Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Saturday, June 24, 2000

I asked my dad last night if we had any relatives in Grand Rapids, because of Joseph, Amelia, and Raymond Brandi appearing there in the 1910 Census. At first he said no, but then remembered that the family used to go to Grand Rapids all the time when he was a kid to visit some people. So I've sent mail off to my Aunt Lonnie asking her, since she has a memory, unlike my dad. :-)

Although I suspected they were brothers, I wasn't sure of the relationship between Joseph and li'l Grandpa (and to be honest, I don't have complete proof yet), but this morning at the New Jersey State Library, I found a reference in Italians to America to "Raffaele Brande", age 14, and "Guiseppe Brande", age 10, apparently travelling with their mother, Maria-Domenico Rapa, who appears immediately above them in the shipping list. (Maria's profession is listed as "Farmer".) Li'l Grandpa's death certificate lists his mother as Maria Rappa, so I'm pretty sure this is them. They came to America on the ship Gottardo, which sailed from Naples and Palermo to New York, arriving on July 6, 1885. At least that's what the book said; next step is to try to find the actual original records. Unfortunately, the book didn't list their village, which suggests that the ship records won't either. Oh well. The fact that the three of them were travelling together suggests to me that Raffaele and Guiseppe, or Ralph and Joseph, were brothers. Like I said, it's not definitive proof yet; maybe the original records will say something about that. The 1910 Census says that Mary Brandi had had three children, two of whom were still living in 1910. The fact that the third child wasn't with them on this trip suggests to me that maybe he died in Italy.

(The Immigrant Ship Information page has a description of the ship Gottardo.)

I think I also found when li'l Grandpa's father Vincenzo (Vincent) came to America. The same set of books has an entry for a V. Brandi, age 34, who came to America on the ship Galatia from unspecified "Mediterranean ports", arriving in New York on May 5, 1881. The thing that makes me think this is Vincenzo is the fact that immediately above him on the list is on G. Rapa, age 26, who would possibly have been his brother-in-law.

I also may have found a listing for Laura's great-grandfather, Filippo Saracco. He's listed in volume 7 as a laborer, age 26, travelling from an unknown port to New York on the ship Alsatia, arriving on June 16, 1893, home village and destination unknown. I have his birthdate as circa 1868, based on his age in the 1920 Census. Being 26 on June 16, 1893, would place this Filippo's birthdate between June 16, 1867 and June 15, 1868, so that fits. It doesn't agree with Laura's mom's claim that Filippo came to America before Ellis Island was opened, though, since Ellis Island opened in 1892.

I found a number of other Brandis in volumes 1 and 10-12 of Italians to America. The one I found particularly interesting, though, was Michele Brandi, male, aged 16, a shoemaker, with a final destination of Michigan. He arrived on December 22, 1897, on the ship La Normandie, travelling from Genoa to New York. Michael Brandi of Saginaw is mentioned as a tailor in the birth records of his children, but his brother Salvatore (Sam) is a shoemaker, so maybe Michael changed professions.

They have a bunch of CD-ROMs available at the New Jersey State Library, including a bunch of the World Family Tree CDs. That's good, because I've found mentions of my grandfather and Aunt Lonnie in one tree and of Michael Brandi in another on the Family Tree web site, but didn't want to have to spring for the CDs. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that you can extract any information about who submitted the trees so you can contact them. Feh. You can't get a reasonable overview of the tree, either. That makes the damned CDs nearly worthless (so I'm glad I didn't have to buy them to find that out). And there wasn't any information about who Michael's parents were; whoever submitted the tree seemed more focused on his wife Mary Zito. They listed their eight kids (!), but didn't go any further down the tree than that. The CD did manage to mention that Michael was from San Potito Sannitico, Casserta, Italy, so that's another part of the tree that seems to be from there (although since there was no source for that bit of information, I can't check it, so I don't really count it yet).

