I is for Italian Ancestors and Indian Arrowheads. Ninth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
One of the big area employers during my elementary years was the Endicott Johnson Corporation — a mass manufacturer of shoes.
EJ, as everyone called it, recruited workers from southern and Eastern Europe. This explained the large Italian and Czech populations in Endwell, N.Y. where I lived — and their closeness to their immigrant heritage, which was only one or two generations away.
I, on the other hand, was a motley mix of French, English, Irish, Welsh and Swiss on my dad’s side and German and Italian on my mom’s — all many generations back. Yet I longed for a more definitive ancestral identity to mesh with my playmates. Enter my Italian ancestors.
Just Italian enough
I took after my dad’s side — tall, fair with blue eyes and a mercurial Irish temper — but whenever my little neighbors or classmates rolled out their single-ethnic heritage I would chime up, “My mom is half Italian.” And just like that, I fit in.
Not only that, I had proof. Right before we moved to Endwell, our family went to Gloversville, N.Y. to visit my great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence [an anglicized version of Di Lorenzo] — and my dad snapped a picture.
Gathered on the steps of my Italian ancestors’ East Fulton St. home (shown above) are my great grandmother Mamie, my grandfather Antonio (Tony) Laurence, my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau along with me and my brothers — four generations of Italian-Americans all in one spot. So even if I wasn’t all Italian, I was still Italian enough to get by during my elementary years!
Yet there was another heritage underlying our neighborhood that predated us all — that of the Native American people who were early guardians of the land and inhabited the area before settlers arrived.
On my street — just one block from the Susquehanna River — pretty much any digging with a backhoe unearthed carefully chiseled arrowheads.
These exquisite projectiles bore historic testimony to the sheer numbers of displaced Native people — like the Susquehannocks and others — who for generations had lived, planted, hunted and fished along same shores where I later lived during my elementary years.
The history of these Native people was not taught at Hooper School, so we kids had to learn what we could from Mr. Hughes — one of our street’s earliest residents.
He had a chest filled with arrowheads and other artifacts — unearthed as our houses were built — and once a year he’d invite us kids in to look over the amazing collection.
Our ancestors had been immigrants. But in Mr. Hughes’s living room we learned that a rich Native culture had preceded us — leaving tangible traces for us to discover many centuries later.
Up next: J is for Jello and other culinary delights. Please stop back!
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