Tudo Bem ! The year 2013 was an amazing year. The Pallante Center went to South America and studied internal migration routes in Southern Brazil! Quite a bit was learned in just a couple of weeks. First we arrived in the City of Sao Paulo, and had a general tour around the city by a private escort who spoke English. The native language in Brazil is Portuguese (a unique Brazilian form of Portuguese). We visited the old historic city center and a very old cathedral,
as well as the historic marketplace. From the plane the first views of the City of Sao Paulo reveal that this city is HUGE !
We toured Little Italy Sao Paulo. The main event was the historic church. They were very nice people who gave me a little book about the history of their parish. There is not much going on otherwise in this old Italian neighborhood these days. It has pretty much assimilated into Brazilian culture.
There are several historical and cultural museums in the City of Sao Paulo that were very informative. I bought a lot of books and postcards at the museum shops. Many of the books were specially designed for English-speaking tourists, with multi-language translations on each page.
The archivist there showed us around the grounds, explaining in detail about the days when Italian immigrants worked as indentured servants–a very hard life. But it was only for two years. The archivist had a treasure trove of old record books that the old plantation owners had kept on each worker regarding how much they were paid. The books are a wonderful resource with the actual names of the Italian workers!
I met some of their living descendants in the area of Campinas. One man said that his grandparents had come from region Veneto and spoke a Venetian dialect. The archivist had roots in Calabria.
Another day we went to the old Port of Santos, where the immigrant ships first landed (if they didn’t enter farther north in Rio).
There was a wonderful coffee museum in the historic downtown area that was very well done. It was once a place where coffee owners came to sell to buyers. They held auctions and had an area for taste testing. There were exhibits showing the tools workers used on the plantations to cut gather the coffee beans from the trees (which are larger than I imagined). It requires use of a ladder to reach the top branches.
There were other tools to rake the coffee beans around as they dried in the sun on a flat surface that was a big square area about the size of a small tennis court (in the days before freeze drying). This was right next to the dormitory housing where the workers lived on sight. We saw an example of such housing on the plantation that we visited. The museum had exhibits of old coffee burlap sacks that the dried beans were put in for shipment. They were carried on the backs of workers and loaded on a train that came to the port area, then other workers loaded the sacks on ships.
There was a little research library where I spent about an hour getting a private workshop from the librarian about genealogy research sources and offices in southern Brazil that pertain to genealogy. We had also gone to the state archives office in the City of Sao Paulo to research naturalization records. I was escorted by our private tour guide. The staff spoke Portuguese only. He helped me to fill out the forms and submit my research request. The staff explained the way things work there. A few days later they had the results of the search. Our immigrant did not file for citizenship in Sao Paulo. He must have done so in Porto Alegre area later on in his journey.
I also went to other history museums in Sao Paulo, one that was all about the general history of Brazil, but included a lot about immigrants. We saw the historic marketplace in the Centro area, which the Italian immigrants helped to develop. It is filled with fruit vendors and little places to eat lunch–much more upscale than I expected. Signs are all in Portuguese. There were large murals all over the walls depicting the olden days of coffee plantation workers in historic costumes.
It just happened that while we were in Brazil, it was a summer of unrest and many public protests were being held all over the country from north to south. The locals referred to them as “manifestations”. We witnessed several of them in various cities during our trip. Most all that we saw personally were peaceful. There was a military police presence that stood back, but ready. They did not appear unfriendly, and probably recognized us as tourists. (Maybe because everyone else was in the street chanting and holding signs, as we looked on–a bit confused—with cameras snapping away). One night we had gone into a phone store after dinner, and while we were in there it got dark, and suddenly a mob of protestors just “appeared”, seemingly out of nowhere. We were nervous at first, but quickly saw that they seemed peaceful. They came in droves from every side street (and did so each night thereafter like clockwork after the dinner hour). Each night was about a different theme.
The first night was a bus worker’s theme and there were lots of empty buses honking horns, like a parade, with people dressed like clowns going down the street (“the government will not make clowns of us” I think they were saying). There were people beating on drums. Many brought children who were marching next to them.
