I still retain a disturbing impression about my Great Grandparents in connection with the burial arrangements they made for their daughter Angelina and infant son, Alfonso. Their decision to quickly bury each child and the manner of their burial leaves me unsettled. The burial of Baby Alfonso in a common plot at Calvary Cemetery that was used for the poor is quite at odds with the amount of money the family had to begin buying, selling and leasing properties just two years later.
I am now in a position and state of mind similar to that my Mom sometimes exhibited when I was a child. Whenever I questioned in depth exactly where my Grandpa Al got all his money from there were a variety of answers that never satisfied me. Sometimes Mom would say he just got lucky, sometimes she’d say he had worked with the government during WWII on a secret mission involving coding for which he was highly paid. My Dad would mention the latter secret mission, too, and expected me to be satisfied with that. Again details were missing and a hush-hush atmosphere discouraged further questioning. But it never added up and whenever my Mom said, “I really am not sure,” then I knew she was as baffled as I was. Later on I was told about the macaroni factory which made “lots of money” for my Great Grandparents and that ended the questions up until the time I began researching the family history in 2012.
Yet at the same time I do not love my Great Grandparents any less or feel any inclination to move away from getting to know more about them through research and reflection. When I consider the achievements made by my Grandfather, his sisters Betty and Edith and brother Gesuri (a/k/a Jesse) I can say in all honesty they had to have been good parents. The realization does not mitigate the unsettling way in which the pieces to the story do not all come together but I will put aside those feelings and continue with a more positive direction which has led to a happy and productive discovery.
In many ways the achievements of the children in any family speak to us through time of the sacrifices parents made. They also speak of the values and aspirations the parents instilled into their children.
This approach of tracing the values and home life the parents may have created by assessing the achievements of their children is not always foolproof. Sometimes, though, it is the only means of getting some glimpse of what the deeper picture was all about. It is also similar to the way in which it is possible to reconstruct an entire family by starting with the birth and death records of the children and from there going back to the parents and grandparents of that child. I think this works best when one knows the family history intimately. Family stories, memories and anecdotes can all provide details that help bring the information in the vital records to life. And the records can support or challenge the verbal part of the family history.
It was through the children that I learned what happened to Angelina, the sister of my Great Grandfather Francesco. The discovery happened by accident during a trip to Calvary Cemetery by a Maspeth, a volunteer photographer at FindAGrave. Angelina’s nephew Rodolfo Dante Torregrossa was the catalyst and another relative, the beautiful Rosa Torregrossa, led us forward. I felt as if the spirits of these two children were calling out to us, leading us onward to the spot where Angelina was interred. At the same time, unknown to Maspethand myself, Angelina’s Great Grandson, Jon Frank, was searching for more information about her at Ancestry.
What follows in the next postings will be about the amazing and wonderful way this all seamlessly came together. I do believe Angelina was calling out to us and that it was the children, Rodolfo and Rosa, who initiated the series of events that led to this connection and reconnection.