Both of my grandparents immigrated from Gaeta (Elena at the time). My grandfather set sail in 1897 at the age of 8 with his mother (his father had already immigrated in 1892). My grandmother set sail in 1910 with no other relatives (none that I could find on her passenger manifest) at the age of 16.
I have found quite a bit of information about what it was like traveling in steerage to Ellis Island, and then what they went through upon their arrival. However, I would like to learn more about their experiences before setting sail from Naples. How they may have travelled from Gaeta to Naples? What they had to do when they got to Naples? Did immigrants stay over night in Naples before boarding? Was all of the information on the manifest collected just as they arrived in Naples or did they have to have papers filled out before they arrived? Things like that.
Does anyone know of any publications that talk about the immigrants experience once they made up their minds to take such an unknown journey?
There's a novel called Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano which I believe has a bit of this in it. It's very well researched and really brings their experiences to life, especially in Little Italy in NYC at the turn of the century.
I would also like to recommend a movie called Nuovomondo (Golden Door). It's all about a Sicilian immigrant and his family's experience in coming to America. It paints a great picture of what it would be like prior to and during the voyage, and also what experiences are ancestors would have had at EllisIsland.
It's not perfect, though - for instance, I *personally* felt it could have left out the dream sequences, but I guess they were trying to show us what Italians thought America would be like (they definitely idealized it).
I believe it's on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" but it may be dubbed, online - if so, you'd do much better to find a copy of the DVD, since hearing the Sicilian dialect is a large part of the movie.
I posted a response to your inquiry, but it doesn't seem to be here... so I copied it again. Hope it helps.
Tessa78 wrote:I found the following book to be very comprehensive regarding the immigrant experience. It was written by an American, who with the help of Italians, traveled to Italy (Sicily) to actually experience what it was like as an Italian immigrant. This took place around 1904. He goes into much detail about leaving the village, traveling by boat from Palermo to Naples, and then the experiences in Naples. Quite an eye-opener. He then covers the voyage to New York.
The movie Nuovomondo is being broadcasted on TV at the end of the month...how lucky for me. I have set my recorder and am anxious to watch it. I have also found the book Imported Americans and ordered it. Thank you to all who responded.
nancy711 wrote:The movie Nuovomondo is being broadcasted on TV at the end of the month...how lucky for me. I have set my recorder and am anxious to watch it. I have also found the book Imported Americans and ordered it. Thank you to all who responded.
Is it? What channel? I might tell my relatives about it, so they can watch it...
My questions have been the same as yours, and I'd like to add to this thread what I've learned . If anyone reading can correct or add to this, I'd welcome either.
My reading tells me that the immigrant had 30 days before the ship was to sail in which to purchase tickets for passage. When buying his ticket, he/she had to provide the information to the shipping company that we see on the manifests (more complete manifests after a certain date), had to provide supporting documentation and the shipping clerk at the point of purchase recorded the information.
That information, in turn, was provided the purser on board the ship who 'checked' in the passengers, and then, during the passage, the purser compiled the manifests from the paperwork that had been filled out when the ticket was bought. Additionally, extra passengers (last minute) were added to the manifests.
This reading tells me that in most cases, what we find on the manifests is fairly accurate information (unless of course the fabrications were made at the point of purchase). It also explains why information isn't always accurate because, just in the explanation I've given, the same data was passing through at least three people.