Circa 1904: My long-lost great-granduncle Antonio di Lorenzo

Sepia Saturday 578. Fourth 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

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.

Studio photo of Antonio di Lorenzo (c. 1904). This photograph, captioned by my maternal grandmother, was taken by an upstate New York photographer, confirming that Antonio — brother of my great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence/di Lorenzo– spent time in the U.S. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.

Studio photo of Antonio di Lorenzo (c. 1904), reverse side. On the back of the photo is faint, blue printing that says “W. H. Pearse, Photographer” with what appears to be a State Street address. A 1915 city directory gives a State St. address in Schenectady, N.Y., for the photographer, confirming that Antonio spent time in the U.S. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.[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.

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.

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References

References
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.

Circa 1899: Peter Laurence and pals pose for a photo

Sepia Saturday 577. Third 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 this  Laurence-di Lorenzo-Curcio family album. Photo: Molly Charboneau

By 1896, when my Italian great grandfather Peter D. Laurence (née Pietro di Lorenzo) emigrated to the  U.S., studio photography had become well established in and around his new Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. hometown.

Having a likeness or portrait made was no longer exclusively for the rich. Now, the average working person could sit for a portrait at a local photographer’s studio for a reasonable fee — to either keep for themselves or to give or send to loved ones.

A photo of Peter and his pals

So imagine the enthusiasm of Peter and his friends for the new medium and their desire to have a portrait taken together — perhaps on a group outing, since photographer George Kibbe’s studio was located out-of-town in nearby Amsterdam, Montgomery Co., N.Y.

Circa 1899: Peter and pals pose for a photo. My Italian immigrant great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (di Lorenzo) is third from left in this  studio photo with friends/colleagues. The photographer George Kibbe operated from Amsterdam, Montgomery County, N.Y., not far from where  Peter lived and worked as a leather dresser in nearby Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

It’s hard to choose what I like best about this picture of Peter and his pals. Is it the white pocket handkerchiefs draped stylishly from their jacket pockets? Or the cigars that three of the four men are holding? Or the symmetry of the men on either side holding their hats, while Peter and his seated friend have their legs crossed in mirror image?

One thing I love is that the photographer seems to have told everyone to look to one side — yet my great-grandfather apparently ignored the instructions and looked straight into the camera lens.

Who were Peter’s pals?

This photo was probably taken around 1899, when Peter also posed for solo portraits before he married. In this photo, he wears a pinkie ring on his left hand, but no wedding band — and none of these men were his in-laws, who appear in later photos. Then who were the other fellows in this photo? And how did Peter know them?

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 — which includes information about his immigration and early years in the U.S.

…unless he met a friend here, he didn’t know anyone. The reason he came was very common, he came for better job opportunities. No one knows where he arrived in the United States, perhaps Ellis Island, but he first settled down and started work in Gloversville, New York. His first job was as a dye master, coloring skins in a skin mill….He worked in the mill for about five years.

Clues in the 1900 U.S. census

Could these men have been friends from Peter’s work at the skin mill? Let’s take a look at the 1900 U.S. population census of Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — the first one in which Peter appears, four years after his arrival in the U.S.[1]“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSXT-THQ : accessed 3 July 2021), Peter D Lorendes in household of Petsie … Continue reading

Peter D. Laurence in the 1900 US Census, 5 Washburn St., Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — Source: FamilySearch[2]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Name Age Born Imm.
In U.S. Household Job
Petsie Pierce 25 Italy 1896 4 yrs. Head (with wife & child) Leather dresser
James Ets 24 Italy 1893 7 yrs. Boarder Leather dresser
Peter D Lorendes 27 Italy 1896 4 yrs. Boarder Leather dresser
Patrick Berry 28 Italy 1896 4 yrs. Boarder Leather dresser

As summarized in the table above, in 1900 Peter was living at 5 Washburn St. in Gloversville, N.Y. in the home of Petsie Pierce and family. Apparently my great-grandfather wasn’t the only one victimized by a pronunciation problem — because all the adults in the household, although born in Italy, were enumerated with anglicized surnames.

Friends from back home or the U.S.?

However, what stands out for me is that all four men were in their early twenties, were from Italy, worked as leather dressers — and three of the four, including Peter, had immigrated in 1896.

Circa 1899: Reverse side of Peter and pals photo. Alas, the back of the photo offers no additional clues. Just the rubber stamped signature of my great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Did Peter know them from back home or from the boat? Meet them in the U.S.? Get to know them through work or from boarding together? There’s no way to know for sure — nor to decide that they are the three posing with Peter in this photo. But it certainly is a tantalizing prospect.

Up next: Peter Laurence/di Lorenzo and his brother Antonio. 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 “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSXT-THQ : accessed 3 July 2021), Peter D Lorendes in household of Petsie Pierce,  Gloversville city Ward 6, Fulton, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 17, sheet 4A, family 80, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,037.
2 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.

1900-1911: When did Pietro di Lorenzo become Peter Laurence?

Sepia Saturday 577. Second in a photo series on my maternal Italian  ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.

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

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.

Studio portrait of Peter D. Laurence/Pietro di Lorenzo (c. 1899). My Italian immigrant great grandfather initially went by his di Lorenzo surname after his 1896 arrival in the U.S. — later alternating with the anglicized surname Laurence for several years before adopting the name change permanently. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.

House at 5 Washburn St, Gloversville, N.Y. (1992). Peter Laurence/di Lorenzo was a boarder at this address and working as a leather dresser during the 1900 U.S. census — when he was enumerated somewhat phonetically as “Peter de Lorendes.” Photo by Molly Charboneau

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 record[1]FamilySearch 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.[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 … Continue reading

As shown in the table below, Peter initially went by his di Lorenzo surname after his 1896 arrival in the U.S. — as indicated (somewhat phonetically) in his first 1900 census enumeration[3]Ibid. 1.

Then, in subsequent city directory listings,[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 … 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
Year Item Name Address/ Details Job
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.

Reverse side of studio portrait of Peter D. Laurence/Pietro di Lorenzo (c. 1899). The back of the photo contains what appears to be a brief description of my great grandfather — perhaps in case a colorized version was later requested. Penciled at the top, are “Eys. D. Brown, H. Black Curly” — along with other writing that is hard to make out. Scan by Molly Charboneau

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.

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References

References
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.
3 Ibid. 1.
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.]

Growing family trees one leaf at a time