Much of what we know about the early life of Michele (Michael) Ambruso (b. 1890) comes from ship’s manifests. As a young man he traveled back and forth across the Atlantic several times. On at least three occasions, he left his wife Angela pregnant in Salandra and took off to the USA, presumably to find a job and a better life for his family. Here is a chronology of facts that were available from public records:
12 Sept 1913 – Michele arrives at Ellis Island. He states on the ship’s manifest that he is heading to his uncle Francesco in Philadelphia. It also says that he left his wife in Salandra. What it doesn’t say is that she is about three months pregnant with his first son, Antonio.
6 Mar 1914 – Michele’s first son Antonio is born in Salandra. Michele is in the USA.
1915 – Michele returns to Italy to enlist in the Italian Army to fight in World War 1. He was a prisoner of war for eight months. After the war, he stayed in Salandra for a few years.
28 Nov 1920 – Michele’s second son Giuseppe is born in Salandra.
2 Mar 1923 – Michele returns to the USA. This time he states that he is going to his other uncle, Giuseppe, in Philadelphia.
21 Aug 1923 – Angela gives birth to a daughter, Assunta, in Salandra. The birth record says that Michele, the father, is in America. This means that Michele left for America when Angela was just a few months pregnant.
14 Sept 1925 – Angela gives birth to another daughter, Michelina, in Salandra. As with Assunta, this birth record also says that Michele is in America. This means that sometime in late 1924, Michele must have returned to Salandra to conceive Michelina, and then hopped back across the Atlantic (although we cannot find the ship’s manifest for this crossing). Sadly, both Assunta and Michelina died as young children.
1929 – Michele is living in Hartford and has a steady job.
13 May 1930 – Angela and her two sons sail to America to join Michele in Hartford.
In all, that makes five trips across the Atlantic over a period of twelve years. And you think you have a long commute to work.
Research indicates that in the early 1900’s there were many Italian immigrants who came to America to find work and earn some money with every intention of returning back to their home town in Italy. We call these people “birds of passage”, going back and forth like a migrating bird. The fact that Michele went back to serve in the Italian Army during World War 1 is an good indication that in 1915 he still considered himself an Italian, who made a trip to America. The fact that he became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in 1929 shows that he eventually became permanent part of a new country where he decided to raise his family.