Category Archives: Curcio

Heritage and identity

Letter H: Eighth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Heritage can be a powerful contributor to identity. Learning about a family’s history creates bonds with people and places, provides new perspectives, and nurtures a growing sense of self — as I have learned from exploring and writing about my ancestors’ lives.

Mulberry Bend in lower Manhattan (1894). Heritage can be a powerful contributor to identity. Discovering that my Italian ancestors survived this rough neighborhood — before later raising their huge family in upstate New York — brought home their experience and their strength against adversity. Image: NYPL Digital Collections

Molly’s Canopy was launched during re-enactments of the U.S. Civil War’s battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, which my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull fought in.

I knew details on paper about my paternal great, great grandfather’s life from his military pension file and other sources.

But standing in the clouds of gun smoke beside those battlefields — where Arthur risked his life in the struggle to end slavery and preserve the Union — made his legacy a proud and palpable part of my life.

A similar transformation happened when I learned that my maternal great, great grandparents Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio, from Italy, were married in New York City in 1880 and lived for a time at Mulberry Bend — then a crowded and dangerous spot in lower Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area.

I had seen the movie Gangs of New York, as well as the photos of back alleys taken by reformer Jacob Riis. But discovering that my Italian ancestors had survived in that rough neighborhood, before later raising their huge family in upstate New York, brought home their experience and their strength against adversity.

This process has repeated itself many times with other ancestors. Layer by layer, like a painting being coaxed to completion, their lives and stories have added to my sense of how I arrived here and who I am in the world. And this can happen for you, too.

Cast an eye over your family tree. Is there an ancestor who jumps out at you? One whose compelling story you want to learn more about? Spend some time researching and writing about that ancestor. You may be surprised by what you find — and by how your heritage adds dimension to your identity.

Tomorrow: Including and honoring childless relatives. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Gloversville, N.Y. and my maternal ancestors

Letter G: Seventh of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Louis Meyers & Son glove factory making room, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Some of my maternal ancestors worked in glove shops like this one. Others sewed gloves at home. The second woman on the right looks a bit like my grandmother’s sister, Margaret (Stoutner) Rothbell. Photo: Steve Oare/Pictorial History of Gloversville

Most of my paternal ancestors have been in North America for centuries, but my maternal German and Italian ancestors arrived more recently and settled in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.

As the name implies, the town was once home to a bustling glove manufacturing industry, with small brick shops the size of New York City brownstones dotting the thoroughfares and side streets — and women workers all over town making gloves at home.

Gloves and other trades

But that was not the only industry. My great, great grandfather Andrew Stoutner — who emigrated from Prussia in the mid 1800s — operated a brick manufacturing works, supplying the bricks for his own home and many others. His son Pete (my great grandfather) worked for the railroad, and his other son John was a milliner who ran a hat shop.

Another great, great grandfather Joseph A. Mimm, from Baden-Württemberg, was a glove die maker — while his wife Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm was a glove factory worker. Their daughter, my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner (who married Pete the railroad worker) sewed and turned gloves at home.

My mom told me that when she was young, she and her sister Rita would run back and forth to the factory for their grandmother Celia — dropping off finished gloves and picking up new glove kits. I inherited a wooden Meyers glove turner from one of the companies Celia worked for (maybe the one in the photo above).

A family filling station

My Italian great, great grandfather Antonio Curcio started a junk business that morphed over time into a garage and filling station. It was taken over by his son-in-law, my great grandfather Peter Laurence [Di Lorenzo]. They were both from Italy’s Campania region within sight of Mount Vesuvius — as was my great, great grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio.

Family legend has it that Peter came to the U.S. in response to recruitment ads from the glove companies, where he initially worked as a leather dresser after his 1895 arrival.

Gloversville is a beautiful town in the Mohawk Valley region with some lovely boulevards and a Carnegie library. Once it even boasted an opera house downtown, as my mom and I discovered on a family history trip. With the exit of manufacturing from upstate New York, the town is less vibrant than it was in my ancestors’ day, but I still consider it a shining part of my heritage.

Have you visited towns where your ancestors lived? What were your impressions? Communities and their history are an integral part of our ancestors’ stories.

Tomorrow: Heritage and identity. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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