I didn't have much more time, but I did manage to find the CDs of Germans to America and search for the name Prillwitz, but I didn't come across anyone named Helen. There was someone named Hedwig, but she was six months old in the 1880s and therefore definitely too young to have married li'l Grandpa in 1890 or thereabouts. I didn't have time to copy any of the records down, but I have the dates, and they seem to have all of the books of the Germans to America series (64 volumes!), so I'll look in the actual books next time I go to the library. The books seem more useful than the CD versions, because they preserve the context. For example, I would have never noticed on the CD that Maria-Domenico Rappa was immediately above Raffaele and Guiseppe Brandi on the list, providing a strong indication that they're the people I'm looking for, because that context is missing from the CD. Bleah. I'm just not at all impressed with what I've seen of the Family Tree CDs.

All in all, not bad for a couple of hours at the library. One of these Saturdays I'll go back for a whole day and maybe do some Census or city directory research on Laura's family. It was very quiet there today, with only a couple other people on the whole floor. Jeez, where is everybody else, at the beach? :-)

Posted at 10:25:40 PM Link to this entry


Laura's Aunt Ginny was looking at these pages and saw the information about her father (Laura's Grandpa Pantano). She clarifies some of the things mentioned here:

One thing that I noticed about Grandpa Pantano's application for a SS # was that his birthday was listed as Dec. X, 1908. His birthday was January 3, 1908. Or was it?

Grandpa worked for Graham Construction Co. [the company mentioned on his Social Security application] as a real estate person. He had his license for real estate and insurance. The house on Washington Avenue was a Graham house. Grandpa sold all of those houses. Washington Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.

Grandpa sold real estate and insurance part time to supplement his income. I remember one summer he went to Hyde Park NY to sell real estate. I'm sure that your mother could fill you in with more specifics. In the insurance line, he worked with Raymond Reihl on Market Street in EP. I'm sure that I saved some of his letterheads from the insurance company. [Cool! If we get a piece, or maybe the next time we travel to Arizona, I'll scan in in and post it here.]

Posted at 10:03:55 PM Link to this entry


Thursday, June 22, 2000

(This post is apparently too big for Blogger, because it keeps timing out as I try to post it, so it's been posted in three parts in a way that it still makes sense as a single piece.)

I've been spending a lot of time in the past two weeks poring over the birth, death, and marriage records of Saginaw county. Laura was away on a business trip to Canada for much of the first of those weeks, so I needed something to distract me (which is why I ordered so many films at once in the first place). I've learned a lot of stuff. For example, I've learned that when record books are bound tightly, microfilms of the portions of the page near the center can be difficult or impossible to read, obscuring important information. :-P

Birth Records

So far, I've looked at indexes for births, deaths, and marriages, but I've only got films of birth records from 1892-8 (volume I-J of the county records, LDS film number 967183) and from 1909-13 (volume N, LDS film number 967187). I've found out some interesting things in the birth records. Ralph Brandi Sr. and Helen Prillwitz actually had a fourth child, Philip, born October 28, 1892, apparently their first child. Unfortunately, he was gone by the time the 1900 Census came around. He's listed in the Index of Deaths in book D of the deaths, page 142, in roughly 1897-8 (I'll know the actual date when I get the films of deaths for that time). The Saginaw Obit database lists a Philip Brandi as having died at the age of 6 years, 6 months, in April 1898. They may have been a year off.

I also found Melvina (b. August 5, 1893) and James Brandi (b. March 8, 1897), both children of Ralph and Helen (although Melvina is listed as having "Ralfo and Luia Brandi" as parents; weird). No record of Vincent, though, who should have been born in February, 1895.

On April 17, 1897, a Raymond J. Brandi was born to Joseph Brandi, born in Italy and working as a streetcar conductor, and his wife Amelia, born in Michigan. This appears to be the same Raymond Brandi who appears in the 1900 Census as a three year old living with his grandmother, Zoa Godboo. Joseph and Amelia don't appear in the 1900 Census in Michigan as near as I can tell, but they and Raymond show up in the 1910 Census in Grand Rapids. Eventually, I'll probably have to find either a wedding record for Joseph and Amelia or a death record for Joseph to find out who his parents were, or maybe find him in the 1884 state Census. He was 35 in the 1910 Census, which would give him a birthdate around 1874-5. That would make him the right age to be great-grandpa's brother.

