span class=”caption”>My maternal grandmother, Rosine Mandia Lima, taken in 1919, in Toronto, Ontario.
Families, the quarterly publication of The Ontario Genealogical Society, published Marianne’s article in their August 2014 issue, Volume 54, Number 3. www.ogs.on.ca
Marianne Perry has been researching her Calabrian-Sicilian (Italian) ancestry for two decades. She traced her paternal Calabrian roots to 1807, and has written The Inheritance, a historical fiction inspired by her grandmother’s life during the early 1900s. She blogs about family, writing, and genealogy, and can be contacted at .
Keywords: Surnames: Bova, Cancilla, Lima, Lo Presti, Mandia, Mantia, Perri, Perry, Sodaro. Placenames: Bremer (Germany); Ellis Island (New York City); Ottawa; Palermo (Sicily, Italy); Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario); St. John’s (Newfoundland); Termini Imerese (Sicily, Italy); Toronto; Trabia (Sicily, Italy)
Genealogical research serves many purposes. Facts discovered and authenticated solve family mysteries,enlighten family dynamics, reconnect relatives, link generations, create legacies, explain inheritances, perpetuate traditions, provide insight into diverse cultures, different eras, and various countries, and stimulate world-wide travel. People begin genealogical research for a variety of reasons. Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, I am a second generation Canadian-Italian. Family has always been my priority, and learning about my Calabrian-Sicilian ancestry underscored my early efforts.
Since I began genealogical research in the early 1990s, I have garnered keen understanding of my paternal Calabrian heritage, but only basic knowledge about my maternal Sicilian roots. Family dynamics and changing circumstances, however, have imbued endeavours specific to my mother’s history with a unique dimension.
Like many of my counterparts, raising children has given way to caring for aging and infirm parents. In July 2006, at the age of 84, my perennially-robust father was diagnosed with cancer. My 81-year old mother has endured poor health for a long time; my father had been her primary caregiver and, for most of my adult life, I have held the secondary role. With the support of my husband, I quit my teaching job to help attend to their needs. My father passed away on 14 January 2008,(1) and my mother’s condition necessitated admission to a long-term care facility in the city. My responsibility for my mother subsequently shifted to another realm; nevertheless, my commitment to her has continued.
Over the years, I witnessed my mom’s recollection of people, places, and events fade and rob her of joyful memories. I wanted to combat this deterioration and find a way to reawaken some of those memories that had become dormant before they disappeared beyond the point of no-return. In pursuit of this goal, I turned to genealogical research as a means of obtaining information that might help me refresh, restore, and revitalize a little of what she had once known.
Genealogical research bestows many benefits. Combined with anecdotal stories, family lore, and treasured memorabilia, sharing the results of what I have learned with my mom has provided her opportunities to recall an earlier time, revisit pleasant reveries, and remember those she loved with a clearer focus.
This article highlights a sampling of the information confirmed and the sources consulted in my quest to enrich my mom’s life.
My mother, Dorothy Anne Lima Perry, was born in Toronto, Ontario on 16 February 1925.(2) Her parents, Rosine Bova Mandia and Pietro Lima, were from Sicily. Rosine immigrated with her mother to Canada. They joined her father, Antonino Mandia, and settled in Ottawa, Ontario, where she met and married Pietro, who had come to Canada on his own. Rosine and Pietro Lima moved to Toronto and established Lima’s Fruits-Groceries-Vegetables Market on Bathurst Street. They lived above the store, and raised their family. My mother was one of four children.
After the Second World War, my mother met my late father, Arnold Joseph (Perri) Perry, in Toronto. Born on 22 October 1921 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario,(3) his parents were from Calabria, a region in southern Italy. They had immigrated to Canada and settled in Sault Ste. Marie, where they had met, married, and had a family of nine children.
My father, who had served as an officer and radio artificer in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, had completed one year of post-war study at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s. He married my mother at St. Peter’s Church in Toronto on 23 July 1947(4) and worked as an electrician(5) until they relocated to Sault Ste. Marie in August 1952. There, he started his own business, and they raised me, my older brother, and a younger sister.
My maternal grandparents drove to Sault Ste. Marie to see us, and we went to Toronto, as well. After university, I attended the Faculty of Education, University of Toronto, then taught Junior High School English and drama for the East York Board of Education for two years before returning to Sault Ste. Marie. During this period, I developed close ties with my grandparents, Rosine and Pietro Lima, and the extended Mandia family.
