Let’s skip ahead to 2020 and the discovery that inspired this entire series. During the past year I had been working with Loretta Cologna transcribing the school notebook of Tillie Genetti, who was my grandfather’s younger sister. As we worked through the text, adding historical information about Tillie and her siblings, I naturally used a timeline to trace personal information and immigration dates for my great-aunts and uncles. The family had arrived during three separate years: 1902, 1904 and 1906. Tillie, with her mother and five siblings, disembarked from their ship at Ellis Island in 1906. Although I had always been aware of the family’s immigration years, I had not paid close attention to the specific dates other than noting the Manifest Passenger List as a source citation in my Ancestry family tree.
While working on the school notebook, I was particularly interested in the transitional period of Tillie’s life between her final school year in Castelfondo and her new life in Pennsylvania. As I created her timeline I noted Tillie’s arrival in New York City on December 3rd, 1906. This date is correct and confirmed through public record according to the ship’s manifest and Ellis Island passenger records.
A few months later while I was updating sections of our family website and playing with a new photo colorization tool, I stopped in my tracks! It suddenly occurred to me – the date included in the caption for the boarding house photo was suspect! Since Tillie and her older sister Dora had both attended the wedding and were clearly pictured standing in the front row, the date of October 1906 could not possibly be correct. Here’s why: while we believe Dora arrived sometime in 1902 with her father and sister Ester (there are no public records to confirm this year), Tillie had not arrived until much later in December of 1906 – three months after the supposed date of when the photo was taken – October of 1906!
Obviously, the story of Lucia Genetti giving birth upstairs in 1906 while a wedding took place downstairs was an interesting family legend – but alas, not founded in truth! Public immigration records verified this date could not be accurate as Tillie was not living in Pennsylvania in October 1906!
But what was the true date?
Although I was fond of the story attached to our infamous photo, it was obvious that we needed to correct the misnomer. It was time to dig into Pennsylvania marriage records at Ancestry.com to learn more!
Part 4 – coming soon!
Note – In both documents from Ellis Island we see that Oliva and her five children were detained for further examination. It appears that little Ann was only about three years old at the time and suffering from a hip problem. In Stanley Genetti’s biography he explains:
“Before we left Europe my three year old sister, Ann, suffered from leg poisoning and had to be operated on. She was still unable to walk when our ship docked at Ellis Island and my oldest sister carried her. One of the inspectors told her to put Ann down and let her walk. When she responded that Ann could not walk, they were both detained for special inquiry.
“The rest of the family had passed through inspection when we received the bad news. We had to wait three days for my father to arrive from Hazleton. During our wait mother became very upset. She said she feared that we would all be deported, but I think that she was more afraid that the two girls would be deported by themselves. Finally, my father arrived and convinced the authorities that he would have a doctor treat my sister and she would never become a public charge. We were released on the fourth day.”
Extra note: Little Ann went on to have a successful life and career, reaching the amazing age of 102 – outliving her entire family!