Incidentally, Amelia's maiden name is listed as Goodboo in the Saginaw Obit database when she died in Marne, Michigan in January, 1937. No mention of an obit for Joseph, though. Given that Amelia is shown as being buried in Grand Rapids, Joseph probably lived there for the rest of his life, too. And in fact, there's an obituary database online for Grand Rapids and Kent County, run by the Western Michigan Genealogical Society (which I just found this afternoon). Or at least there usually is. The WMGS page says that the database machine is offline at the moment and to check back in a few days. So I will. Maybe if I can get his death record I can find out who his parents were. I'll have to ask Aunt Lonnie if she knew of any relatives of my grandfather's out in Grand Rapids. I seem to recall there possibly being some mention of that in the dim and distant past, but I could be mistaken.

I think I found Aunt Yola's birth record. Her name on all the other documents I have is Yolanda Marie Brandi, but she appears in the birth records as Marie Wisniewski, born March 6, 1910. Her mother is listed as Anna Wisniewski, I think, although it's hard to read into the shadows for the first name on my printout, but that's what I saw on the microfilm reader. I guess the name on her Social Security application is correct. Now I just have to figure out if Anna Wisniewski and Antonina Wisniewski are the same woman or different ones. There were girls of those two names, about a year apart in age, in the 1900 Census in Bay City, Anna living with her father Casimir and Antonina living with her father Frank.

There were a bunch of other Brandis born in Saginaw in the 1910s. There was a Joseph Henry Brandi born on January 31, 1912 to a tailor with the last name of Brandi and a woman with a Polish last name ending in what appears to be "reshinski". Ralph Sr. was a tailor, but so was Michael Brandi. Michael was married to Mary Zito, though; in fact, they had children in 1910 and 1912. So anyway, it's not clear to me if this is one of Ralph Sr.'s children or not. Maybe there were three tailors named Brandi in Saginaw in 1912. I would have to either have a look at the actual book rather than the microfilm, or get some other record for him to find out for sure who his parents are. It bears investigation.

Posted at 10:46:57 PM Link to this entry


Other Brandis born in Saginaw in the early 1910s that I have birth records for:

Bernice A Brandi (b. 25 Aug 1910), parents Michael Brandi (listed as Merchant, Tailor, born in Italy) and Mary Zito (born in Michigan). Bernice's name is entered as a correction; the name was originally given as Antoinette Elinor Brandi. The obit database says Bernice died on Wednesday, June 17, 1998.

Irene Mary Brandi (b. 16 Sep 1912), parents Brandi (a shoemaker) and Pitto, presumably Salvatore (Sam) Brandi and Raffaela Pitto. Irene's middle name was corrected in the record in 1967.

Dorothy E. Brandi (b. 11 Nov 1912), parents Brandi (a tailor, presumably Michael) and Zito (see above). The obit database says Dorothy died on Monday, May 5, 1997.

Other Brandis listed in the index but whom I have not yet retrieved records for:

The last book available to the great unwashed masses through the Family History Centers is book N, 1909-1913 (which I've already looked through), so birth records for anybody born after then aren't available through this channel.

Note that I still don't know how most of these people are related to me. The problem is figuring out how their parents, Michael, Salvatore (Sam), and Joseph are related to my li'l Grandpa and to his parents. I know they're related somehow, since Aunt Lonnie tells me that my grandfather used to refer to Sam's son Angelo as his cousin. I just haven't put the pieces together yet. It's like I've got a thousand piece jigsaw and I've got half of the border worked out.

Posted at 10:44:42 PM Link to this entry


Index of Marriages

In the index of marriages, I've found the following people so far:

There were no Brandis listed in books K through N, which cover the years 1902 through 1923. I expected to find Ralph Sr. there for his second marriage, but no dice (unless "Ruloff" is him). Antonina Wisniewski was from Bay City, so I figure maybe they got married there. I ordered a film today of the marriage index for Bay County. If he's listed twice there, then I know that Anna and Antonina are different people.

I need to order the film for books I and J, LDS number 967190. All things in time....

Index of Deaths

The big news here is that I think I found the missing Ralph. There's an entry from maybe 1911 or maybe 1914 (the index is a bit jumbled at this point) or thereabouts, based on its placement in the index, for Ralph Brandi in book F, page 137. I ordered the film of the death records for 1910-1917 from the Family History Center today (film number 967176).