The next night was a health care worker’s theme. Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers (all dressed in various medical outfits that they wear in the hospital). They too had red clown noses. A few were wearing a mask that stood for “revolution”. They would chant as a big group with a man holding a megaphone leading –in front of the news cameras (which happened to be at the corner of our hotel block). There were reports that it sometimes got a little ugly later in the night after the main crowd dispersed. Our tour guide had instructed us to go straight to the hotel and stay inside, when he dropped us off after the excursion to Santos. But we heard the chanting from our room and couldn’t resist this chance to experience Brazilian history unfolding!
Ultimately, we left the City of Sao Paulo and took a shuttle plane to Curitiba. We were advised not to drive–that would have taken most of the day and we only had two days total for this next stop. Also, the road is said to be a dangerous, winding mountain road, with a lot of big trucks in a hurry.
We found that Curitiba had much more of a “Little Italy” in tact than we could find in Sao Paulo. The neighborhood is called “Santa Felicidade”.
There was a main street lined with Italian restaurants and little stores and their Italian church. But when I saw a car going down the road slowly, shouting things into a megaphone (just exactly as I had seen done in Sicily), it really felt like a town that was truly a recreation of a Sicilian town, complete with the housing being up the side of a hill that sloped up from behind the main street with the stores. (Thankfully the streets were normal size and not the tiny paths in Sicilian villages). But I’m told that Curitiba is actually a melting pot of northern European immigrants.
We drove all around (with a new tour guide) who explained the area to us, and also took us to an old train station, which had a little museum and exhibit area. They had an old wooden passenger train of the kind that the immigrant generation used. But railroad transportation has kind of faded away in many areas, as most get around by shuttle planes these days. They built a modern shopping mall attached to the old train station, so that it is now all enclosed as one big tourist stop.
There was one old-fashioned train still functioning, that you could ride out to the seacoast and back for an afternoon excursion. We didn’t have time as we had only a few short days in this town and wanted to see all of the main sites besides Little Italy.
The Botanical Garden is a popular tourist stop in Curitiba. It was July, but that is winter season in Brazil, so they didn’t have as many of the flowers as would sometimes exist there. It was hard for us to understand that it was winter to them because the temperature felt the same as when we left New York on July 1st. Yet there were people wearing jackets. Maybe it’s because we’ve lived in the North Country for 15 years now that “winter” to us is more like 20 below zero! It was like a spring day–maybe about 70 degrees.
We took a modern train across country to a seashore resort island called Florianopolis. Since we were only to be there one night, we splurged a little and got a really nice hotel right on the water. (Actually it was at very reduced price because it was winter). But we wore our bathing suits and had a great time on the beach. The water was warm, but nobody was swimming. We had the place practically to ourselves. For dinner we took a cab to a nearby little bar on the beach and saw a real pirate ship pass by! Singing “yo ho ho” or whatever pirates sing. Much of the island is for tourists with high rise fancy hotels. At our hotel many seemed to be from Europe. It was one quick stop to break up the previous week of research and study before moving on for a new week of studying the very south of Brazil.
We then flew to Porto Alegre, another historic port city–way down in the most southern part of Brazil–close to the border of Argentina. There my husband was speaking at a customer seminar for two days. His presentation was about industrial water treatment. I used the time to read some of my new books I had picked up at Sao Paulo museums, and attended a cocktail party with him in the evening, where I met many interesting people. Quite a lot of that group spoke English. There were a lot of young engineers who took the occasion to chat with my husband, who is an expert in his field.
The next day, we hired a private driver guide and drove up into the mountains about two hours from the city. Veranopolis is a little village settled by Italian immigrants. Almost everyone who lives in this mountaintop town is a descendant of an Italian immigrant! I had been tracking a particular Italian immigrant who came from northeast Italy in the 1880s, and first lived in Sao Paulo briefly, before migrating to the extreme south.
