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An Immigrants Tale (III): 
The Search for Leopoldo and Filomena 

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 The Immigrant's Tale:  Part I   Part II   Part III  Part IV

(The following appeared in Pizza News, October 2000)
(Volume II No. 10) (ISSN: 1533-3795)
 © Grande Publishing 2000


In the last two issues of "Pizza News" we chronicled our search for my grandfather Antonio Palmieri. He was born in Brazil of Italian immigrant parents. His parents returned to Italy when he was 17. He soon left Italy with the idea of going to America, to earn his fortune and then return to Brazil.  

According to him, he moved to Providence, Rhode Island, met a girl, got married and thoughts of returning to Brazil faded away. 

We began our search at the Ellis Island site. After countless dead ends, we found no record of his coming to America

My mom suggested we try to locate her mother: Leontina Fratantuono. Grandma Palmieri (as she was known to me,) had always said she was born in Italy but came over when she was one year old.

We started our search by typing in the name of my mom's grandfather, 
Leopoldo Fratantuono.

We immediately found only one immigrant with that name! He was born in Fossalto, Italy. He was 41 years old and he arrived July 09, 1899, on the Tartar Prince, a ship from Naples, Italy. As soon as we read the ship's manifest, we knew we had found my great-grandfather! The real story began to unravel as we continued to examine this document.

Leopoldo had come to America through Ellis Island with his wife, Filomena, (41), and his four children Pietro, (14), Amalia, (11), Luigi, (4), and Leontina (10 months). None of them (according to the record) were able to read or write. Unknown to anyone in our family, this was Leopoldo's second trip to America. The ship's manifest stated he had lived in Providence, Rhode Island from 1892 to 1894. He probably came to America the first time to make enough money to go back to Italy and return with his family. According to the manifest, the family had a total of $90 to start their new life in America. The original sum of $20 had been crossed out. I like to think that Leopoldo had the $20 in his pocket, and Filomena had stuffed the additional $70 in baby Leontina's diapers!

Leopoldo and Filomena listed their occupation as laborers. Their final destination was Providence, Rhode Island. The manifest states they all had tickets to their final destination. I speculate they knew someone from their village, who had settled in the Providence area. 

As a matter of fact, above Leopoldo's name is one Fillipo Sanboro, age 16, also from the village of Fossalto. He listed his occupation as a sailor and he was able to read and write. He was going to Providence to be with his father. He had $10. Perhaps, Leopoldo was looking after young Fillipo.

(The manifest lists all of the passengers traveling on the ship along with other information). You can look at a part of this manifest yourself by clicking on the the thumbnail.
(The manifest will open in a new window)
 The Fratantuono family is listed starting on line 25.

leopoldo1.jpg (200503 bytes)

The ship's manifest appears to have been written at the time the Fratantuano family boarded the Tartar Prince on June 28, 1899.
The entire manifest is posted on at the Ellis Island site:
Click HERE!  
(To enlarge the manifest click on the picture. To find Leopoldo go to line 25. The graphic is so large it may take several minutes to download).

Leopoldo and Filomena's children would stay in Rhode Island for the rest of their lives. 

Pietro, studying to be a tailor, would die of pneumonia, four years after coming to America

Amalia (known to our family as Auntie Mary) would have six sons. Her husband died shortly after the birth of their last child. (She would become the "Pasta Maker" for the family. I have fond memories of going to Auntie Mary's house to pick up fresh pasta. I can still see the pasta drying in all corners of her house!)

Luigi would break his mother's heart by marrying an older woman with nine children. He would die in his early forties. 

Because her name was hard to pronounce by her American teachers, Leontina, would be Known as Louise. (She would frequently  protest "My real name is Leontina, not Louise!")

 Eventually, she would marry Antonio Palmieri and have four daughters. One of the daughters would be my mother.

Leontina Fratantuano, my grandmother.
Leontina Fratantuano, my grandmother, would marry Antonio Palmieri.

Immigrants who leave their homeland in search of a better life are amazing people. The difficulties they face are incredible. They do not speak the language or share any of the culture, yet they come, searching for their dream. And, to pass that dream onto their children.

Leopoldo and Filomena left their native Italy looking for a better life. Their story is just one of the millions of other stories which you can find at Ellis Island.

In my opinion, America is not, a melting pot, as some contend, but rather a stew. In a melting pot everything blends together. In a stew, all the ingredients add substance and spice to the final dish but retain their unique flavors. 

  Leopoldo and Filomena are forever part of this American stew, as well as the other millions and millions who came to America. Thank you, Leopoldo and Filomena for making me part of this American Stew!

"I can't believe it", said my mom. "My mother, we found my mother! We found Leontina. That must have been a diminutive (female version) of Leopoldo! I always wondered how my mother got her name. The name is so unusual. Now I know! Hmm…This has got me thinking! Let's see if we can find my Aunt Katherine. She was my father's sister. I think she came over in1924…"






Finish The Immigrants Tale (IV):
Finding Antonio Palmieri at Ellis Island

 The Immigrant's Tale:  Part I   Part II   Part III  Part IV



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