The index also lists Vincenzo Brandi in book G, page 18, right toward the beginning. Unfortunately, book F is the last one available through the Family History Center, but the fact that the record is for Vincenzo rather than Vincent makes me think that this is probably the father rather than the son, that is, my great-great-grandfather. The obit database lists his date of death as June, 1917.

Philip Brandi is also shown in the death index, in what is probably book D (the handwriting for the book volumes was atrocious) given the time period, page 142. This was the third and last film I ordered today, volumes C-D covering 1888-1902 (film number 967174). I searched for Brandis all the way up to 1953, but didn't find any more of them, not even Mary Brandi, Vincent's wife. I'm not sure what happened to her. Maybe she'll show up in the 1920 Census, which I haven't looked at yet. I also found a bunch of Wisniewskis through the years, but since I don't know if any of the Saginaw Wisniewskis are related, I won't spell them out here.

I did not find Antonina Wisniewski Brandi anywhere in this list, despite the fact that she was supposed to have died in about 1926, when Grandpa was 7 years old. That surprised me. Someone in the county clerk's office had gone to the trouble to type that section of the index, from roughly 1922 to 1939, which made it particularly easy to search, but I went over the Bs from 1925 to 1928 with a fine-toothed comb, and I don't see any listing for her. Very weird, given the story that she was up in Saginaw and li'l Grandpa was down in Detroit when she died. I don't know, maybe she actually died in Bay City. I'll have to ask Aunt Lonnie if she knows anything about this.

Phew! That's a lot of work over the last two weeks!

Posted at 10:43:13 PM Link to this entry


Wednesday, June 21, 2000

My newly-found cousin Kris Brandi has set up a web page for the upcoming First Brandi Family Reunion in Saginaw, Michigan on July 29th.

Posted at 7:58:03 PM Link to this entry


The Steamship Historical Society of America archives at the University of Baltimore has a photo of the RMS Antonia available (not displayed online).

Posted at 8:35:32 AM Link to this entry


Tuesday, June 20, 2000

KinShips has three prints of the R.M.S. Antonia available.

Morissak has a postcard of the R.M.S. Antonia from the 1930s.

The Cunard Line has a page that describes the R.M.S. Antonia, but doesn't have any pictures.

Posted at 10:48:17 PM Link to this entry


The National Archives of Canada also seems to have extensive photographic holdings. They even have a photograph of the Cunard ship R.M.S. Antonia listed in their holdings.

Posted at 10:23:26 PM Link to this entry


The National Archives of Canada has computerized their index of immigration arrivals between 1925 and 1935, something that didn't appear to be available when I sent off my query to them on May 12th. So I did a search for the surname "Zurbyk" in the year 1930, and was rewarded with a single entry for one Josepha Zurbyk (Grandma!). She arrived in Quebec City, Quebec, on June 28, 1930 on the Cunard ship Antonia. She was 18 years old and is listed as being of Polish nationality. The immigration record is part of record group 76, in the 1930 series volume 10, on page 172, National Archives microfilm reel T-14765. The Mormons only have immigration records for Quebec up to 1900. Larry, my cousin who wrote the history of the Zurbyk family in Canada, who lives up near Ottawa, has offered to go to the National Archives and get the records if I can come up with the information. Looks like I did!

Posted at 10:03:44 PM Link to this entry


Okay, here's the SS-5 forms that I got a few days ago.

Social Security Application forms

Posted at 8:22:19 AM Link to this entry


Saturday, June 17, 2000

The mail today contained a wealth of information from Social Security. My great-great-aunt, Mary (Zurbyk) Karyshyn's SS-5 came today. She was born on April 25, 1892, in Poland, and lists her parents; names as Nickolas Zurbyk and Varvara Woryszczak. Since she was my grandmother's father's sister, I now have the names of my great-great-grandparents, which I didn't have before.