The Italian immigrant I was following had to cross this river to get to his new town of Veranopolis (a very Italian town high on top of a mountain). So we too had to cross this river ! It was a little out of the ordinary for our private escort driver/translator. Usually he gets calls by businessmen to be taken to a meeting. But I had him looking for old house addresses and town halls and cemeteries.
In this town I met a living descendant of the immigrant (posing next to his ancestor’s gravesite below), who showed us the remains of the immigrant’s original stone house, on an outlying farm. There was nothing left of it but a bit of a stone foundation. At the cemetery we saw the graves of the immigrant, his wife, and several of his children, which reveals their dates of death. The style of the cemetery was just like those in Italy–like a little city, with all the former Italian residents of the town, many who were born in Italy.
We stopped at the town hall to request documents (which are not kept there but another location nearby). But the people were all very friendly. They spoke only Portuguese, but wanted to make the effort to try to understand us. At no time anywhere in Brazil did I feel any kind of anti-Americanism (meaning anti “United States”, as was sometimes present in certain villages in Sicily). We took a general tour around the area. The living relative of my client (shown here) runs tours to the Amazon (called Adventure Tours). He does not speak any English but our personal guide translated for us. It was all a great learning experience.
So I had successfully followed the life of an Italian from his arrival to his final resting place in Brazil. Pretty cool! It’s hard to imagine what’s going on if you’ve never been to a place. Seeing it all first hand was a tremendous help in understanding Italian immigrants to Brazil. Below is a photo of a vineyard we passed on the way up to the mountaintop village of Veranopolis.
On our way to Veranopolis, that morning we had first stopped at Caxius-do-Sul, another town full of lots of Italians. They did not have a “Little Italy” section, but did have a very informative immigrant museum. It started out being dedicated only to Italian immigrants, so was heavy on informational exhibits about Italians. Later on they expanded their focus to include all immigrants to southern Brazil. The other big group who settled the area were Germans. They tended to settle the valley areas on ranches, while the Italians liked the hilltop towns and had vinyards .
In this museum they let me photograph every exhibit and informational sign! I told them I would need to translate the signage to English when I got back to the USA, and that would take more time than we had standing there. They were very willing to assist in my studies.
Back at our hotel that night some of the seminar people we had met were still there, so we went into town in Porto Alegre and had a nice dinner with some new friends. Some were actually born in other areas of South America.
On our first day of arrival to Porto Alegre, before the conference began, we toured the historic district and saw incredible old architecture. In Centro there was a street vendor atmosphere with all kinds of tourist items for sale.
But we did not know where to find the actual port (where the old immigrant family had worked on the docks for a short while before moving to Veranopolis).
So at the end of the trip (on our last day in Brazil) after taking some time to study books and maps about the city, we had one last chance before our flight home. We were on our own for the first time without a private guide to translate for us. After discussing with the front desk we took a cab to the street location on water. We found a small paper mill, which has been converted to a museum. From the park outside alongside a river, you could see oceangoing ships passing by. But there was nothing else there but some vendors selling food. So we asked the guard at the museum (which had no other staff–you just walked around on your own).
My husband was in his glory looking around this old paper mill. He’s a chemical engineer for industrial water treatment, specializing in paper mills these days. His face lit up when he realized the old building we were standing in was once an old mill! Since he had gone all over Brazil with me tracking Italians, I could not deny him this moment of something fun for him, but I was in a bit of a hurry with a plane to catch and trying to find the correct location of where the immigrant once worked to finish out the story. So we had to move along !
Our Portuguese was much improved by now, so we were able to understand the guard’s instructions on our map where to go to find the original old warehouse section of Porto Alegre. It was too far, so we had to find a taxi. As we approached, I saw the iron gates to an old historic looking complex and knew at once it was definitely the right place! There were old wooden buildings, now abandoned, an old dock area where the ships used to unload (which is now done at a more modern industrial area). There was just a problem of the big iron gate was padlocked! We found a policeman/guard nearby and begged “oh please ! We only have one last hour before we have to get to the airport, and this is the last thing we need to see about the life of the immigrant we’ve been tracking all over Brazil ! ” He was happy to open the gate. I breathed a sigh of relief and took moment to marvel about how he understood our broken Portuguese. He at least knew I needed to take pictures with some urgency.
