Back when I was in graduate school, I did some preliminary genealogical research for my thesis, which focused on heritage tourism, material culture, museums, and American identity. I utilized Ellis Island’s free passenger search to find the ship manifest on which my paternal great-grandmother, Amabile Berardi, was listed. I can’t show the ship manifest here (copyright infringement and all that), but I can certainly share with you the information I found. Not only is the ship manifest great for obtaining genealogical information but it provides some insight into attitudes toward immigration at the time (categories on the manifest include: “whether a polygamist” and “whether an anarchist”).
My great-grandmother, Amabile, left her hometown of Pergola in the province of Pesaro e Urbino in the region of Marche, in east-central Italy at the age of 20. She left from the port of Genoa and arrived in New York on October 27, 1920, after which she traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts to join her brother Filippo. She later married Anthony Joseph Serafino. The manifest says she was 4’11” (yay, so I guess I am a tall female in my family), literate, a dressmaker, in good health, of dark complexion with chestnut hair and eyes. Her “race or people” is listed as south, which is curious, since Pergola is not in southern Italy. She was likely listed as southern due to her darker skin. Those familiar with the history of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century may know that Italians (as well as Jewish, Irish, and other immigrants) fell into different racial categories than they do today. For a further discussion of perceptions of race around the turn of the 20th century, see Jennifer Guglielmo’s Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America.
Though I don’t know a great deal about my great-grandmother and never had the privilege of meeting her, I have a feeling we would’ve gotten along well. The fact that she left home and crossed the ocean on her own to seek a better life in America is reason enough for me to admire her courage and independence. From what my father has told me about her, she seemed like a person with with unending curiosity and a willingness to learn, which I appreciate.
In honor of Amabile, I wanted to try a recipe from the Marche region. The cooking of Marche is not well known in the U.S., although porchetta — a specialty of the region — has become popular in recent years due to the well-known restaurant of the same name in NYC. Other dishes from Marche include more stuffed meats, griddle-cooked flatbreads, sheep’s milk cheeses, and seafood stews. I decided to try stuffed olives (Olive all’Ascolana), which are not from Pergola specifically, but rather Ascoli-Pisceno, a town in southern Marche. Stay tuned for the recipe!