Tag Archives: Angelina Cirabisi

What kind of work did our grandparents do?

My nephew, Kevin, inspired me by a question that he asked some time ago. That question has very much been in the back of my mind for some time now. The question was, “what kind of work (occupations) did our ancestors have?” So, today, I thought I would start to document some of the occupations that make up my story of ancestry and the also the ancestry story of those that I love. I will simply write a paragraph or so about several of those ancestors and hope that you will enjoy sharing your insight into this topic as well.


I will start with my maternal grandfather. His name was Grover Cleveland Ream. He was born on 16 Sept. 1885 in Denver, Miami County, Indiana. In the US census from 1900, Grover was living in Ann Arbor, MI and was a mere 14 years old. The 1900 census shows that his father Benjamin Ream (my great grandfather) was a carpenter. Grover, like his father, would also become a carpenter. It was always my understanding that he was exceptional at his trade. I found a copy of his death certificate that shows the last date that he was engaged in his occupation was February of 1931. He died the next month on 26 Mar 1931. He was young, only 45 years old at his death. My mother was a mere 5 years old at the time her father died. In my ancestry notes, I have copies of news articles showing his association with the Carpenter’s Union 512 of Ann Arbor where he served as an officer. In addition to many of the important buildings he constructed, there was also the home he built for his family at 520 N. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI that would become not only a residence, but a guest home.


My maternal grandmother was Emilie “Amelia” Angelina Grayer Ream. She was born on 14 Sept. 1885 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan. Actually, as I write this blog, I notice for the first time that my grandparents birthdays were a mere 2 days apart. My grandmother would affectionally be called “Grandma Pet. ” I loved her beyond measure. She died 1 day after my 11th birthday party on 13 Feb 1965. I have many treasured memories of her humor, sweetness, and joy for life. My grandmother’s occupation was to run the guest home in her residence on Main Street in Ann Arbor. I was under the impression that the guests who stayed at the home were primarily business or sales men who were often associated the University of Michigan. In the basement of the home was a large ironing mangle (it impressed me greatly) that was used to iron the sheets of the house guests.


My paternal grandfather was George Kellogg Hess, Sr. He was born 6 Sept. 1891 in Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan. He was born on a successful fruit farm whose harvests supplied the Chicago market and other large cities. He wanted to leave the farm! My father told me that George did NOT want to be a farmer. In the WWI draft application he completed on 5 June 1917, he states that he is employed by Western Electric Company, Hawthorne Station, Chicago. He went on to graduate from the University of Michigan in 1921 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I have been told that he was a genius. He worked in Chicago for the electrical company until 1930. Perhaps you will recall the story my father told us so often. My father became direly ill in 1930 (he was 5 years old) and the doctors in Chicago said the only hope for my father’s survival was to move the family to the countryside and out of the large city. What? I know…huh? Anyway, this put George back at the orchard farm in Benton Harbor, MI. This was the same place he had so wanted to leave as a young man. My father’s story is even more amazing because at exactly the same time as my father became ill, George’s father Juan Hess died leaving the farm to George. George must have not liked going back to the farm enough that when his obituary was written it states that he “was a retired electrical engineer” without mention of his successful management of the farm. I have collected numerous newspaper articles that show that George was an activist, even to the point of traveling to Washington to lobby for certain changes that primarily related to pipelines, farm taxes and migrant workers.


Henrietta was born on 31 Jan 1894 in Illinois. In 1914 she graduated from the Chicago Musical College. She was a very accomplished pianist. (As a note, in 1930 when the family was forced to move to Benton Harbor, MI and back to the farm, she would not agree to go unless she had her grand piano too.) In the 1920 census, Henrietta was 26 years old and single. She is living with her parents. In the census records, she lists her occupation as Dictaphone Operator. I recall that my father told me this was an honorable position that she was able to claim because her pianist’s hands moved so quickly on the keys of the dictaphone.


E.L. was born on 5 August 1906 in Bond, Stone, Mississippi. His home in the 1930 census (when he was 23 years old) was in Columbia, Marion, Mississippi. He listed his occupation as school teacher. In the 1940 census, he still is a teacher and states that he has had 3 years of college education. (This question was particular to the 1940 census, so I don’t know when he actually attended college.) It is known that he was a graduate of Mississippi College. In 1940 he was living in Hattiesburg, Forrest, Mississippi.


Christine was born on 10 June 1905 in Grange, Lawrence County, Mississippi. In the 1930 census she is 24 years old and states that she is a student. This must have been college, but I do not have educational records for her. In the 1940 census she lists her education level as having completed 1 year of college.


