antonio and Joseph”

  1. Vintage photographs of children are so appealing , and yours of Antonio and Joseph are no exception. I too have photographs of little boys in sailor suits which were so popular for certainly the British and Russian royal families. My mother and aunt were born only one year and one week apart, (1907 and 1908) and like the boys, were so close all their lives – in fact most of the photographs of my aunt always show her with her sister.

    1. That’s interesting about your mother and aunt. I was surprised by how close in age Tony and Joe were — but apparently that was not as uncommon as I thought.

  2. These are such fantastic pics! They look so adorable! To have professional photos as these, their parents most have done well for themselves. Love your stories of your family! Also, the birth index was just an index, mistakes are generated often on indexes. 😉

    1. Thanks, Diane, and good point about the birth index. Vital records reporting took a while to hit its stride in New York State, so who knows what mistakes and “close enough” dates were introduced during the early years.

  3. Triple AAWS for these photos! And Antonio still has that same smile, a slight lift to the left corner of his lips. The fad for dressing boys in sailor suits was evidently so popular that it seems to have crossed national boundaries, as I’ve seen many examples in photos from all over Europe and America.

    Usually it is women’s birth years that get altered with time, though I’ve found it’s not uncommon for the men in my collection of professional entertainers too. While I think you’ve found the correct date, it occurred to me that Joseph might have changed his age for the draft board for a patriotic reason. For boys younger than 18 that extra year or two could get them into the army.

    When you have a moment, Molly, drop me a note: mkbrbkr at gee mail. Inspired by your family stories, I have some photos I took on my summer vacation that I’d like to share with you.

    1. Yes, the sailor-style suit seems to have been ubiquitous as a “formal” outfit for boys and young men. Perhaps parents chose this look because it appeared crisp without the over-formality of a suit-and-tie.

  4. The boys do look somewhat alike, but Joseph the younger looks so serious while older brother, Anthony/Antonio, has a little twinkle in his eyes and that rather endearing half-smirking smile. I wonder if the way they posed for the camera was indicative of their personalities elsewise?

    1. I agree! This puzzled me when I thought they were two years apart. But with only 17 months between them, it’s easier to understand how they could look so identical in age and appearance.

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