Making connections

June 02, 2014 06:30 AM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Family legend — and a lost birth certificate — has it that my paternal grandfather, born near Rome in 1889, was the illegitimate offspring of an Italian princess of the Orsini family and a Philip Emanuel Marconi. Supposedly born in a castle, but given away to be raised by a poor family in the countryside near Rome, Giovanni Orsini/Marconi wore rags on his feet instead of shoes. The family who raised him was provided a stipend from the family of the birth mother. Orsini became Osenni in 1907 when Giovanni arrived in New York at Ellis Island to escape the poverty of south central Italy. He promised to come back for his childhood sweetheart, my grandmother, Annunziata Grilli, who lived nearby. Aided by a sponsor, Giovanni landed a job in Teddy Roosevelt’s White House where he was employed as a servant. It was where, he told his daughters, he learned to read and write English. Eventually, in 1918, after WWI, my grandmother joined Giovanni, and they were married as soon as she landed at Ellis Island. They raised seven children; my father, John, was next to youngest.
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