We ran around the old waterfront area where the immigrant we were following had once worked. The old historic buildings sat empty, lost in another era on the water’s edge, with the modern city in the back ground. The old train tracks are no longer used–weeds growing over them. The modern industrial port is at a different location.
Our trip was over. It was a very fruitful learning experience, packed with so many things that for the first time on an international trip, I didn’t even have time to keep a journal each day. Things just moved too fast. Our private guides in each city always wanted us to be ready in front of our hotel promptly at 6:00am each day. Always, we put in a full day each day, and by the time we got back to the room dropped of exhaustion. I have the digital images taken in the chronological order that serve as a photo journal.
This time the full story has be written after the trip. My camera was snapping pictures every minute the entire time. So there are photos galore of every minute! I can’t wait to go again sometime. I didn’t get to see the areas between Sao Paulo and Rio (except for Campinas), so I have more to learn. For now I am reading books to better understand the things we saw. This is just meant to be a light overview of the trip. Another time I will write more in-depth about specific subjects—such as the Italian workers and the coffee industry, the history of specific Italian villages, Little Italies, and of course more about the reason I went on the trip—internal migration patterns after immigrants first arrived from Italy.
“Rivelli”, (census records), spanning 1584 to 1755 ! Research was done on two different surnames, and all residents by those surnames were extracted. They give the head of the family (and that person’s father), his wife, and a list of all the children and their ages. They also mention boarders or servants residing in the house.
Following the names, the body then gets into the details about property holdings. For example, “one house of seven rooms in the quarter San Michele in Caccamo ; one land (extension two tumoli) with vineyard in the feud Ginestra ; In 1681 master Carlo owned: Equipment of shoemaker; one house in the quarter San Filippo in Caccamo, assigned to his son cleric Giuseppe; one vineyard consisting of 1500 vines in the feud San Leonardo, assigned to his son cleric Giuseppe; In 1636 Antonio son of Innocenzo owned: one little house in the quarter Castle in Caccamo; one vineyard consisting of 400 vines in the district Mandra Nuova; one she-ass [and also gives the values of each item]
Some of the collection includes notarial notes in Latin. There are 134 pages to be studied and translated. When finished it will be a great treasure to have ! Former Caccamo clients are anxiously waiting to hear if any of their ancestors are mentioned as Scelsa or Giovenco family neighbors. This is an amazing project of great excitement ! For sure the family will then want to go and see these properties in person. Research can also be done to investigate the current situation with these properties.
© April 15, 1999 Debora L. Hill All rights reserved
(Reprinted from Comunes of Italy Magazine Vol. 3 : 12 Jan.-Feb. 2000 pp 10-12)
An exciting aspect of family history research is the discovery of an immigrant ancestor’s village of origin. It would be hard to fully understand your family’s history without knowledge of the historical and cultural context that shaped your ancestor’s lives. There are many approaches to learning about the local history of your ancestral village, including political, socio-economic, and anthropological perspectives. There is also a demographic perspective, which may sometimes be overlooked. Perhaps this is because statistical data at the village level may not be easily available. However, lacking published sources, you can always do your own demographic study utilizing LDS microfilmed records.
Genealogists can see their ancestors in context with the rest of the community by comparing data found on their individual records with statistics compiled for the village as a whole. Of course, the study need not be sophisticated and may not be entirely accurate for the purpose of drawing any academic conclusions regarding demographic behavior.Often information found in Italian vital records is only an estimate, such as a person’s age for example. But for genealogical purposes, it can provide insight on what went on in the village throughout most of the 19th century. How long did the average person live? What was the average age at marriage, and what time of year did the majority of marriages take place? Was infant mortality high? How common was your great grandfather’s occupation in this village? What else did others do for a living? In your pursuit to learn the answers to questions that arise, you will learn more about the general history and culture of the village.
