Saturday, June 21, 2014

Anna Vincenza Sebastiana Pirolli - A Tragically Short Life

This post is about my great grandmother Anna Vincenza Sebastiana Pirolli.  She was born in the City of Caserta in the Province of Caserta in Italy on December 24, 1857 according to her birth record.  I have her birth, marriage and death records.  That is essentially all I have for her.  I know, I know...  another mystery... big surprise.  No, not really.  This poor lady worked really hard all her short life to bring up children and what do we know about her, virtually nothing.  No stories have been passed down about Anna.  The only thing that has been passed down is her name.  I have plenty of cousins named Anna and Ann.  I also knew her last name was Pirolli but, of course, that could have been a misspelling.  No matter.  Here is where I start to get fanciful in my interpretations of Anna and her life.  I can't say much about her birth except that her parents were Giovanni Francesco (according to her birth record) Pirolli(o) age 33 and Elisabetta Zampella (sp) age 26.  As far as I can tell, from Anna's birth record, her father Giovanni Francesco was a day laborer or giornature.  The most interesting and amazing thing about Anna that I have found out is that she could read and write.  I think that was a major thing back in the mid-1800's for a woman to read and write.  Especially in Italy.  I have read that there was no emphasis or interest in having a woman educated at that time.  Her only job was as a wife and mother.  Even on Anna's marriage record, it states that she is a dona di casa or housewife.  I keep thinking that she was probably a "spinster" at the time she was married because she was already around 22 years old.  Her marriage record does not say that she or Giovanni were ever married before.  Perhaps her parents knew Giovanni or I should say her mother knew Giovanni because her father had already died by the time Anna and Giovanni were married.  Unfortunately, I have never found Anna and Giovanni's Allegatti.  That would have given me a ton more information but it is lost somewhere. The marriage record also says that their Marriage Banns were posted in Caserta on February 23 of 1879 and on 2nd of March 1879.  I haven't found those either. This seems to be another dead end unless I find the Banns and even if I do find them there is certainly no guarantee they will tell me anything.

Next we have Anna giving birth to 12 children.  Yes, I said 12 children.  Sadly, only 7 of them survived to adulthood.  I only found out that Anna and Giovanni had 12 children recently when I found their youngest daughter Loretta's birth record.  Loretta was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey so it was very helpful that the document was written in English!  But wait, I'm jumping ahead here.  Anna came to the United States to meet up with her husband in 1901.  I found her traveling on the Citta di Torino with 4 of her children.  The manifest shows that she had Sossio (Sam), Biagio (Brasso), Alphonso and Columba Rosa with her on that journey.  I have a mental image of them and it looks like some of the photos I've seen of foreign ladies and their kids disembarking ships back in the early 1900's with sad looking faces wrapped in dark blanket-like clothing. They all look dirty and hungry.  I'm hoping that wasn't true for them but it probably was.

I catch up with them next in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The entire family seems to be together again at least for a short time.  My father always said that his father and uncles loved to go to Atlantic City.  We did not know that they had ever lived there until recently.  Now all that makes sense.  The biggest event for Anna that took place in Atlantic City was the birth of her youngest child Loretta.  Anna was already about 45 years old when she gave birth to Loretta.  Another amazing thing for that time was having a baby at that advanced age and surviving the birth.  Baby Loretta also survived.

Jumping ahead to 1905 we have Giovanni, Anna and kids living in Harlem, New York City.  I also have my grandfather Luigi on a census from New Jersey that shows him still living in Atlantic City at age 22.  Go figure?  I can't say which is correct but I know many of the censuses that I have seen are wrong.

The last event I have recorded for Anna is her death at age 50 in New York City on September 13, 1908.  It seems like she was under a doctors care when she died after reading the death certificate closely.  The death certificate says she died of a cerebral hemorrhage.  I think we should take that diagnosis with a grain of salt considering it was given in 1908.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that the doctor probably put down death caused by cerebral hemorrhage when he didn't know why the patient died.  I'm just guessing here but it seems to me that he wouldn't know unless he did an autopsy (doubtful).  Poor Anna was buried in a pauper's grave at Calvary Cemetery.  The reason she was buried in a pauper's grave is open to interpretation.  I wonder if Giovanni was away at the time of her death or if he just didn't want to spend the money to buy a plot for her.  I just don't know. What I do know is that when she died, she left two small children with Giovanni.  He had a 4 year old and a 9 year old to care for.  I can't even imagine what that was like.  I have decided that there is only one good thing that came out of her having died so young and with young children.  At least, she did not have to see her son Brasso die in the war.  I'm sure she would have been crushed to hear of his death.

Update:  Pirollo, very rare, has a small Venetian strain, one of Frosinone, Iserniese and Caserta and one in Salerno, has a Venetian strain especially in the Padua and Venice, and one in the southern Naples, Avellino, Salerno, a small strain in Potenza and one in Bari, should all be derived from nicknames linked to the late Latin word" pirolus "( pear tree ).

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