Frank was born on the 30 November 1904 in Mendoza, Argentina. He arrived in New York in 1916. In the 1920 census, Frank states that he is a clerk in a silk factory. In his 1928 petition for citizenship, he lists his occupation as contractor. In the 1940 census, he lists his occupation as an Insurance Agent. In the 1940 census, folks were asked to record their level of education. Frank states that he had completed school through 6th grade.


Angie was born on 6 September 1909 in New York City, New York. In the 1940 census she lists her occupation as worker in the clothing industry.

Angelina “Angie” Cirabisi Bivona 1909-1987

When Angelina “Angie” Cirabisi was born on September 26, 1909, in New York City, her father, Giuseppe “Joseph”, was 35, and her mother, Leonarda “Lena” Gerace Cirabisi, was only 21 years old.

ANGIE’S FATHER: Angie’s father, Joseph Cirabisi, was born in Italy. He was 33 years old when he arrived at Ellis Island on the S.S. Algeria. As he entered Ellis Island, he stated that his occupation was stone worker and that his last place of residence was Castelvetrano, Italy. His ship had departed from a port in Naples on 17 January 1907 and arrived at Ellis Island on 4 February 1907. He recorded that he was coming to join his uncle Guiseppe Sanfilippo in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1917-1918, men in America were required to register for the draft. I found the document below. Melrose Street is where Joseph lived when he filled out this form and that street is not new in the family story and I found it in many documents.

Giuseppe Cirabasi draft

Another official record that I found was a 1925 New York State census record. At the time of that census, Joseph was 51 years old and was listed as doing “cement blocks.” He was living on Melrose Street with his wife Lena and daughters Angie and Antoinette. He records his citizenship status as alien. I had to do some history lessons to figure that one out. Why would an alien register for the US draft? Well, it turns out that you had to register for the draft if you were an alien residing in the United States! Go figure!

1925 state census

ANGIE’S MOTHER Angie’s mother was Leonarda (Lena) Gerace.  Lena was born in Partana, Italy.

Lena traveled to the states at the age of 25 leaving on the ship Luisiana from a port in Naples, Campania, Italy. She listed her last place of residence as Partanna, Trapani. She arrived at Ellis Island on 15 Oct. 1907. (Frank had arrived in February of that same year.)

In the 1925 New York state census, Lena claims she is of alien status.

It was so hard for me to find any good information on Lena. Anne Bivona Barnes had told us that Lena had a brother Gaspare. I was able to find some information on him and will continue as time allows to trace Lena’s family and ancestry through information available on her brother.

ANGIE’S SISTER Angie’s sister was Antoinette Cirabisi. Antoinette was born in approx. 1916. She was engaged to be married but sadly died before the wedding, at the age of 23, from a heart condition. Her date of death was 18 March 1939. Until her death, she had been employed as a bookkeeper. She was buried at St. John’s cemetery.

ANGIE Angie died in Michigan and her death date was recorded as 10 December 1987 and on that same certificate, her date of birth, was shown to be 27 September 1909.

Where was Angie born? Anne Bivona Barnes recalls that Angie was born in NYC so that is probably the case, but I did find a trip that brought Angie and her mother Lena through Ellis Island on 13 June 1913. This was on the ship the Principe Di Pimonte that left from the port of Palermo.

Ancestry reminds us when doing research on Italian ancestors to remember that they did travel back and forth. In other cases of immigration from European countries, people had fled from Europe to the United States to avoid persecution BUT the reason that so many people left Italy was almost entirely economic. That simply means, the Italian ancestors had every reason to go back to visit family, dream of returning to Italy and then often returning again to the states.

At the time that Angie’s family moved to the United States, the Italian unified government was encouraging people in Southern Italy to leave – not enough resources were available for the population. Also, the United States at that time had a labor shortage and were encouraging Italians to immigrate.


In 1925, in the state of New York census, Angie is a US citizen and is employed as a tailor. She lives on Melrose Street with her parents and her sister in that year. Her family told me that she worked in a coat factory.

In 1933, Angie was just 23 years old when she had her daughter Anne Bivona Barnes.

Her daughter Anne recalls that her family lived in Brooklyn at 41 Street and Ft. Hamilton Parkway until about 1939. Then, from 1939 to 1955 the family lived on Bushwick at the corner of Irving and Stockholm Street.

Angie was buried in NY. She had lived to be 78 years old.