My mom visited often; she got a thrill from staying in my St. George and Bloor Street apartment, and riding the subway to check out the school where I worked. Scouring Honest Ed’s department store for bargains, shopping for clothes in the Spadina district, exploring exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum, attending performances at the O’Keefe Centre, going to the Art Gallery of Ontario, enjoying open-air concerts at Ontario Place, and having fun at the Canadian National Exhibition were among the adventures we had.
Braiding Grandma’s Hair
After emigrating from Sicily, my mother’s maternal grandparents, Giuseppa Bova Mandia and Antonino Mandia, settled in Ottawa. They operated a fruit store, and stayed there for the duration of their lives. My grandmother, Rosine Mandia Lima, the oldest of their 14 children, remained close to them after she married my grandfather, Pietro Lima, and they moved to Toronto.
My mom went to Ottawa with her mother, and treasures this photograph of her grandmother, Giuseppa Bova Mandia, from an October 1945 visit. She penned the notes visible on the border of the picture, and placed it in an album she has kept for almost six decades. To this very day, whenever we look at it, my mom tells me how she loved braiding her grandmother’s long hair when she was a little girl.
The companion photograph of my mom is one of my favourites. She was 20 years old; the year, therefore, would have been 1945 and, as such, presents her at the time she would have visited her grandmother in the aforementioned picture. She is posing on a laundry hamper on the rooftop patio situated above a bank of garages attached to the Bathurst Street building, which housed the family home and market. I believe the picture captures mom’s youthful vivacity and welcoming smile; her dress also displays her affinity for fashion.
My mom had warm affection for her Ottawa relatives. In the past, this picture of Giuseppa Bova Mandia had also triggered proud remarks about an uncle who had served in the Air Force during the Second World War, silly quips concerning an aunt with a penchant for Laura Secord chocolates, and fun tales detailing mom prancing around in her grandmother’s fur-collared wool coat in the heat of an Ottawa summer.
Over time, my mom’s comments dwindled, and I noticed she would stare at her grandmother’s photograph in silence. I wanted to give her happy memories she could once again associate with this picture, but was perplexed as to how to proceed.
Unlike my Toronto connections, I had had no interaction with anyone in Ottawa. Anecdotal information states
my mother’s grandparents had died before I was born, and the family had dispersed over the years. Further complicating the issue, my mother had lost contact with them after she and my father moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1952.As a result, genealogical research with the objective of acquiring basic facts about my great-grandmother, Giuseppa Bova Mandia, appeared the best solution. The following summarizes key findings.
- Giuseppa Bova was born in 1878 in Termini Imerese, a small town 40 kilometres east of Palermo, Sicily. Situated on the northern coast of the island facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is located in the province of Palermo. Her mother was Giuseppina Sodaro and her father, Michele Bova. (6)
- Giuseppa Bova married Antonino Mantia on 31 January 1898 in Termini Imerese. She was 20 years of age and he was 24. (7) Antonino Mantia was born on 4 May 1873 in Termini Imerese. His mother was Rosa Lo
Presti, and his father, Cosimo Mantia.(8)
- Their first child, my mother’s mother, Rosine Mandia, was born on 14 September 1898 in Termini Imerese.(9,10) Italian tradition dictates the first female child be named after her paternal grandmother; hence, Rosine was selected in honour of Antonino Mantia’s mother, Rosa Lo Presti.(11)
- Antonino Mantia left Italy via Bremer, Germany on the Aller, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and landed at Ellis
Island, New York on 20 April 1899.(12)
- Giuseppa Bova departed a year later via Palermo, Sicily on the Archimede. She landed at Ellis Island, New York on 26 June 1900.(13) Rosine Bova had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with her mother.(14)
Reminiscing about her Ottawa family continues to give Mom pleasure, and she likes to hear me speak their names aloud. I have mentioned the above information when appropriate, usually while casually looking at the picture of her grandmother, Giuseppa Bova Mandia, one of her mother, Rosine Mandia Lima, or relevant memorabilia.
Mom has demonstrated attention to the fact her grandparents and mother sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. My father had posted several black and white photographs of the ships he had served on while enlisted in the navy during the Second World War in the office he had kept in our family home, and I have speculated her interest might be associated with a stirring recall of these pictures.
