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Katie Broyles
My Italian Family

     I was happy to find out that it is no longer necessary to travel to Ellis Island to research the records of our loved ones who have passed through the island on their way to America. You can now do all of this research yourself online. We were delighted to find the manifest from the ship that brought Onorato here—the Verona, which left Naples on the first of May in 1909. We learned that he had $11 in his pocket and that he was going to stay with his cousin Fernando in a nearby New York town. We printed the manifest from the Verona and took it to our family in Lenola. They were amazed at what they learned about our common relative. They kept the document and will put it into an exhibit of the town’s archives. 

     We also were moved when we saw Fernando’s grave in the town cemetery and realized that he had come home from New York for his final rest. If you are interested in finding your Ellis Island ancestors, be sure to spend some time at www.ellisisland.org. And by the way, if you don’t find your loved ones right away, check for misspellings, because that is what happened to my great-grandfather who will always be known to Ellis Island as "Oscarato".

     Onorato, who in time came to be known as ‘Jim’, trekked west as far as Marble, Colorado, where there was a huge marble quarry and plentiful jobs. It was here that he worked for several years until he had enough money to move into Denver. He met Mae Tucker, a local girl who took to his European charms. He was 38 and she was 16, which was not unheard of in those days. In his lifetime as an Italian-American, he managed to return twice to Lenola, in the 1930’s and the 1960’s. His visits are still remembered by my family in Italy. We talk about them and look at the pictures of his homecomings every time we go there ourselves. In our own way we are keeping together the bonds of love that Onorato felt himself as he boarded the Verona, undoubtedly with tears in his eyes. He died in 1970 and will always be remembered by his grandchildren—my mother’s siblings—with great affection.

     I have visited Lenola and my extended family there many times since my introduction to them at the tender age of six. If the years have tarnished my memory a bit and hazed out the details, nothing can ever take away the strong impressions that were etched into my soul there – I will forever remember the smiles, hearty laughs, deep embraces and the delicious food that is always abundant among my family. The children and grandchildren of Onorato’s brother still live in the simple stone dwellings that lie in the town’s historic center, well within the sound of the church bells that continue to beckon the faithful to return to their spiritual home. 

     I am so grateful and happy that Europe holds such deep appreciation for the past, its secrets and lessons, and keeps it preserved to this day. It allows people like me to find their roots, develop a deep sense of belonging even on the other side of the world, and to find motivation to study and preserve these historical ties for my family’s future generations. I find this connection truly inspiring and enriching for the soul.

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