I have been considering how to present this next series of postings about Antonio Torregrossa (my Great Great Uncle) and the woman he met in mid-life and eventually married.
Memories of the kind of talk I heard while growing up kept mingling with the research results I’ve gathered for Antonio’s future wife. Her pedigree spans back to the early 19th century in this country. As I continue receiving hints from Ancestry about her family, my excitement grows. The hints have all been correct and in less than three weeks I’ve been able to piece together a good amount of information. This is the first time I’m seeing and reviewing mid-19th century census records, draft records and death records. Her life and that of her ancestors in some ways depict the changes that take place as second and third generation Americans develop their individuality.
What makes me even more interested in her is that she was, like me, a Brooklyn girl. As I review the maps of the areas she lived in I think back on times I might have visited those same parts of Brooklyn. Some of the street names are the same today but I need further research to confirm these details.
Her grandparents and parents had jobs that enabled them to provide a home for their children. They were all literate and of Anglo-Saxon background. Her father was a Civil War veteran. Her grandfather, according to the 1860 Census, had a total worth in possessions and money, of $1,000. According to the Inflation Calculator at http://www.westegg.com/inflation/. In 2012 dollars that’s equivalent to $25184.94!
Even with all that accomplishment and the family roots in this country, I think the Torregrossa Family would have greeted Antonio’s future wife cooly and calmly.
She went to live with him as a lodger in his New York City apartment sometime before or on 1935 after the death of her first husband.
I do not think Great Grandfather Francesco and Great Grandmother Caterina said out loud what they thought:
“She has six children!”
I also do not think Great Great Uncle Rosario and Great Great Aunt Borina, or Great Great Uncle Joseph and Great Great Aunt Frances said what they might have thought:
“Six children! And where are they?”
“Those children must wish their father was alive again so their Mother would be at home. Life would be as it always would’ve been.”
And somewhere along the way, in private, the Torregrossas would have met over a family dinner with Antonio. He would’ve been obliged to listen to their good intentioned advice. His brothers and sisters-in-law may have said things like:
“She makes you happy–that’s good!”
“She keeps you company, how nice.”
“You enjoy talking with her. At this stage in life that’s as good as it gets. I’m happy you’re happy.”
And then there’d be the major reason why the family was concerned in addition to her being a widow and lodger in the house, especially that Antonio was still a bachelor.
“Antonio, she’s not Italian! What are you thinking of?”
I think Antonio knew exactly what he was doing and as I study his future wife’s family I get the impression that he met someone who knew her own mind and decided after her first husband’s death that she wanted to take some time out and live a life based on her own decisions. It was 1935. Women had gotten the vote, they were able to work and were getting married in their 20s instead of their teens. Women could go to high school or college, even though it was still the exception. The freedom to choose was there. To me it makes sense that she went to live in New York, renting a room from Antonio so that she could have some time to herself, time to think and time to just live for a little while from day-to-day.
I don’t think it mattered to Antonio that she wasn’t Italian. I’d like to think that she shared with him the story of her life and her family which will unfold as I begin to introduce Jessie Dickerson and her family.