In order to stimulate conversation on this topic as well as enhance my own knowledge of steamship transportation, I purchased books specific to ocean liners from this time period, and showed her illustrations of vessels similar to those her grandparents and mother would have boarded.(15) We also viewed pictures of passengers travelling in steerage class, and talked about the hardships her family endured on their way to a new life in America.(16)
I have also noticed my mom has developed particular attachment to the fact that her mother was born in Sicily and came to Ottawa as a two-year-old. She has oft-recalled this without prompting and, on more than one occasion, the name of the town, Termini Imerese. In addition, Mom seems to find it important to remind me that her mother was the oldest of 14 children, and she had helped Grandma care for everyone.
A Picture Worth One Thousand Words
I first saw this photograph of my maternal grandparents, Rosine Mandia Lima and Pietro Lima, in the upper-floor hallway of my mother’s childhood home on Bathurst Street in Toronto, Ontario. It would have been while visiting in the mid- to late-1960s, I have deduced. The photograph was taken in Ottawa on the day they were married. Over the years, whenever we would look at it, Mom always commented on what a handsome couple her parents had been back then and, given her predilection for fashion, the stylishness of her mother’s boots.
After my grandparents passed away, their home was eventually sold, and possessions dispersed. As my mother lived in Sault Ste. Marie, she had scant involvement in the process and, therefore, no idea what had happened to the photograph. About a decade ago, in the aftermath of the death of one of her siblings, my mother received a box of memorabilia, and the photograph was among its contents.
Mom remembered it had been taken on her parent’s wedding day and had hung in her childhood home in Toronto but, alas, nothing else. My father hung the photograph in the room where she watched television and, similar to the picture of her maternal grandmother, Giuseppa Bova Mandia, I decided to pursue genealogical research for facts about my grandparent’s marriage. The following summarizes key findings.(17)
Peter Lima and Rosine Mandia were married 1 October 1918 at St. Anthony’s Italian Church in Ottawa,
Ontario. They were Roman Catholic. The name of the officiating priest was illegible.
- Peter Lima was born 29 June 1898 in Trabia, Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy.
- Peter Lima was a bachelor residing at 79 Clarence Street, Ottawa, Ontario, and employed as a barber.
- Peter Lima’s parents were Antonio Lima and Annunziata Cancilla.
- Rosine Mandia was born 14 September 1898 in Termini Imerese, Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy.
- Rosine Mandia was a spinster residing at 258 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa, Ontario.
- Rosine Mandia’s parents were Antonio Mandia and Giuseppa Bova.
- Joe Saso and Carmelina Saso from Arnprior, Ontario, witnessed their marriage.
My mom filled our home with photographs, and we have displayed several in her room at the long-term care facility. She enjoys chatting about her parent’s marriage, and I wanted her to have this picture plus information integral to providing answers to questions she might ask when she was alone. As a result, I scanned a four-by-six copy, printed basic data in black magic marker on white lined paper, affixed it to the back, had it laminated, and put it on the ledge next to a photograph of her and my father on their wedding day.
There was a bit of dissonance at the start, however, with respect to the witnesses, Joe and Carmelina Saso. Mom could not remember meeting them in Ottawa, or ever having heard their names mentioned. I explained that Arnprior, the city where they lived at the time, was about a one-hour drive from Ottawa, and conjectured they might have moved away or lost touch with each other after her parents had married and relocated to Toronto. My endeavours were aimed at fostering a pleasant environment for Mom and, in order to prevent further confusion, I have stopped referencing the couple in our conversations and omitted them from the data I recorded on the back of the photo. Solving family mysteries often reveals hidden gems, and one of the sweetest moments, vis-à-vis this photograph, happened when Mom made the connection regarding 1 October: the date of her parent’s marriage was also the day I was born. The coincidence delighted her and, though her recall of it has proven inconsistent, the incident has awarded genealogical research special appreciation.
A Bill of Sale and A Crate of Oranges
In addition to the previously mentioned photograph of Mom’s parents, there were other contents in the box of family memorabilia she received about a decade ago, for which she had expressed attachment. While sorting through things with her, she showed particular interest in this bill of sale from Lima’s Market, her parent’s fruit, groceries, and vegetable market located on Bathurst Street in Toronto. She had helped her mother from the time she was a little girl, and remembered filling wooden crates with oranges and receiving a piece of fruit as reward when finished.
