As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
On ship manifests from the late 19th century, Italian women almost always used their maiden names. But what does it mean when they didn't?
Here is the situation:
On one ship manifest, I found my ancestor Francesco Mercurio and his wife Paola Bova, she using her maiden name. Both of his sister-in-laws and their children are on the same manifest (his brothers, their husbands, were already in America). The eldest sister-in-law, Caterina Culotta, also used her maiden name, with the children being listed under her maiden name too, though she was married to Giambattista Mercurio and so their names would legitimately be Mercurio--but I gather the person writing the manifest noted that they were her children, by using the " symbol for "same name." This part doesn't trouble me.
The younger sister-in-law, though, is listed as Giuseppa Mercurio, though her maiden name was Pardo. I know this is the right woman, not only from her age, but also from the correct list of her five sons, all of the right names and ages. Her appearing on the mainfest with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law are also strong evidence. Again, the children's last names are indicated by a " sign, indicating that their last name was also Mercurio.
My question is--Why did she use her married name, not her maiden name, when her sisters-in-law used their maiden names? Could this be the person writing the manifest mistaking her children's name for hers, since she was travelling without her husband? Or could it mean something else?
I don't know what it means--however, my own GM (married, with her son, but not with my GF, who was already in the US) traveled to the US in 1915 with her 6 year old son. Her son's name was (correctly) listed as my GF's and her name was listed as her maiden name.
They came through Ellis Island. My guess is that the people who wrote out the manifests used the immigrant's travel documents, passport, etc. Of course, that idea only pushes the question back a notch.
Italian women still retain their birth surname. Traditionally, to identify her spouse the tag 'in (husband's surname)' Therefore Giuseppa Pardo in Mercurio.
I am not sure if children needed full documents, so to find them with a 'ditto' when travelling with their mother and her surname would not be unusual. It's possible that the younger sister-in-law was apprised of the American tradition of using the husband's surname and had the 'in Mercurio' added to her documents. Officials, then noting the childrens' surname, and seeing hers with the 'tag' could have registered her that way to keep everything tidy.
I don't think it meant anything other than her desire to become an American.
nlynncar9 wrote:she was travelling without her husband
Women traveling without men were sometimes detained until they could be picked up by a male relative. I can point you to an example of this in the Ellis Island manifests, if you're interested. All the best, Peg