Super Sleuth

Super Sleuth
Digging Up The Past One Relative At A Time

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Sebastiana Inserra-d'Angelo

Sebastiana Inserra was born in the small country town of Vizzini in Sicily, Italy on 4 December 1893.  She was the first child born to Carmelo Inserra and Domenica Maugeri.  As the first-born, her responsibility was to work in the family's salumeria, so she never attended any formal school.  Her younger brother and younger sister had the opportunity for schooling, but Sebastiana learned what she needed to by working daily in her family's store.  She became an expert in mathematical figures and could bargain with the best of them.  

In 1912, at the age of 19, she married Gaetano d'Angelo and nine months later gave birth to her first child, Giuseppa.  A second daughter was born in 1916, but unfortunately passed away a year later due to the Spanish Influenza.  

World War I changed the face of Italy, and when jobs and opportunities became scarce, Sebastiana, Gaetano, and Giuseppa set sail for America in 1920 entering Ellis Island on 9 February.  The little family moved into an apartment on Chrystie Street in Manhattan, New York.  Eventually, Sebastiana obtained a job in the garment district, Gaetano worked for a toy company, and Giuseppa went to school.

Sebastiana learned to navigate through the streets of Manhattan even though she never learned English.  She also developed many friendships through her job and through the neighborhood.  She had a reputation of being extremely kind and helpful.  She was also known for her amazing culinary skills and would often treat her family to homemade pizzas, pastas, and desserts.  A head for business, she and her husband purchased a small bungalow out on Staten Island to be used as a summer dwelling away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Eventually, the house would be given to her granddaughter as a wedding present.

Sebastiana was widowed in 1959, but she kept living her life and enjoyed time spent with her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  In the early 1980's, Sebastiana began showing signs of dementia and, after some time, needed to reside in a nursing home.  Over the years, her memory disappeared completely and she was unable to recall her family members, until finally, she no longer made eye contact.  Her daughter visited her every day even though her own mother didn't acknowledge her.

In 1992, Sebastiana became a great-great-grandmother.  A photo of the five living generations was taken for posterity.  In 1994, Sebastiana reached a milestone of 100 birthdays!  She lived ten more months before she was called home.

I would like to think that the legacy my great-grandmother created will continue to shine on in future generations.  She was an amazing and accomplished woman and is missed greatly.

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