The Sicilian Side

My Grandmother's Deportation from Ellis Island

Here is a transcription of the hearing/inquiry that took place on September 7, 1921 on Ellis Island when my grandmother, Antonina Piccione, arrived to the United States.  There are many more documents that accompanied this transcription which I received from the National Archives and Records Administration. I will transcribe them one by one as time permits.

Each document in the package I received reveals that my Grandma's future in the United States was uncertain for some time due to the fact that she was illiterate.  As I transcribe the documents and publish them here at La Mia Famiglia, you will have a chance to see up close what entry into this country could be like for a single illiterate woman in the early 1920s. 

NY Form 192
U.S. Department of Labor
Immigration Service
Names of Aliens:
Piccione, Antonia, 27, female
Rizzo, Caterina, 11, female
Gaetano, 9, male
Italian – South

S.I. 54
Before a Board of Special Inquiry held at Ellis Island, New York Harbor, N.Y.
September 7, 1921 – Board # 5
Present: Coyne (Chairman) Herring and O’Connor, Inspectors.  Interpreter – Casarico

10:35 AM
New case
Ex SS Giuseppe Verdi Ship (Arrived, 9/4/1921)
Fm T/D 9/6/21 – 1:35 PM

Elder alien, being duly sworn by the interpreter, says, in Italian, questioned by interpreter for preliminaries: (Names and ages of aliens as given). Traveling with my intended husband’s children – no one else traveling with us.  Natives of Santo Stefano, province of Messina, Italy, where I have my mother, Ninfa Mollica, in good health; my father, Santo, is dead.  I am single.  I cannot read. (class 4-4607) Italian – unable to read. Arrived on the SS Guiseppe Verdi from Naples.  My mother paid my passage; the father of my wards-Girolamo Rizzo-paid their passage.  Domestic school children. Never in the United States before. Now going to brother, Guiseppe Piccione, C/O Italian Bank, 14 E Northampton Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Have check for $10 – no tickets. Passports (2) for all properly vised.  Separate passport for children.

By chairman – through interpreter:
Q: Why are you coming here at this time? A: In order to get married to the father of my wards.
Q: Where is their mother? A: Dead. About 3 years.
Q: With whom have the children been living since the death of their mother? A: With an aunt Annunziata Ela.
Q: Have they ever been inmates of a charitable institution? A: No.
Q: How long has their father been in the United States? A: Between 8-9 years.
Q: How long has your brother been in the United States? A: About 1 year.
Q: Is your brother married? A: No, he is single.
Q: How long have you been engaged to the father of these children? A: 2 years.
Q: Do you know him personally? A: I only met him once on the ship.  I met him on arrival of the ship.
Q: How was the engagement arranged? A: Through correspondence and exchange of photographs and through friends of mine.
Q: Were you ever married before? A: No.
Q: Is there any legal reason why you should not be allowed to marry?  A: No.
Q: Are you related to him in any way? A: No.
Q: How soon do you expect to be married? A: I would like to get married on arrival at my brother’s house in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Q: Did your intended husband serve in the American Army during World War I? A: No.
Q: Were your parents ever here? A: My father was here about 6 years and left 7 years ago.
Q: Was he a citizen of the United States? A: I don’t know.
Q: What other brothers or sisters have you here? A: Only my brother Giuseppe – I have an uncle and an aunt too.  Guiseppe lives with them.
Q: Did you ever attend school? A: No.

Girolamo Rizzo, being duly sworn by the interpreter, says in Italian, questioned by Inspector O’Connor – through interpreter:

Q: What is your name and where do you live?
A: Girolamo Rizzo.  I live at 55 Pool Avenue , Trenton, NJ.
Q: Who do you call here for? A: My intended wife, Antonia Piccione and my two children.
Q: How long have you been in the United States? A: Between 8-9 years?
Q: Are you a citizen? A: No, I have first papers ready for application for naturalization.
Q: What wages do you receive weekly? A: $30-$35 a week.
Q: Have you any money in the bank elsewhere, if so, how much and where is it? A: For the last 3 months I have not been working.
Q:Are you still out of work? A: No, I am working now for Milton, Simpson Company, Trenton, NJ. I earn $30-$35 a week.
Q: How long have you been employed by them? A: Two months.
Q: Have you any money at all? A: Yes, $50 in cash.
Q: Who are you living with now? A: I am boarding with Salvatore Finicula.
Q: With whom are your children living if admitted? A: I expect them to board at the same boarding house.
Q: Who will care for them while you are working? A: The boarding housekeeper’s wife.
Q: Have you any brothers or sisters?  A: No, I am the only son.
Q: Are you a citizen of the United States? A: I have first papers-shows declaration 8998 in name of witness dated April 22, 1920, issued in Essex County Court, NJ.
Q: Did you pay the passage for your intended wife and your children? Yes, I paid for them?
Q: Did you send a ticket or the money? A: I sent the money.
Q: How soon do you expect to be married to your intended wife? A: Whenever you wish.
Q: Did you serve in the American Army during WW I? A: No.
Q: Did you register under the draft act? A: Yes, 4 times. But I was the only son and I had to support my father and mother.  They would not take me.
Q: Are your father and mother living in this country? No. They are dead. In Italy.
Q: How long have they been dead? A: 13-14 years.