Like many families, Mom’s endured hardship during the Second World War , and she had to quit school at the end of Grade 9 to work full-time in the store alongside her mother. Though this had thwarted her dream of becoming a dietician, Mom has never expressed regret or demonstrated bitterness in having had her plans derailed. Dedication to family had always been her priority, and her devotion to her mother, especially strong.
Mom had often recounted missing a year and a half of elementary school due to childhood illness and, given her
1925 birth,(18) I calculated she would have finished her secondary education around the age of 16/17, circa 1941/1942. The date printed on this bill of sale confirmed it relevant to the 1940s. Mom’s employment in the store had ceased in 1947 when she married my father(19) and, hence, I told her, in all probability, it had been used during the period she had worked full-time. In response to her sentiment, I made a colour copy of the bill of sale, put it in her album, then scanned an image into my computer and stored the original with other genealogical records related to my Sicilian ancestry.
After Mom moved into a long-term care facility, I collected photographs to display in her room. While reviewing an old album with this purpose in mind, I found this picture of her mother, Rosine Mandia Lima, standing in the doorway of Lima’s Market. It is a casual pose; my grandmother is smiling, and her hands are tucked into the pockets of her long white apron. Mom’s writing is visible and, on the lower border, she has indicated the date as 1919 and the location, 1012 Bathurst Street. Based on our history together, I knew she would treasure this picture and, from the start, intended to give it to her. Several issues warranted resolution, however, before I could do so.
The picture had faded over the years. In addition, water spots had stained one section, and blue ink smeared another. Certain details of the photograph had also stymied me. The image had been reproduced in brown tones, and on heavier stock paper than usual. Capitalized text on the back referred to it as a “Post Card” and included an indication it had been made in Canada. There was provision for the sender to write a message and space in the top right hand corner for a stamp.
In an effort to learn more and, perhaps, augment this picture of my grandmother with details that might interest Mom, I researched old photographs and gleaned it was an example of a portrait postcard popular in the early 1900s. (20) Further reading has informed me brown was one of the colours utilized on paper prints from 1859 to the present.(21) There was no professional photographer’s name evident, and I have since settled it might have been a candid shot taken by a Brownie camera Kodak introduced in 1900.(22)
I had the photograph professionally restored with assurances my mother’s comments not be removed. The end result sharpened the image and presented it in black and white. I framed a four-by-six picture for my mother, scanned an image into my computer, returned the original to her photo album, and stored several copies for future distribution to my siblings.
When I gave the photograph to Mom, she immediately recognized it. The historical details I garnered are of genealogical value to me but were of no consequence to her. This picture, however, has represented a wonderful springboard to her past, and I have often brought in the bill of sale so we can look at them together as we reminiscence.
Mom has begun calling her mother “Little Rosie” more frequently and, in response to this specific picture, inevitably tells me how hard my grandmother worked in the fruit store, and that she quit school in Grade 9 to help. The stack of wooden crates on the floor behind my grandmother reminds me of those that Mom filled with oranges as a little girl and, as such, this picture has come to hold an endearing place in my heart.
I have solved many family mysteries with respect to my paternal Calabrian heritage, and have journeyed to the southern Italian region twice on genealogical research trips. I plan to conduct an equally thorough investigation of my maternal Sicilian roots but, for the present and foreseeable future, my efforts will retain their focus on doing what will most enrich my mother’s life.
Family has always been Mom’s priority. She has worked hard and merits a final chapter filled with joyful reflections. Genealogical research has empowered me to give Mom back some of her cherished memories and—notwithstanding my other achievements—this will forever constitute one of its most poignant benefits.
Note on Perri/Perry Surname
Determining the proper form of the Perri/Perry surname of my Calabrian paternal ancestors proved to be challenging; nevertheless, I was able to authenticate it as having been “Perri.” My father was born “Perri” but eventually had it legally changed to “Perry.” Likewise, I was born “Perri” but my family changed it to “Perry” during my teenage years. Some of my relatives, however, have continued to use the earlier version. The inconsistency has created genealogical research hurdles, to say the least. An explanation would be complicated and an unnecessary digression from the thread of this article, and I trust this note will suffice at this time.
