POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

The Story of Our Italian Heritage

by David Trumbull

September 21, 2007

More than five centuries ago, Christopher Columbus boldly set out on a long and challenging journey across the Atlantic…Columbus' brave expeditions expanded the horizons of human knowledge and inspired generations of risk-takers and pioneers…Our Nation is built on the efforts of men and women who possess both the vision to see beyond what is and the desire to pursue what might be.
--George W. Bush, October 5, 2006

It is estimated that between the years 1890 and 1920 six million Italians boarded the White Star Line’s Canopic or Romanic or one of the many other steamship that regularly brought immigrants to America to pursue a new life. Two who made the passage from Naples to Boston were Angelo Di Zazzo and Mary Di Zazzo both from Rocca d’Evandro in the Province of Caserta. They were not related. Indeed, “Di Zazzo” is as common there as “Brown” is here. Today about 100 Di Zazzos, not all related, dwell in that small town of 3,600 souls.

Mary arrived as a girl of eight in 1907 with her mother, traveling to meet her father in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Angelo arrived as young man in 1912, planning to meet up with his older brother. They also lived in Lawrence and that is where Angelo and Mary met, married, and had three children, including my wife’s father.

Life is a strange new land was challenging. A successful grocery business which enabled them to help other Italian immigrants (both family and strangers) with work and lodging was not, it seems, enough to compensate for homesickness. And, so, Mary’s parents returned permanently to Italy in 1925, as did Angelo’s brother some years later. Those who stayed at least had the companionship of many other Rocco d’Evandresi in Lawrence, so many that they even had a “Rocky” social club. Many of these recent immigrants worked together in the mills where the Lawrencians proudly proclaimed “We Weave the World’s Worsteds.” The sons of these Italian immigrants defended America in WWII. By the ‘50s they were typical Americans buying new suburban homes and raising America families.

This has been the story of one family. It is also the story of every Italian-American family.

For more information about Rocca d’Evandresi in North America, see