Tag Archives: Frank Bivona

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.

Francesco “Frank” Bivona 1904-1969

photo has been repaired and enhanced c1933

When Francesco “Frank” Bivona was born on November 30, 1904, in Mendoza, Argentina, his father, Vincenzo  Bivona, was 29 and his mother, Anna Cappadoro Bivona, was 27.

Frank was from an Italian family, but he was born in Argentina where his family resided for a number of years before going back to Sicily, Italy. He then emigrated to the United States leaving from a port of departure in Palermo, Sicily, Italy on 22 December 1915. He came to New York on the vessel known as Giuseppe Verde and arrived stateside on 6 January 1916.

FRANK’S MOTHER: The ship manifest for the Giuseppe Verde provides some information about Frank’s mother.  His mother was listed on the ship manifest as Anna Cappadero (note the name Cappadoro is spelled differently here) We know that the Giuseppe Verde vessel sailed out of Palermo on 22 December 1915.  Frank’s mother says that she is a 38 year old woman who can read and write. Her age matches with the birth date that I found for her: 30 November 1877.  She states that she is married to Vincenzo Bivona and is going to meet him in Brooklyn, NY at his residence on Stagg Street.  She also states in this manifest that she has no occupation and that the name of her mother was Maria Accardi. Her physical description is of a 5’4″ woman with brown hair and eyes. Her birth place was Partanna, Italy.

By the time of the 1920 US census, Anna is living at 165 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY with her husband and children. It is in this census that you can see her children Joe, William, John, and Frank all had been born in Argentina. The other children listed in that census Vincent, Tony, Paulie and Angelo were all born in New York.  In this census, Anna also states that she became a naturalized citizen in 1916.

FRANK’S FATHER: I believe that Vincenzo was born on 7 April 1874. One of the only methods for tracing him was a WWI draft registration card that I found. The draft registration would have occurred from 1917 to 1918. Vincenzo was naturalized as a US citizen in 1916 so he would have had to register. Here is why I believe the draft card belongs to him: He lists his closest relative as Anna Bivona and his residence as 165 Manhattan Ave. He is employed by the Eastern District Dye Works and his job is to dye silks.  Now…go back to the 1920 US census for Anna and you will see that the address is also listed as 165 Manhattan Ave. (He lists his full name as Vincent Salvatore Bivona and describes himself as of medium height and build with black hair and brown eyes.) In the 1920 US census, Vincenzo says that he is a washer in a silk factory. I believe that he is buried in a Catholic cemetery: St. John Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens County, New York.

Vincenzo was an alcoholic and that may explain why his wife Anna eventually leaves him and lives in her own household.

Vincenzo draft card

FRANK: When working with genealogy, I try to find official documents that can provide insight and a timeline. I found a baptism record from Nuestra Señora de Luján, Luján de Cuyo, Luján, Mendoza, Argentina on 25 Jul 1905 for Frank.

In the 1920 census. Frank is listed as the 15 year old son of Vincent and Anna living on 165 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn district of Kings, New York.  His birth place is recorded as Argentina, but his mother tongue is Italian. Instead of school, Frank, at age 15, is employed as a clerk at a silk factory.

I found this declaration of intention for naturalization (by the time of this document Frank is 19 years old):

declaration of intention.JPG

At the age of 22, Frank married Angelina “Angie” Cirabisi. I found a wedding date of 30 April 1927. They were married in New York.

By the time of the 1940 census, Frank is 34 years old. (His daughter, Annabelle, is 7 years old.) The residence is now listed as 162 Irving Avenue, New York, Kings, New York. He states that the highest grade he has completed in schooling was 6th grade. He is now working 40 hours a week as an insurance agent. His yearly income is 2,450. He is living with his wife, Angie (born in New York), and his daughter Annabelle. In this 1940 census, he is also living with his father-in-law, Joseph Cirabisi who is recorded to be of alien status having been born in Italy.  In 1940, the other person living with Frank and his family is his mother-in-law, Leonada Cirabisi who is age 52.

Recently, Anne (Annabelle “Anne” Bivona Barnes)  described her residence on Irving Ave. It was a railroad flat, a 4 unit apartment above a drug store. She said they lived there from 1939-1955. Pasquale Zinnanti owned the building. The owner was a distant cousin of Angie’s. The Zinnanti children, Frank and Joseph, were like brothers to Anne.

FRANK’S SIBLINGS: Frank’s parents Vincenzo and Anna had 7 children. Here is some information on those family members:

Giuseppe or “Joseph” was born around 1899 in Argentina.

William seems to have 2 birth places! In some cases, he lists Argentina as his place of birth. BUT, in his petition for citizenship he states that he was born in Italy. The photo below is very interesting because it shows Pasquale Zinaupi as a witness who resides at the same 162 Irving Avenue address as shown in the photo I included for Frank and fits with Anne Bivona Barnes’ recollection of the owner of the building! The other witness is Giuseppe (or Joseph) his brother.

William Bivona petition
William Bivona death notice

I am also including this photo of William Bivona’s death notice because it gives a clue as to the possible burial location for other members of the family. 

Vincent was born 5 December 1908 and states 2 places for his birth. In the 1920 census (he was 11 years old) and he claims to have been born in New York. In the 1930 census (he was 22 years old) he states that he was born in Argentina. The other information that the 1930 census gives us is that Anna is now living without her husband at 350 Melrose Street. In 1930, she is claimed to be the head of household living with her children Vincent, Tommy, Angelo and Pauline.  In this 1930 census Vincent lists his occupation as a “paster” in a shoe factory.

Antonio “Tony” was born approx. 1911 in …well, here we go again. In the 1920 census he states that he was born in New York, but in the 1940 census he states that he was born in Argentina. In 1940 he is living at 331 Melrose Street with his wife. Note: he is obviously a neighbor to his mother Anna and some of his siblings in 1940! In 1940 his occupation was a wood heel turner.

Paolina was born in New York approx. 1913

Angelo was born 31 Oct. 1918.


Frank, father of Annabelle “Anne” Bivona Barnes, died on 18 Feb. 1969 in New York. Here is a copy of his death notice from the Daily News in New York:

death notice of Frank Bivona

He was 64 years old at the time of his death.