Part 2 of an Italian Photo Mystery

By Maureen A. Taylor

Last week I introduced Eileen Poulin’s mysterious photos on tin and showed you one of the two images of her Italian relatives.

Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

Poulin’s mother left her the pair with a note regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos—but the details are confusing: On the paper with the above image, a confirmation photo, Eileen’s mother wrote: “Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy.” The Martinellis are related to Eileen through her great grandmother on her grandmother’s side of the family.

The note stored with the second image, below, read, “brother of above.”

The family is confused. Is the man in uniform Frank’s brother, or the brother of the boy?

I emailed Eileen for more information about when the family immigrated to the United States and how the Martinelli family was related to them. She called a relative, who identified the boy as her brother Frank Martinelli.

Eileen’s grandfather immigrated in 1916. You can view Francesco Antonio LoRusso’s passenger details (or search for your own ancestor) on the Ellis Island website or click this link.

The boy’s suit and the style of the confirmation photo suggest it was taken around the year of immigration. One relative thinks it was in Italy, but Martinelli’s sister thinks her brother was born in the United States.

The final factors about where the image was taken are the answers to two questions: Where was the Martinelli boy born? When did that family immigrate?

The military photo was definitely taken in Italy. It depicts a man in an Italian military uniform from the WWI period. I love that his headgear resembles women’s hats of the early 20th century.

Military images are full of head-to-toe clues. The headgear, uniform style, insignia and even the leg wraps are evidence. The man may be a Bersaglieri, a corporal in the Italian army. For more information on Italian military uniforms see Italian Armies of World War I by David Nicolle and Raffaele Ruggeri in the Men in Arms series (Osprey, 2003).

Now that Eileen has a time period and additional family information, it’s possible another relative can identify the soldier.

Only a few days left to enter Family Tree Magazine‘s National Photo Month giveaway. The deadline is May 20th.

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