For Laura's family, we got her Grandma and Grandpa Pantano's SS-5s. Not really anything there we didn't know, although her Grandpa Pantano's form says he was working for the Graham Construction Co. part time as of December 15, 1941, in addition to his teaching job. Hmmm, either that was something to keep the money coming in over the holidays, or it was something to do with the war effort, since he filled out the form just about a week after Pearl Harbor. Laura's Grandma Pantano signed her form in 1958 "Adele S. Pantano", rather than Adeline or Adelina.

The big find on Laura's side of the family, though, is her Grandma Lombardo, Albana Maracci Lombardo. She filled out her form on December 19, 1936 as an employee of the Aldene Silk Throwing Company in Paterson, NJ. Surprisingly for a SS-5, she not only gives the country of her birth, but the province and village! We didn't know where she came from any more specifically than La Spezia, Italy, which is a city and a province, but the SS-5 says she was born in Pitelli, Spezia, Italy. Of the dozen or so SS-5s I've seen so far, this is the only one that gets that specific. Pretty neat that it's the one that we needed to be that specific. :-)

It's very hot here today, so I'll scan the forms in later, maybe tomorrow when the high is supposed to be only in the low 70s.

Posted at 3:55:08 PM Link to this entry


Wednesday, June 14, 2000

I sent a letter off to Aunt Della on Monday asking for information about her family. She should probably be getting it today or tomorrow.

Posted at 3:55:06 PM Link to this entry


Monday, June 12, 2000

The page was getting too long. I wanted it to show posts within the last 30 days, but instead, it shows the last 30 posting days. So I've reset the settings to only show 15 days. That ought to make the page length a little more reasonable.

Posted at 11:01:29 PM Link to this entry


Monday, June 5, 2000

The State of Michigan couldn't find a birth record from my great-grandmother Evelyn Clara Schmitt. I have her birthdate as August 12, 1902, but they couldn't find her, even with searching all of 1901 through 1903. Bummer. I'll wait to see what I get from my request for her marriage license and see what it says for the birthdate (although I already have her SS-5 showing that as her birthdate). Then maybe I'll try Wayne County, with an even steeper $17 charge. Yow!

Posted at 5:10:35 PM Link to this entry


The State Archives of Michigan has a really good page spelling out exactly what kinds of records that might conceivably be of interest to genealogists they have in their possession.

Posted at 5:04:39 PM Link to this entry


Sunday, June 4, 2000

Chip Rowe has an interesting article on his site about genealogy which starts out with the factoid that 10% of all children are not fathered by the man they think they are, which kind of makes genealogy a hopeless task. Just what I needed to find in my mailbox after six hours at the library.... :-) (Thanks, Chip!)

Posted at 5:50:00 PM Link to this entry


I'm sending away for birth certificates for Laura's Grandma and Grandpa Pantano so we can find out what names they were given at birth, as opposed to the ones everyone called them later in life. I'm also sending for the death certificate of Vittorio Minocci, just because I know the date of his death and maybe it will bring Laura's line back another generation. Unfortunately, genealogical requests are a really low priority for the NJ vital records office; according to, it can take up to four months to get a record out of them unless you pay for expedited service, which isn't available for genealogical requests.

Posted at 5:45:58 PM Link to this entry


Laura talked to her mom tonight about the stuff I found at the library this weekend, and as a result, wrote up what they talked about:

Grandma went by "Adele S. Pantano", the S. standing for Saracco, and Grandpa went by "John N. Pantano", the "N" standing for "Nicholas".

In the 1934 and 1935 Paterson directories, they are listed as "John S. Pantano" and "Adeline F. Pantano". I knew that my grandmother had gone by "Adeline" instead of "Adele" when she was younger, but I didn't know the reason why they both had different middle initials. My mother said that my grandfather referred to himself as "John Saint Nicholas Pantano", and wrote it as "John S. N. Pantano". My grandmother's middle name was "Frances".

At one point, Grandpa Lombardo worked at Passaic Bobbin, so that is probably why he was referred to in the 1934 and 1935 Paterson directories as a "bobbinmaker". He also worked in a dye shop and as a cabinetmaker at other times in his life.

Sisto Pantano, the shoemaker, moved from Paterson to Prospect Park, which was a Dutch area. He would barter shoes with the Dutch farmers for food.