By constructing a simple graph, you can get visual pictures of all of this, which will reveal patterns and exceptions, such as a steady increase in life expectancy or an unusual number of deaths in one particular year (an epidemic)? Plotting data for five or ten year intervals, will allow you to see how things changed throughout most the 19th century (depending on how much of the historical record survives and has been microfilmed). You can measure infant mortality or gain insight into marriage traditions, but you also need to check other resources to understand the .why. behind statistical patterns that emerge from examination of individual historical records.
If you plan to write a book on your family history, a demographic study of your ancestral village, taken together with other sources, such as printed histories, oral histories, correspondence with current village residents, and local historical societies, will make it more interesting. Your ancestors did not live in isolation. They lived within a framework of a local community which in turn existed in a regional framework.
As an example, statistics gathered for the village of Avezzano (AQ) in the Abruzzo Region of Italy, represent a first step in doing a demographic study for the purpose of genealogy. The methodology used is simply to pick a year to begin with and sit down with all of the LDS microfilms that contain records for that year. Go through the films frame by frame and keep a tally of how many deaths (broken down into male or female groupings and noting the age at death and the month). The groupings will in the end reveal patterns that exist, such as an unusually high number of deaths in any certain month or a higher life expectancy for females than males etc. You can keep a tally of births by month or just tally males and females and their ages. You might want to include the age of the parents at the time of birth and their occupation to check differences in birth rate amongst various social groups or age groups. Marriage records provide the opportunity to study the occupations of both the marriage couples and their parents. From marriage records you can also get a sense of immigration into the village from other areas by looking at the birthplace of the couples and residences of the parents. This can also be noted from birth and death records. If there are an extraordinary number of people showing up as not having been born in that village, there may have been a migration. In any case, from this information you would be alerted to seek out more information about the cause via anthropological and other perspectives.
Statistics from Avezzano records reveal many interesting things about this village. For example there are quite a lot of people who make their living as seamstresses and spinners. Avezzano has historically been a sheep farming village. If you are familiar with the Italian culture, this may seem obvious, if not, you might not make this connection unless you also consult a printed history of the village. The statistics that emerge should also peak your curiosity to find out more via an economic perspective.
It’s always possible that important events in the history of the village will be missed, if every single year is not examined. But that would not typically be feasible. A graph covering five or ten year intervals should be sufficient to provide a general overview of demographic behavior. Data for other years in Avezzano history has not yet been compiled, thus the final graph is not presented here. However, the graph below shows how total population changed over time in the village of Longano (IS), in the Molise Region, based on population figures provided in a manuscript. This makes an interesting visual for a family history book.
You can customize your graph(s) however you wish, or just report statistics in the text. It’s your story. But do more than just retrieve individual records for ancestors and list names and dates on a chart. Utilize all tools and resources available and apply as many methodologies and approaches as you can to build the fullest history of your family. Diversity of resources is vital to all types of historical research and extends to genealogy as well. The more resources you utilize, the more chance of uncovering conflicting data and realizing bias. For example, stats for your ancestral village may not jive with generalizations published in the literature. The average age at marriage, may be higher than what is said to be typical for Italians. For the purpose of family history, your individual ancestor should be compared to others in his or her own village, rather than stats derived from other villages that were used to make broad generalizations, perhaps primarily intended to support a writer’s theory for an academic research paper.
Demographic perspectives on ancestral villages for genealogists can provide insight into customs and traditions at a more personal level, with actual names attached to the data, (your ancestor’s real neighbors) that can be tallied to reveal change over time, and also visually represented with graphs and charts or woven into the text of a book on the history of your family. Check libraries and historical societies for existing published sources relating to your ancestral village and then do your own study.
Debora L. Hill owns and manages the Pallante Center for Italian Research (PCIR). It is a network of native Italian researchers based in various locations throughout Italy and Sicily and also includes a network of microfilm and onsite researchers in the USA.
© April 15, 1999 Debora L. Hill All rights reserved
(Reprinted from Comunes of Italy Magazine Vol. 3 Issue 12 Jan.-Feb. 2000 pp 10-12)