ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise

Immigrant Photo Project

As they say, “every picture tells a story.”  And every photo of an immigrant's life captured briefly on film helps tell their story.  If you’re like me, you’ve seen the photos of Ellis Island and immigrant life, yet never tire of looking, of wondering about each person we see, about their story.  Where did they come from?  Why did they leave, and whom did they leave behind?  Where were they going?  What were their dreams, and did they achieve them?  What did they suffer along the way? 


Research continues on the Italian Diaspora, the great dispersion of Italians throughout the world (mostly to North America).  As it should. Emigration in such vast numbers changed life on both sides of the ocean.   The causes are debated.  Was it the Italian unification?  Was it the political ravaging of the South by the North?  Was the culture on the verge of tremendous change anyway?  Statistics are bandied about.  Over 13 million Italians entered the United States between 1870 and 1924.  Over 5.3 million Canadians today claim Italian heritage.  Nearly 20 percent of the population of Providence, Rhode Island is Italian (mostly Southern).


But what about the people, the individuals, our ancestors?  What would they say about the ongoing discussion of issues that so significantly affected their lives?  Did they know they were a part of something so “big”?  Would they have cared, the way we do?  To whom could they tell their stories—to others just like them?  The Immigrant Photo Project provides an opportunity to tell their stories and the story of cultural changes brought about by the migrations. We’ve put some examples below, and added explanations of what each photo represents--an individual's story and a story of cultural changes.


We are preparing an exhibition of the photos and stories you send, simultaneously on this website and in various towns throughout the Molise.  We’ll bring your ancestors “home” again, and share their stories with those who stayed behind.  Then, we will “travel” the exhibit to heritage associations throughout the USA and Canada.  Please contact us  to share your photos and stories, or if your association is interested in hosting the exhibit.


The Wedding, 1916

Maria Celeste Poce (born Bonefro 1893, emigrated 1916) of Giovanni and Carolina Silvestri married Lorenzo Notarangelo (born Monte Sant’Angelo, Foggia 1890, emigrated 1914) of Michele and Donata Angelillis.  
Celeste came to the USA to marry Lorenzo, although they had never met.  (The marriage was arranged through friends and relatives and lasted until their deaths.) 

This photo honors those who left their homelands, bravely facing so many unknowns.

Due Nonni, 1941

Lorenzo Notarangelo (Monte Sant’Angelo, Foggia, emigrated 1914) and Giuseppe Magnani (Gropparello, Piacenza, immigrated 1912).  

This photo brings to mind the “Italianization” of immigrants.  Many immigrants thought of themselves as members of their town (e.g., Montanari) or region (Pugliese), without nationalization. Once in the USA or Canada, however, they called themselves “Italian,” sometimes for the first time, whether from the North or the South, regardless of town.  This nationalization did not occur in Italy until World War I.  You might say that immigrants became “Italian” years before Italy did.

The Courtship, 1940

Maria Celeste Poce (Bonefro, emigrated 1916) watches from the window as Levio Magnani courts her daughter Donata Notarangelo in the presence of many “chaperones.”  

This photo symbolizes the modernization of tradition.

Argentina, 1950s
Pietro Croci (born Vernasca, Piacenza 1869) made several work trips to the USA and Canada, always returning to Italy.  By the 1920s, his children had all emigrated and he joined those that had moved to Buenos Aires. 

This photo to represents 1) immigrants who did not intend to stay away from Italy permanently, 2) those who led a migrant life away from their family for years at a time, 3) those who went to South America, and 4) USA immigration quotas in the 1920s that pushed many would-be immigrants to other countries.



We hope you will take this opportunity to add to the Immigrant Photo Project.  Please email your stories and high resolution scans to  or Contact Us for additional information.


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