Monday, December 17, 2012

Grandma Gatto's SS-5: Another piece of the puzzle

The family stories that my grandfather told always presented one view of his mother's immigration story. The paper trail says something a bit different. Hoping for a real answer, I ordered her Social Security Application.

My great-grandmother was Maria Stella D'Ingeo Gatto. Grandpa's version of the story says she was born in Italy, and after her mother died (in childbirth with her youngest sister), her father decided to move the family to America. On the way over, the immigration quota was fulfilled, and the ship was turned away. It went to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and the family disembarked there. They stayed there for a number of years, during which time one of Maria's brothers was killed, run over by a wagon. They eventually continued their journey to America, and arrived in New York.

As I started researching this family line, though, I found documents that seemed to contradict this. The family's immigration papers showed them arriving in New York in 1917, which is prior to the imposition of the first European immigration quotas that I'm aware of, in 1924. They were also traveling directly from Italy - not from Brazil at all. Everyone in the family is listed as being Italian-born, though I can't for the life of me read the name of the town where they were born. (It should be Toritto. They're supposed to be from Toritto. But I don't think it says Toritto.)

Do you think this says Toritto?
And then I started finding American census records listing my great-grandmother and at least one of her sisters as having been born in Brazil.

1930 Census, giving South America as the birthplace for Maria D'Ingeo Gatto, as well as her parents
1940 Census giving Brazil as the birthplace for Maria D'Ingeo Gatto
1930 Census giving Brazil as the birthplace for Giovanna D'Ingeo DeGaetano, and Italy as the birthplace of her parents

Given their frequently misspelled Italian last names and their habit of taking on Americanized versions of their Italian birth names, these are the only census records I can find of the D'Ingeos as adults. Frustratingly, the 1940 Census for the Gatto family does not indicate who provided the information (this is omitted for all families on the page), so I don't know how reliable it is.

I ordered Grandma Gatto's (Maria D'Ingeo's) SS-5 a few months ago, in hopes of an answer to this question. Once more, the paper trail supports the born-in-Brazil hypothesis.

Maria D'Ingeo Gatto, SS-5

In this incompletely dated document (the last digit of the year is left off, leaving us to wonder "Nineteen fifty what?"), the information provided by my great-grandmother says that she was born on 27 September 1902 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sout Americia [sic]. She spells her maiden name and her mother's maiden name differently than I've ever seen them before, with D'Ingeo spelled as Di Gugeo and Page as Paich. (If it's true that her mother died when she was a young girl, of course, her mother's maiden name might have had little relevance in her life, and she may never have needed to know how to spell it "right.")

Evidence is mounting that my great-grandmother was born in Brazil, but I don't know the first thing about Brazilian geography, history, or research. I keep hoping for the Brazilian collections on FamilySearch to be indexed, but most aren't so far, and the "Brazilian Catholic Church Records" set requires you to know the parish or be sentenced to search through every Catholic baptism in the city - in Portugese. Looks like I need to do some serious learning.

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