My grandfather Michael Anthony Ambruso passed away in October of 1976. Since I was the oldest grandchild, I helped go through his belongings and papers. I kept a few mementos like his pocket prayer book in Italian, an old riding spur, and some personal papers. Among those papers was a holy picture, a memorial card given out at a funeral. The funeral director had a South Philadelphia address, and the name and date on the card was: Leonardo Ambruso, died February 28, 1948. At the time, I had no idea who Leonardo was. I put the holy picture in a file and forgot about it. Little did I know at the time how important this little card would be in my genealogical research linking the Ambruso families.
I knew my grandfather had relatives in Philadelphia, but I didn’t know whether these were distant relations or first cousins. I also knew that he made trips there when he was younger. But I don’t remember him ever making a trip to Philadelphia in the last 20 years of his life. Yet this card in his bureau drawer must have meant that he attended the funeral in 1948, so Leonardo must have been a close relative, probably a first cousin.
Unlike the name Michael, Leonardo is not a very common Italian name. To a genealogist, the more unusual the name; the easier the search. This search proved to be easier than most. Using Ancestry.com, Family Search.org (the Church of Latter Day Saints genealogical database), and a letter to the town clerk in Salandra. I managed to connect the families. Leonardo was indeed my grandfather’s first cousin.
Without that one little holy picture, I would probably still be trying to make a connection. Funny, how important such a little thing can be.