By Inspectress Herring through interpreter:

Q: Were you supporting your children? A: Yes.
By Chairman – through interpreter:
Q: Where is the mother of these children? A: Dead – 2 years.
Q: What can and will you do for these aliens if they are admitted? A: I will support them.
Q: Have you any relatives in the United States? A: A cousin – Giuseppe Pitzzola, Philadelphia, don’t know the address.
Q: Has your intended wife any brother or sister here in the United States? A: No. I have an aunt in Easton , PA.  Maria Torchivia, 38 Fox Street. Phillipsburg, PA.
Q: If a bond were required for the admission of these aliens do you believe you would be in a position to furnish one? A: Yes, I would have to ask my uncle and my aunt and my cousin.
Q: Are they in comfortable circumstances? A: No, they are not very well to do.
Q: Have you returned to Italy since you first came here? A: No.

By Inspectress Herring – through interpreter:

Q: Is the job you now have a steady one? A: Yes.

By Inspector O’Connor – through interpreter:

Q: Have you been sending money to Italy for the support of your children? A: Yes, about 100 lire a month.
Q: How long have you been sending them money? A: 2 years.
Q: Why didn’t you bring your children here when their mother died? A: I tried to get them, but I couldn’t get anyone to bring them here.

By Inspectress Herring through interpreter:
Q: If they should return to Italy could they return to the people they lived with before? A: Yes.

By Chairman through interpreter:

Q: This Board is about to deny admission to your intended wife and your two children. What further have you to say in support of their entry? A: I wish to say that I am able to take care of them and provide for them. I have a steady job.

Q: You have the right of appeal in their behalf to the Secretary of Labor, Washington, D.C. for a review of this decision, through the Commissioner at Ellis Island. A: I will appeal.
Q: Your intended wife states that her mother paid her passage to this country, you state you paid it, how do you reconcile those statements? A: I sent $400 to pay their passage.
Q: To whom did you send the money? A: To a man, Marinaro Coco, St. Stefano Camashi, province Messina.

Elder alien (Antonia Piccione) recalled – by Chairman – through interpreter:
Q: Your intended husband state he sent money for your passage to Italy – is that true, or did your mother pay for your passage? A: My mother paid my passage – he sent money to Don Coco and I believe Don Coco kept some of that money for himself.
Q: What did you pay for your passage? A: About $80 plus $8.
Q: Were you subject to any religious persecution in the province from whence you came? A: No.
Q: Did anyone connected with the steamship company ask whether you could read, prior to embarkation? A: No.
Q: In the event of your deportation – you being unable to read – you will be entitled to a refund of the money paid for your passage from port of embarkation to port of arrival – to whome do you wish such refund sent? A: To me, Antonia Piccione – C/o my mother Ninfa Mollica, Santo Stefano di Camastra, Carreto Cannito, province Messina, Italy.

By Chairman, other members concurring- it is the unanimous opinion of the Board that these two children be excluded as persons likely to become a public charge, for the following among other reasons; they are of tender years, and the father who appears in their behalf does not satisfy the Board that he is in a position to care and provide for them in the United States under proper conditions, and if they are allowed to land under circumstances they are likely to fall into want and distress.

Certficate – section 18) Caterina Rizzo, age 11, and Gaetano Rizzo, age 9 years, natives of Italy, arrived September 4th , 1921 on the SS Giuseppe Verdi – Infancy- the aboved named aliens, rejected by the Board of Special Inquiry, are in my opinion, helpless from infancy for the purposes contemplated by Section 18.

Carl Ramus, Surgeon P.H. Service.
The Medical Division having certified that the above named aliens are helpless from infancy, the alien, Antonia Piccione, is excluded under provisions of Section 18 of the Immigration Act; and she being unable to read is also excluded for that reason.  They are all excluded and ordered deported at the expense of the steamship company which brought them here, in the same class in which they arrived, with right of appeal.
You are entitled under the law to an appeal from the decision of this Board denying you the right to land in this country, to the secretary of Labor, Washington, D.C. for a review by him of this decision. You will be returned at the expense of the steamship company.
To alien Antonia Piccione, you will be further entitled to a refund of the money paid for your passage from port of embarkation to port of arrival, about $80 plus $8.

Aliens WERE informed of the foregoing by the interpreter.
Do you understand your rights? A: Yes.

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