52 Ancestors, Week 1: Arnaldo Morianti

Arnaldo was born December 3rd, 1882 in the comune of Castelfranco Veneto, Treviso, Italy, not far from Venice. He had at least one brother, who was named Vittorio “Vito”. Arnaldo and Vittorio are said to have been foundling orphans. This means basically their parents abandoned them – likely either their economic situation was poor and did not allow the parents to care for them properly or they were illegitimate. This was definitely not uncommon in Italy at the time, and usually churches would govern over the care of these children, in orphanages. If the children arrived anonymously at the orphanage, occasionally the orphanage authorities would give them names – “Esposito” is a common one for example, it means “exposed”. I have an inkling that “Morianti” is also a made-up surname, as the only holders of this surname I have found so far either descend from Arnaldo or Vittorio. In any case, Arnaldo grew up and worked as a laborer in Castelfranco Veneto and at age 28 he married Maddalena DeGrandis on February 7th, 1911 in Castelfranco Veneto. Their first son, named Augusto Luigi was born almost exactly 9 months later on October 4, 1911. A strong custom in Italy is to name your first born son after the paternal grandfather. This could hint at Arnaldo’s parentage, if he had known of his parents at all. Unfortunately, I will probably never know if this is the case for sure, given Arnaldo’s foundling history.

On February 25, 1912 Arnaldo set off from the port of Genoa on the SS Ancona, a steamer operated by the Society di Navigazione a Vaporetti Italia, bound for the port of New York. He was leaving his wife and new baby son behind in Italy, as many other young Italian men did at this time in history. The Veneto region of Italy was extremely poor, and many of them were lured to Canada by higher paying jobs working on the railroad, in the mining and forestry industry, or in some of the new factories sprouting up after the industrial era. They would work hard for a few years and then return home, bringing the money home to their families. The ship passed through the port of New York, USA and he signed his name at Ellis Island on March 13th, 1912.

He didn’t stay in Canada long, and returned to Italy in 1914. This is the year World War One broke out, and trans-Atlantic immigration screeched to a halt. Italy joined the side of the United Kingdom and France, effectively ending it’s former alliances with the German and Austrian-Hungarian Empires. Interestingly, the SS Ancona was torpedoed and sunk in 1915 by an Austrian u-boat, causing the loss of 200 lives. Veneto, being in the northern part of Italy, close to the Austrian border was a major battlefront for the duration of the war, and Venetians would have felt the effects of the war quite deeply. Arnaldo and Maddalena had 2 more sons in Castelfranco Veneto at this time, one in 1916 and one in 1919.

At the end of the great war, Maddalena was pregnant with their fourth and final son and Arnaldo left for Canada again, this time aboard the SS Grampian. He landed in Quebec, Canada on November 2nd, 1920 and like his last voyage to Canada, was bound to meet his brother Vittorio in Montreal. Shortly after his arrival, he moved to Windsor, Ontario to work at Chrysler’s assembly plant. Vittorio is said to have gone to Argentina. On June 3rd, 1923 Maddalena and his four sons boarded the SS Conte Rosso and joined him in Canada with the intent to stay. The family became naturalized Canadian citizens exactly 90 years ago today on July 22, 1924. Arnaldo worked as a laborer in Windsor for the remainder of his life, and passed away on his 71st birthday – December 3, 1953. He rests in St. Alphonsus Cemetery in Windsor, Ontario. His headstone can be seen HERE.

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