A Two-Part Italian Photo Mystery

By Maureen A. Taylor

How many of us have found a note in a box of family photos? I suspect that it’s pretty common. Unfortunately, the person who left the note probably didn’t realize that it could cause confusion about who’s who.

Eileen Poulin has a double mystery based on a set of notes and two images. On one note, Eileen’s mother wrote “Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy.”

Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

The image is on a piece of enameled tin. Usually these images have a device on the back to allow the owner to prop up the picture. This type of picture was very popular in the early 20th century.

The white arm band on the boy represents the sacrament of Confirmation. Frank was probably the boy’s sponsor. Confirmation sponsors had to be a certain age, be a member of good standing in the church and could be a child’s godparent. A church document would confirm the relationship between Frank and the Martinelli family.

Belted suits in the style worn by this boy first became fashionable in the 1910s.

martinelli boy.jpg

Eileen’s great-grandfather Francesco Antonio LoRusso was the son of Isabella Maria Nardozza (1875-1952) and Vincenzo LoRusso (1866-1959). Both of his parents were born in Avigliano, Potenza, Italy, and died in Waterbury, Conn.

The second image in this mystery (not shown here) is a military photo identified as “brother of above.” Eileen doesn’t know if by “above,” her mother meant Frank or the Martinelli boy.

I have a lot of questions to ask Eileen about the family and more research to do on the uniform. See you next week—and don’t forget to enter Family Tree Magazine‘s National Photo Month Sweepstakes before May 20.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album