Bartolo was born in October 1869, he was found in a basket on the doorstep of Celeste (age 56) who dressed him and took him to the town office where he was given the name of Bartolo and assigned to a wet nurse for feeding. He eventually trained as a tailor.
Abandoned children who survived were often given the opportunity to learn a trade but most ended up with farming families. Bartolo was one of the lucky ones and I suspect he trained as a tailor with the local tailor’s family who fostered him. Since the tailor’s family had no sons it would be a natural thing for them to take in a male child to assist in the business eventually. This family had a daughter, Elisabetta who would have been 7 months old when Bartolo was born and if Elisabetta’s mother had sufficient milk she may even have been Bartolo’s wet nurse . Not a surprise that he also married a daughter of the family who raised him.
Elisabetta was born in March of the same year to a tailor and his wife in Arpino. She had twin sisters born three years earlier.
In 1893 Bartolo and Elisabetta married and had four children before emigrating to America in 1906 where four more sons were born.
Bartolo emigrated to America as a ‘labourer’. I suspect to work on the booming New York subway or Brooklyn Bridge. He was 37 years old when he emigrated. If he had been working as a tailor all his life I would have been ill-suited to the extreme physical labor required in America. By 1925 he would be 56 years old. His older children already adults and most if not all of them already working and some probably married with children of their own.
Elisabetta’s parents died in 1910 and 1915, just a few years after their arrival in New York. Both in their 80’s. Her twin sisters were also both married with families of their own.
By 1925 Bartolo would have been tired of the cold American winters, the big, dirty city, maybe he was in failing health and longing for a return to the tranquility and warmth of his birthplace, the figs, the clean air etc. His large family were probably content with life in America, did not speak Italian and were not ready to move back to a country they did not know and could not be guaranteed to find work in. His wife, most likely wouldn’t leave her children/grandchildren and he reluctantly returned to Italy alone.
He was not the first to do this. The pull of the ‘old country’ was strong. Despite all of its drawbacks and poverty in those years it would have still had a strong influence. Most Italians who emigrated never intended to stay permanently. All of them hoped to make enough money to buy land or a house and return to live out their old age in peace. Most never accomplished this dream. Bartolo did and it seems he did it with decorum.
Back in his town of birth he was given a job in the town hall as a messenger. This job was a ‘make-work’ project to provide an income for indigents. Since he didn’t return to tailoring could he have been injured in some way? Have become arthritic? He lived in a small apartment near his place of work.
THE NEXT 10 YEARS
Further research showed that by the 1936 census he was living with the family of a widow Elia, as a boarder.
The widow Elia was born in 1889 and was just 4 years old when Bartolo married Elisabetta and only 17 when Bartolo and his wife emigrated. She was not a countess, although her father was the local ‘fornaio’. He owned a large oven where local women brought their bread to be baked.
Elia married her husband Egidio in 1908 just 4 days before the birth of their first son. Another son was born in 1911 and two other children born during World War 1, in 1916 and 1919 did not survive childhood.
Egidio died in Aversa where there is a large psychiatric hospital. It is possible that the deaths of his two youngest children during WW1, the effects of the war etc. may have contributed to his commitment to the facility. He probably also served in the military although I did not confirm this.
Egidio’s two surviving sons were both married by 1936 leaving things open for Bartolo to move in with their mother with whom he appears to have had a long term friendship after his return to Arpino. Elisabetta, his wife died in 1932 in America, leaving him free to marry, but Egidio was still alive and still confined to the mental hospital in Aversa.
Elia’s father died in 1940 and I can’t imagine he would have approved of her replacing her husband with a man who was still married. Bartolo may not have moved in with her until after the death of Elisabetta in 1932.
Two days after Egidio’s death in Aversa in 1951 Bartolo and Elia were married in the church of Santa Maria Cività. He (Bartolo) died just three years later. By this time the town office had marked him as ‘invalido’ disabled or an invalid.
Depending on your point of view I suppose Bartolo either abandoned his family in New York to return to Italy OR he fulfilled his dream of returning to his birthplace and his family wouldn’t accompany him.
He didn’t find a Countess to support him but he appears to have found a friend who needed him as much as he needed her in his later years.
I guess you can’t believe everything you hear!
The challenge: to prove (or disprove) the family story that Bartolo abandoned his wife and family in America to return to Italy between 1920-1930 for the love of a Countess.