She was born Adele Parrazzini in 1895 in the northern Italian city of Milan. We don't know much about her childhood or upbringing. My uncle has told me that she met my great-grandfather, Luigi Licciardi, when he was on business in Milan; he was originially from Palermo, Sicily, and back then there was not a whole lot of intermingling between the north and the south. They were married in 1913 and my grandmother, Dina, and her sister, Yola, were born in 1914 and 1915, respectively. Luigi (Louis) became a captain in the Italian army during WWI.
I don't think anyone in the family knows why they decided to immigrate to the United States. Like many other European nations, there was a post-war recession and civil unrest in Italy, so perhaps they had good reason to leave. Or perhaps they had heard about what America had to offer from friends and their adventurous spirit won out. Louis arrived at Ellis Island in October 1920. As was the common practice among immigrants at the time, he made the journey ahead of the rest of the family in order to secure a job, make connections, and find a place in which to live. Well, apparently Adele got tired of waiting for her husband to send word to come over, because she sold some of her jewelry and bought passage tickets for her and her two young daughters. Below is her ship manifest. The fact that she declared her MAIDEN name may have had something to do with the fact that she wasn't too happy with her husband at the time. My uncle told me that the first thing Louis said to her when he met them in NYC was, "Where's your hat?" Ah, the romance :) They arrived in New York City on May 12, 1921.
"An alien who is a native, citizen, subject, or denizen of any country, state, or sovereignty with
which the United States is at war MAY be naturalized as a citizen of the United States IF such alien's declaration of intention was made not less than two years prior to the beginning of the state of war..."
Adele did NOT make her declaration of intention two years before the U.S. went to war with Italy, so that explains this letter. Of course, her classification did not last forever, and she became a full cititzen of the U.S. on June 15, 1945.
What do I remember about my great-grandmother? She had an apartment in the only high-rise apartment building in our suburb. She had lived there by herself since great-grandpa died in 1974. My mom and grandma would sometimes take me and my brother to visit her on Sundays after morning mass. We loved going out onto her balcony and looking down at the street. She always had a tin of these butter cookies for us to eat. We always thought they were so fancy!
Adele lived until 1990, when she was 95 years old, and she lived by herself that whole time. She liked being independant; even during her last days, she didn't want to be in the hospital. She just talked about going back to her apartment. I feel like I was fortunate to be able to get to know her a little. I look at this photo of myself and am amazed to think "This is ME, with someone who was born in the 19th century!" Maybe this is one of the reasons I am so fascinated by learning my family's history; I have real memories of a person in our family who made the decision to start a life in America, and who is, subsequently, one of the people with whom I can credit for making ME an American.