view of Salandra, Matera, Basilicata, Italy by Antonio DiPersia

Monday, May 13, 2013


Francesco Domenico Ambruso was the oldest son of Michelarcangelo and Maria.  He was the first Salandra Ambruso to leave his roots and venture into the new experience of America.  The date and details of his arrival are not exactly clear.  In both the 1900 and 1910 Federal Censuses he says he came in 1881.  The New York Passenger Lists have a Fsc Ambruso, born in 1846, arriving in 1882; and a Fsco Ambruso, born in 1849, arriving in 1883. Either one of these could be Francesco Domenico. 
He came by ship to New York, and was processed through the Castle Garden immigration facility at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.  Castle Garden was the precursor to Ellis Island which started operation in 1892.  For some reason, Francesco settled in Philadelphia.  It was not because of any abundance of jobs in Philadelphia since his occupation as listed in the 1907 and 1908 Philadelphia City Directory was “rags”.  He probably settled in Philadelphia because there were other Italian immigrants, friends and relatives from Salandra that he knew by name, who were already there.
Francesco’s grown children Michele, Leonardo and Felicia followed him to Philadelphia in about 1885.  Then Francesco’s brother Giuseppe came in 1900, with his two sons, Michele and Eugenio.  They also went to Philadelphia. 
All the other Ambruso’s from Salandra came through Ellis Island between 1909 and 1923.  My own grandfather Michael Anthony Ambruso came with his two sisters, Felicia and Silvia in 1913.  Their voyage took 13 days.  They came on the S.S. Cleveland, a large steam ship built in 1909 specifically for immigration.  (See a photo of the ship below.)  The Cleveland held 2,841 passengers, 2,378 of which were steerage or third class.   When they got to New York, the Statue of Liberty on the right hand side of the ship must have been a wonderful sight.   But what really must have overwhelmed them was the sight on the left hand side of the ship: a city of giant buildings, some over 30 stories high.  Keep in mind that they all came from a small village.  Before this point in their lives, the tallest building they ever saw was probably less than 5 stories high in Naples, from where they departed just two weeks before.

S.S. Cleveland brought Michael, Felicia and Silvia to America in 1913

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