Category: <span>Genealogy</span>

More Letters from Italy

While on a recent trip home to celebrate the holidays (a belated celebration since my husband wasn’t home on December 25th), my mom found another stack of letters written in Italian to Nellie Gasparri, my first cousin, once removed. The way mom explained it, when Nellie died in 2007, the folks cleaning out her house found these letters, didn’t know what to do with them, and handed them off to my mom for safekeeping.  This is just one of the letters that I managed to translate.  My knowledge of Italian (where I was fluent about 10 years ago) has degenerated to about the level of a 5 year old, but I can manage a decent translation with the help of Google Translate and a dictionary.  The hardest part is reading the handwriting, misspellings and all, and working through the local phrases, grammar, etc that can vary WIDELY from town to town.  Fortunately, this is pretty close to the area where I studied abroad, so that makes it easier.

I added punctuation and paragraph spacing to make the letter easier to read in the translated version.  Interesting to note, Silvio Gasparri, the man to whom the letter is written, died 18 July 1944, two years before the letter was written.  Nellie, his daughter, had corresponded with one of Silvio’s sisters in Italy a number of times, but the earliest letter we have in that set is from 16 February 1947.  I suppose it’s possible that two years went by without any notification to family in Italy about Silvio’s death.  The overall tone of the letter is pretty sad – a mother wishing for news from her son, hoping that everything is okay, but wondering if something bad happened.

Click any image to open up a larger version.

Montebuono, November 3, 1946.

Dearest son,

It’s been a long time, even years, that I waited for news, but I always waited in vain.  I thought something has happened to you.  Until now I thought that maybe one day I would have had your news as we rejoin hands.  There is always news from other Italians in America, but I have always waited in vain.  Think, my son, on the great pain I suffer.  Think of my age that I’m 81 years old and have no hope of seeing you again before I die.  It could be a consolation to have news from you, comforting for me and for all.

I have written you twice after the end of the great holocaust of the war but I have had no response.  I am forced to make a search for you through the American President.

The situation in Italy is bad.  Life is very expensive such that if you don’t live anymore, you pay a lot.  Expensive and you don’t earn anything.  You believe that you need to go almost nude and drained, but who cares.  I would be happy only to hear from you.

Please write soon, my son, that you would lift a great sadness from my heart.  I hope that this letter reaches you and finds you and your family in good health.  I won’t even say that I’m well because age prevents it but it will make do.  Pietro and your family are well. I won’t say anything more for the moment.  I will write you more at length another time.  I give you a hug and a kiss.  You and my grandchildren should be great.

Now I sign, your affectionate mother,

Rosa Lombardi.



A House in Plympton


A house in Plympton was all I knew about the photo above before I started doing some digging.  The photo had fortunately been labelled with an address, so it at least gave me something to go on.  First, I went to Google maps to see if I could look up the address and see if it’s still there on street view.  9 Moorland View, Plympton, UK, resolved to 9 Moorland Ave and the houses on the street all looked about the same, and beyond that it looks like the street had been reunumbered at one point.  GREAT.  One of the houses had a little plaque with “1899” above the door which helped me a little more.  If the homes were built in 1899, it’s likely that the 1901 or 1911 England censuses would be able to tell me who those two children are on the front steps.

The 1901 census pretty much told me the address didn’t exist then.  Okay, fine, on to 1911, which found the 9 Moorland Ave address via the address search on the census page.  I went to to check out the census images and sure enough, 9 Moorland View, Plympton, UK was the home to Bessie (Battin) Shugg and her sons Maurice and Gordon Shugg in 1911.  Bessie was the sister of my great-great grandmother, Jessie (Battin) Powis.  This was likely taken around 1911, before they left for the USA.  Bessie’s husband, Arnold Shugg, left for the USA in 1906, so he doesn’t show up on the 1911 census.

I’m counting this find as a small victory because I had a pretty large piece of information to go on – the address.  Still, it’s neat to be able to link the photo to a house that still exists, and the people who lived there.

Blain City Band

We had a trip out to western Pennsylvania to visit my grandma this past weekend and I got a chance to scan in some more of the old photos from that trunk.  Grandma graciously offered the trunk to take with me since it’s my (and my father’s) family history in there (she’s technically a step-grandmother via dad’s father, but I’ve known her my whole life as grandma), and so it came home.  Since there’s been some blog silence, I figured I should get something posted in here and thought this would be a fun photo to add.  We know, from the obituary, that Alfred Herbert Powis played in this band, and if the photo was taken around 1917 as is indicated by the writing on the back added probably in the 1970s by Olga (Powis) Kitko, he would be the trumpet player in the front, with the bearded full-face mask.  I don’t know who the rest of the people in the photo are, but they’re residents in or around Blain City, Pennsylvania.

The front and the back of the photo are below – click to enlarge and open in flickr.


Harry Battin

Going back to the Red Velvet Victorian Photo Album that I posted a while back, I think I finally made a wee little bit of headway on the identity of two of the photos.  I decided to see if there were any military enthusiasts out on the web that dealt with the British army around about 1890.  I was running under the assumption that the album was put together between about 1885 and 1900, based on some of the other photos that I can identify.  Wouldn’t you know it, there’s a niche for everyone on the internet, and I ended up finding a site on Victorian Wars.  My original posting and the replies are here  in case you wanted to see.  I was able to locate the service record for Harry Battin and it matched up perfectly with two of my photos which appear to be the same man!  The folks in the forum and their knowledge is invaluable – they’ve helped me figure out these two and another photo and provided SO much information about the Army during that time.  They’re really something special!

Harry Battin enlisted with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry on 1 October 1892.  Harry is Jessie Battin’s brother, Jessie being my 2nd Great Grandmother.  He lists his next of kin as his oldes brother, Alfred Battin.  He was born in Lawhitton, Cornwall on 10 Oct 1871.  On his record, it lists that he served in two campaigns, the North West Frontier of India 1897-98 and Tirah 1897-98.  He was transferred to the reserve on 10 July 1903, and discharged on 30 September 1904.  In 1905, he married Sarah Ann Maunder and had three children as of the 1911 census – Ivy, William Henry, and Alfred John.  In the 1911 England Census, he lists his occupation as, “Horse man on Farm,” and is living back in Lawhitton.  He died in 1951, but I don’t have much information on his death.  The last name is spelled either Battin or Batten.  On his service record, it’s Battin and on the 1911 census, it’s Batten.

This one was probably taken between 1892 and 1894.  His service record lists him as home (meaning anywhere in the UK) during 1 Oct 1892 through 31 Jan 1894.  I haven’t been able to find much on the photographer stamped on the back of the photo, but it’s on my to-do list.

This photo was probably taken later, as the folks on the forum suggested.  He’s posing with his foreign service white helmet which would mean that the photo was probably taken in India.  Taking that to his service record, he was in India from 1 Feb 1894 to 21 December 1900.  It’s a broader time span, but he had enough time to get his Good Conduct Badge (the stripe on his left sleeve, near the cuff).  There are no good identifying marks on the back to help me figure out who took the photo and when – the numbers are likely identifiers by the photographer to figure out who the photo belonged to (index numbers of some sort?).

Anyway, that’s my latest big discovery on the album identification process.  Again, I wanted to express my thanks to the forum members for being SO helpful!