had a big question: Why did so many Italians leave Italy to come to Bristol?
After 10 years of research, a visit to Italy and tracing his
own family genealogy, Vattimo
came up with the answer.
Italians moved to Bristol for jobs.
Italians worked at the Grundy Mills
and helped build local railroads and boats, he
said."I've researched a lineage of a town," said Vattimo, 65.
retired from his
regular job a year ago, he
works at least an hour every day on his
research into Italian immigration to Bristol from 1890 to 1920.He said he learned research skills while serving in the Army as an electronics instructor.
wasn't involved in data gathering for the military, he
learned by observing others.He's
obtained most of his
data from local obituaries, the Social Security death index, Bristol cemetery lists, WWI draft registration cards and manifests of ships that landed at Ellis Island.He
also navigates ellisislandrecords.org and ancestry.com, web sites widely used to research family lineage.
The search hasn't been all smooth sailing, though.
"Many Italians that came through Ellis Island changed their last names to be more American," he
said."Ellis Island didn't change their last names like many believe." He
explained that married women were required to use their maiden name when landing at Ellis Island.So records would show their maiden names instead of their married names.
"I don't know why that was," he
said."The Americans were picky about the last names, maybe because they were concerned with espionage."
Before 1917, records were handwritten, and sometimes the manifests were hard to decipher, he
"The cursive lettering used today is not what it was 100 years ago," Vattimo
research started with his
grandfather, Guiseppe Vattimo, arrived in the United States in the early 1900s from Spezzano Albanese, an Italian-Albanian town in Calabria, Southern Italy.
said many southern Italians were illiterate farmers without modern industrial skills.
"But they were hardworking," he
Many southern Italians left their home country in the 1890s, after Italy united, because they felt they weren't wanted in their country.
"It was a combination of Italy wanting to decrease its population and the United States wanting cheap labor," Vattimo
said."During that period, the U.S. was booming.
...The couple eventually settled in Bristol, where Vattimo was born and raised.He graduated from Bristol High School and attended Penn State University, where he studied engineering for a couple of years.He didn't finish college because he joined the Army.After his three-year service in the military, he worked as a technician for different medical and space electronic companies.He
moved from Bristol in 1960 to the Falls section of Levittown.