Posted at 5:01:48 PM Link to this entry


I spent six hours at the Rutgers University library yesterday. The big reason I wanted to go their was to look at their copies of Italians to America to see if I could find my great-grandfather and his parents listed for their trip to America in 1883. Unfortunately, despite what the catalog says, volume 1, which covers 1883, seems to be missing from the stacks. They've got another copy of it in the Special Collection, but that's not open on weekends. Feh. I looked through volumes 2 through 9 for other Brandis, and found a bunch, but none with their village of origin listed. I was also looking for some of Laura's relatives, like Francesca De Rosa who came with her parents in hot pursuit of her brother Raffaele who eloped, or Philip Saracco, but I didn't find them either. Maybe they're in the missing volume too.

Shifting to plan B, I spent some time with the microfilms of Paterson, NJ city directories, and found a goldmine of information about Laura's families. I started with the 1904 directory and didn't find anyone in it (I should recheck, though; my notes don't mention if I looked at 1902, which I should have, and I found a number of variations in spelling in later years). Philip Saracco (Laura's great-grandfather) makes his first appearance as a weaver in the 1905 directory, gaining a promotion to loomfixer by 1907. His first name varies over the years to Felippi and Filippo and eventually back to Philip, and the last name showing up as Sarracco and even, in the case of the 1920 Census, Sarracio. Sisto Pantano (Laura's great-grandfather) first appears (as "Sixty") in 1909 as a shoemaker; after a couple of years his names settles to "Sisty", and the last name doesn't vary at all. Vittorio Minnocci (Laura's great-great-grandfather) appears as a laborer in 1910, but by 1913, he's a grocer and the names is spelled "Minoccie". In 1914, he's a grocer and a maccaroni manufacturer in two different locations.

I looked at directories up to 1916, then skipped ahead to 1934 and 1935, where I found Luigi Lombardo (Laura's grandfather) working as a bobbinmaker and living with his wife Albana; that's two years after Laura's dad was born, so I'll have to look through the directories some more to try and pinpoint when they all showed up. Francesca Saracco (Laura's great-grandmother) is listed as the widow of Philip, so he died sometime before 1934. John S and Adeline F Pantano (Laura's grandparents) are listed as teachers, and they moved down the street between 1934 and 1935. They may have needed more room. In 1934, Vittorio Minnocci is listed with his wife Anna living with their son Arthur and his wife Vienna, but in 1935, Anna is listed as the widow of Vittorio, and there's an entry for Vittorio saying that he died on December 15, 1934, age 71.

It's amazing what you can figure out by looking at these directories. There's a lot more to the story, like relatives coming over for a few years, then going back to Italy, all that you can figure out just by looking at the city directories.

With about a half hour to go before the library closed, I decided to look at the Soundexes for the 1920 Census. I found loads of information there, too. Laura didn't know about any siblings for her Aunt Jo (still alive at 96!) or Aunt Vic (also still alive and 81), but I found three brothers and two sisters living in the "Sarracio" family on Ward Street in 1920. Likewise, in "Cisto" Pantano's house in Prospect Park (apparently they moved out of Paterson between 1916 and 1920), Laura's grandfather John had four sisters we didn't know about. And Laura's great-great-grandfather Victor (Vittorio) Minnocci had at least one other daughter other than Laura's great-grandmother Felice. I'll have to look in the 1910 Census, though; they may have mostly moved out by 1920, and I didn't have time to look for other Minnoccis, as the library was about to close by the time I got to them.

All in all, it was a hugely productive day, even if I didn't find the information that initially spurred me to go up there. I celebrated with a stromboli and a beer afterward; Italian food seemed appropriate. :-) The New Jersey State Library in Trenton has the first 12 volumes of Italians to America, so I'll have to go there one of these weekends. They've also got something like 60 volumes of Germans to America, which would be useful to find my great-grandfather's first wife. I'll also have to return to Rutgers one of these weekends to pore through the New Jersey Census returns and the years of city directories I didn't get through.

Posted at 3:24:22 PM Link to this entry


Aunt Yola's death certificate arrived on Friday. It lists her mother as "Anna Wisniewski". So the mystery remains. Hmmm.

Posted at 8:56:41 AM Link to this entry