- 1. Arnold Joseph Perry, Proof of Death Certificate (original in my possession); Northwood Funeral Home, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
- 2. Dorothy Anne Lima, Ontario Birth Certificate (original in mypossession); Office of Registrar General, Toronto, Ontario. (Registration number withheld for confidentiality reasons.)
- 3. Arnold Joseph Perry, Baptismal Certificate (original in my possession); Holy Rosary Church, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
- 4. Dorothy Anne Lima and Arnold Joseph Perry, Certificate ofMarriage (original in my possession); St. Peter’s Church, Toronto,Ontario.
- 5. Arnold J. Perri, Electrician License (original in my possession); City of Toronto, 1950.
- 6. Giuseppa Bova, Regno D’Italia, Provincia di Palermo, Comune di Termini Imerese, Estratto dal Registro degli atti delle nascite del 18. (1878), (digital image, #741), Familysearch.ca (www.familysearch.org: accessed 9 March 2013); citing Italy, Palermo, Termini Imerese, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1862-1910.
- 7. Giuseppa Bova and Antonino Mantia, Certificato di Matrimonio (copy of original obtained from second maternal cousin, Michael Mandia Brown (Toronto): 29 September 2006), Citta Di Termini Imerese, Servizi Demografici, Ufficio Stato Civile, Provinci di Palermo, Sicily.
- 8. Antonino Mantia, Provincia Di Palermo, Municipio Di Termini-Imerese, Stato Civile Ufficio N. I. , Estratto dal registry degli atti di nascita dell’anno milleottocento, numero d’ordine 170. (1873), (digital image, #742), Familysearch.ca (www.familysearch.org: accessed 9 March 2013); citing Italy, Palermo, Termini Imerese, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1862-1910.
- 9. Peter Lima and Rosine Mandia, Register of Marriages. 1908-1968. Ottawa, Co. Carleton, Ontario. (Paroisse St. Antoine-De-Padove), (digital image, #36 ), Ancestry.com (http://interactive.ancestry.ca: accessed 07 January 2014); citing Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967 for Peter Lima. (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collections, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
- 10. Confusion exists with respect to the use of the surname “Mandia.” According to the document cited in #3, Antonino Mantia’s Birth Record, Mantia is the correct spelling. Nevertheless, “Mandia” has constituted the only surname used with “Mantia” unknown until genealogical research had been conducted.
- 11. Lynn Nelson, A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors (Betterway Books, 1997), 18.
- 12. Antonino Mantia, Passenger Record (April 20, 1899), (digital image), EllisIsland.org (www.ellisisland.org/search/passRecord.asp?LNM=MANTIA&PLNM=MANTIA&…:accessed 23 December
- 13. Giuseppa Bova, Passenger Record (June 26, 1900), (digital image), EllisIsland.org (www.ellisisland.org/search/passRecord.asp?order_num=1984186733&MID=13542: accessed 10 December
- 14. Rosine Bova, Passenger Record (1900), (digital image) EllisIsland.org (www.ellisisland.org/search/matchMore.asp? MID=1414712550179085792&order: accessed 08 December 2006).
- 15. William H. Miller, Pictorial Encyclopedia Of Ocean Liners, 1860-1994 (Dover Publications, Inc, 1995).
- 16. Lee Server, The Golden Age Of Ocean Liners (Todtri Productions, 1996), 22 & 23.
- 17.Peter Lima and Rosine Mandia, Register of Marriages. 1908-1968. Ottawa, Co. Carleton, Ontario. (Paroisse St. Antoine-De-Padove), (digital image, #36 ), Ancestry.com (http://interactive.ancestry.ca: accessed 07 January 2014); citing Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967 for Peter Lima. (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collections, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
- 18. See note 2.
- 19. See note 4.
- 20. A Guide to Old Photos.” (digital image) Ancestry.ca. (http:///www.ancestry.ca/cs/Satellite?childpagename=CALearningCentre%2FLearning_C%2FPageDefault&pagename=LearningWrapper&cid=1265126500002: accessed 13 March 2014).
- 21. Maureen Taylor, “Women in Photographs,” in Tracing Your Female Ancestors (From the Publishers of Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy & History Magazine, January 2013), 52-53.
- 22.Althea Douglas, Time Traveller’s Handbook: A Guide to the Past (Dundurn Press, 2011), 190.