Twice more, I tried my hand at finding more information at the State Library in Hartford. There was less information acquired each time.
Early on, I had gotten a bit of information from the son-in-law of the murdered female victim. He said that the children, now grown, had called the murderer on the phone in 1930. Of course, the son-in-law was now in his mid 80s. Perhaps he was inventing stories due to Alzheimer’s? That bit of information was quite a stretch! But, no, he gave details. He, his wife and their little baby had gone to Hartford to visit relatives. They did not go often because it was a long arduous journey of almost a day to get there. His wife had actually talked to her father on the phone! And the man was not interested in resuming a relationship. A man, even an old man, would not think up something so hurtful, unless it was at least partly true.
So, I decided that calling long distance from Hartford being as expensive as it was back then, the phone call must have been to somewhere relatively close. The people who would have been calling were young, just getting on their feet, financially. So, I spent one of my trips to Hartford pouring through old city directories looking for men of the same name, Giuseppe Amato, in towns an hour or two away from the city. I could not find a good match. The name is rather common. It was always the wrong age, wrong occupation, or something else. I was barking up the wrong tree, I could see. It was one of those projects I had to put on the back burner until I had more information.
Thinking that maybe the police department had a whole file on the murder was another dead end. Apparently, when the department moved out of their big Main Street building, much was lost, or thrown away. There was nothing.
Calling the State Police lead nowhere, also. They did not get organized until a few years after the murder. And the telephone operator was rude!
Then I decided to write to the city hall in the town of origin for the Amatos, Serra San Bruno, Calabria, Italy. I had so little information. I knew that Amato is a pretty common name. I knew for sure that Amato was the victim’s maiden name. I did not know for sure if Giuseppe had the same last name or if he had adopted his wife’s last name when he came to America. As a matter of fact, the prevailing theory was that his name was really Amateau, French, not Italian. There had been stories….! I had heard a story that the two had eloped. Maybe that was the reason. So, I got someone to translate my letter which was very general: “Can you please give me information on the marriage of Maria Carmela Amato around 1901-1904.” Several months later, my letter came back with a note saying there was no information available. Now I know why. There are too many Amatos. They would want more information before they answered such a question. Like when? Or who was the groom?
Life took over and all I did for the next few years was arrange old photos in albums. However those photos were a peek into the past, as far back as 1915. There was one exception to that date. I had a photo, obviously cut from a larger picture, showing the female victim, Maria Carmela Amato, probably on her wedding day, judging from the ornateness of the dark dress. She was squinting into the sun. And her sister, sitting in front of her, looked just like her. I later learned that she was married in 1900.
Where Did you find that story? Part 2
Trying to raise a young family and work full time does not leave much time for research. I read the newspaper articles over and over, trying to commit them to memory and find a hint as to where to find the next step.
At this point I had these three sources of information: very detailed (read: yellow journalism) newspaper reports of the murders which took place in July, 1912, a hastily put together will, dated the day our female victim died, giving her a name and an alias (why would anyone include an alias for a housewife?), and the coroner’s reports of our two victims (gee, there were a lot of bullets shot!). It wasn’t enough to answer my questions. But I had to put it on the back burner as family responsibilities took priority.
It was almost two years later that I had a chance to go back to Hartford for more work. More research for newspaper articles was first. I found nothing of significance. I turned my attention to another question: What happened to the children of our victims? We knew that the murderer certainly did not stay around to raise his own children after killing their mother. Where did they go? Before I could answer that, I chose to find their births and baptisms. I remembered the names of the children from family talk. Now I had to find proofs of their existence.
Calling the diocese chancery office, I found that the church where most Hartford Italians would have gone, St. Anthony’s, was no longer open for Masses. But the records of sacraments had stayed there. So, I had access to baptism files. This time with a friend, we went into the dingy, crowded storage rooms of the church basement. We were given free access to whatever was there. Large, hard-bound books filled with yellowed paper were arranged in chronological order along multiple shelves. I knew the birth date of only one of the six children. But I knew that child was the second oldest. So I began with the 1905 book.
As I opened the first book, I realized I had come across quite a find. Not only did I find the child’s name and date of baptism, they also listed the names of the godparents. This meant that not only could I identify correct names and dates of baptism of the children, as well as noting their birth order, I also had the name of two adults, not the parents, who had a relationship with the family. What struck me was the names as I knew them, were not the same as the names as recorded. For example, the child, Jimmy, was baptized Giuseppe Carmelo. And the child, Mary, was actually Maria Annunziata, because she was born on the Catholic feast of the Annunciation, March 25. Now I knew the correct names, dates of baptism (which was usually within days of the birth) and birth order.
I did not find the oldest child’s baptismal listing, which only meant she was not baptized in that church. But I did get six new names to add to the list of people of interest.
To be continued….
Elizabeth A Martina is a historical fiction writer, but the history is true and the characters are real. Her aim is to get people to see life from another perspective, using history as the venue.