The American Immigrant Wall of Honor

EllisIsland-1For the past month, I’ve been having a wonderful email conversation with Regina (Jean) Branz Daly. Jean is the daughter of Erminia (Erma) Genetti Branz, (Born: 1896 in Castelfondo, Austria; Death: 1971 in Freeland, PA). Erma’s parents were Damiano and Oliva Genetti and she was one of five daughters. As it turns out, Jean is my first cousin, once removed (or in other terms, my father’s first cousin).

Jean has been writing of the many memories she has of her mother, her grandmother Oliva and other family members. She was close in age to my father and they actually played together as children!

EllisIsland-2In her last email, Jean shared something about Ellis Island that I found intriguing. In 1982 Lee Iacocca (the Founding Chairman of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) was raising funds to create The Family History Center and The American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Many grandchildren of Oliva and Damiano Genetti were contacted and asked to make a donation. This would entitle the name of a family member who had immigrated to America to be inscribed on the stone wall memorial. Jean believed many of the grandchildren had contributed and knew her mother’s name was there, since two of Erma’s great-granddaughters had visited the wall and taken a photo of the inscription.

I was curious about this wall! What other family names were inscribed there? And did their descendants even know of the memorial?

A visit to the Ellis Island website offered answers. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor contains over 700,000 names “representing all ethnicities, all years of arrival, all points of entry, and all modes of travel … The common element that ties these names together is the celebration of American immigration.” Wow! I had no idea there was a memorial to immigrants. What an incredible tribute since the modern United States was built by our ancestors, who were all immigrants.

Next I did a search for “Genetti” to see who was inscribed on the wall. Here’s what I found:

  1. Albert V. Genetti
  2. Angela Genetti McNelis
  3. Damiano Genetti
  4. Dominic Genetti
  5. Dora Genetti Bott
  6. Enrico Genetti
  7. Erma Genetti Branz (Jean’s mother)
  8. Esther Genetti
  9. Frank and Erminia Yanes Genetti
  10. Gus Genetti
  11. Oliva Zambotti Genetti
  12. Stanley V. Genetti

Almost all of my family – great-grandparents, grandaunts and granduncles – were there plus several Genettis from other families. But I was a little disappointed not to see my grandfather’s name, Leon Genetti, on the list. Then it occurred to me, my grandfather had been the only member of his family who was actually a natural America citizen. Leon was born in 1887 in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. Damiano and Oliva returned to Tyrol when he was still an infant. The rest of their children were born in Castelfondo, Austria. My grandfather had spent his youth in Castelfondo, then returned to the United States with Damiano as a teenager. He could not be a part of the wall since he was officially a US citizen returning the country of his birth – not an immigrant. Another mystery solved!

If you would like to know more about The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, go to: https://www.wallofhonor.org/wall_of_honor.asp

To do a search for a family name, go to: https://www.wallofhonor.org/search.asp

 

 

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