A DOOR TO THEIR HEARTS A Ferro Family Memoir by Jeannine Miceli MartinA Door To Their Hearts

Growing up in a Sicilian family with most of its members born and raised in America, I was eager to grasp a deeper understanding of my real heritage, not the one-dimensional Americanized version. Italy is separated by provinces, each with their customs, food, dialects, celebrations, etc., yet Italians in America fit into one social stereotype that defines us all with no distinctions between those from one province and those from another. Therefore the traits of my ancestors and their rituals were lost over time, and the place from which my heritage derived had been forgotten.

I knew that my maternal grandparents, Giuseppe Ferro and Angela Luca, immigrated to the United States to Waltham, Massachusetts, where my mother was born and raised, but I had no idea from where, why, or when they’d arrived. I began my quest for answers on a tour of  Ellis Island’s National Museum of Immigration, the actual processing station for incoming immigrants during the time my grandparents left Sicily for America. From there my grandparents’ journey became a journey of my own as I traced their paths by going to Sicily myself. To my surprise and the surprise of my cousins, I found more than the childhood villages of my grandparents in Ucria and Bronte. I discovered that we had more Ferro cousins residing in Ucria.

More intrigued by my discovery of family, I enlisted the help of the New England Historic Genealogical Society for a lesson in researching my ancestry. My journey through Sicily’s databases of vital records dating back to the 1800s, led me to several Ferro ancestors, as far back as my three-times-great-grandparents. From that point, I chronicled my discoveries and built my family tree, branch by branch. From the research and return trips to Ucria to bond with my newfound cousins and experience the island culture, I tell the complete stories of my grandparents and ancestors, and the revelations about the authentic traits that make me Sicilian.

I discovered also that there were other Ferro who emigrated to Waltham with my grandparents. So I continued to follow all of them there and learned about the sacrifices and the family struggles they’d endured that forever changed their lives, not necessarily all for the betterment. I learned about the dramatic turn of events in my grandfather Giuseppe’s life when I read the transcripts from the years he spent as a patient in an insane asylum.

While I opened the door to my ancestry, I bridged a gap between the Ferro family of the past and present and the miles between Ucria and Waltham, Massachusetts. My relationship with my cousins in Ucria and my understanding of the Sicilian culture grows with every new visit. And I hope to find more descendants of the other Ferro ancestors.

If you’re a descendant of the Ferro family,  an enthusiast of the study of genealogy, or like to read generational stories about people of the past, you’ll enjoy this book that goes back to the early 1800s in Sicily and then,  from 1900 forward, across the ocean to the United States  into Waltham, a city that made a large contribution to  America’s Industrial Revolution, which lured the Ferro men and women.

The book cover, created by my son Jordan Martin, was designed from two photographs; one of my great-grandparents, and the other of the actual door that led me to the heart of mia famiglia. Enjoy!


The Ferro Family of Giuseppe & Angelina

Back row left to right: Johnny, Lena, Charley, Vita, Nancy, Sal, Rose Lower row: Grace, Angelina, Adie,... and to the far left: Me

With an opportunity to follow the childhoods of my mother and her eight siblings from records and family lore shared by my older cousins, I, the youngest of my generation, learned about the marriage of my parents and the lives of my aunts, uncles, and their spouses, whose memories will remain in my heart forever. I miss them and the family memories we made together. Every family is unique, and mine is no exception. But a typical Ferro family gathering was a feast of the finest family recipes, and when the stars came out so had ours. Our featured headliners performed their signature musical acts, and we all sang and danced the night away while Uncle Sal played the accordion.

My mother, Adeline, is the one pictured to the lower right next to her mother. She was the youngest. And that’s me to the far left, the baby’s baby. Who knew then that I’d grow up to write a book about them?!

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