Another game of telephone

Grandpa Scaduto in the Army
My grandfather Ignazio Scaduto.

Frequently, patrons will come into the library to prove or disprove a long-standing family story. These stories may involve larger-than-life characters who survived major battles, were accused of dastardly deeds, or men and women who just led charmed lives that appear a bit too good to be true. Over time the facts get can get muddled or embellished, and what may have started as a simple story can turn in to an epic tale. Such stories may be hard to believe, but what I have discovered is that embedded in the story is usually some truth.

A perfect example is that of my paternal grandfather Ignazio Scaduto’s emigration to the United States. This is the story as told to me by my father:

Ignazio Scaduto wanted to go to United States to live with his older brother, who was already settled in Boston. So, at age six or seven, he left Sciacca [Sicily] alone and made his way to Palermo. He then boarded a ship and sailed to New Orleans. Upon his arrival in New Orleans he then made his way up to Boston with the help of family who were living in New Orleans.    

A wonderful story, but several questions always remained unanswered. If he was going to his brother, why didn’t he go directly to him? Who are the family members who were living in New Orleans? Why did his parents allow him to go alone, and at that age? My grandfather passed away years before I was born and neither my father nor his siblings had any answers – but this was the story they heard.

When I began to research the Scaduto family, one of my goals was learn if any part of the story was true. What I discovered was yes, there was truth to the story but, no, it did not involve my grandfather.

In 1898, when my grandfather was seven years old, his father Giuseppe Scaduto travelled to New Orleans with his brother-in-law Michele Lauro. They arrived in New York on 28 November 1898. The destination on the manifest was New Orleans and the name of the friend at their destination was Franco Lauro.[1] This one ship passenger manifest answered most of my questions.

So when did my grandfather arrive in the United States? Ignazio Scaduto, age 13, and his mother Maria Lauro boarded the S.S. Italia and arrived in New York on 8 November 1905. The destination noted was Boston and the local friend or relative was Giuseppe Scaduto.[2]

How did the two stories get so intertwined? It is not impossible to believe that my grandfather told the story that when he was seven his father left Sicily to join family in New Orleans, and over the years – just like the children’s game of telephone – what was said at the beginning was not what we all heard at the end.


[1] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, digital image,, 1898 arrival of Giuseppe Scaduto and Michele Lauro.

[2] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, digital image,, 1905 arrival of Ignazio Scaduto and Maria Lauro.

About Jeanne Belmonte

Jeanne assists NEHGS library visitors, both on-site and online, with their family history research. Prior to joining the staff, she served as a volunteer in the library and also contributed to an NEHGS book publication project. Jeanne is an expert in Italian genealogy and is also interested in studying British, Canadian, German, Irish, and medieval genealogy.

7 thoughts on “Another game of telephone

  1. This story is confusing, as written. Needs some editing for clarity.

  2. I liked the story of the travelers and how they intertwined. Had a story in our family about an English “lady in waiting” running away to Canada and how the family received property in Halifax, N.S. in a land grant from the King which is on record at the tower of London. Truth is CT born, Elizabeth Buckingham Simmons’s father Capt. Judah Mayo Simmons received a fishing plot and was a “Planter” in N.S. 🙂

  3. Some of my favourite family stories are ones that are not quite true — trying to figure out how the documented history (one story) got changed to the story told (second story) can sometimes give you yet a third story, the explanation. Sometimes that is the most interesting story.

  4. I grew up with the story that “we” didn’t come on the Mayflower, “we” came later on the Anne. I thought that was cool and when I started doing genealogical research I decided to verify it. I discovered that it was both true and not true. On my mother’s side, we descend from Dr. Samuel Fuller, a passenger on the Mayflower, and his wife, Bridget Lee, a passenger along with her son on the Anne. I felt like I was hearing voice of my 9x great-grandmother whispering down through the generations telling her story, telling the woman’s story. I was hooked on this research after that.

  5. Very interesting story! BTW, I have a photo of my mother’s uncle wearing what appears to be the exact same uniform as your grandfather’s in the photo above. Did your grandfather serve in the US Army during WWI?

  6. I learned to isolate and use that “grain of truth” in every family story after putting the lie to the story that my youngest grandson (a Fourth), his dad, gf and ggf were “named after a horse”, their middle name being nearly identical to that of a famous racehorse in the mid-1800s. After much digging I learned that the patriarch who started it all was born in a wide place in the road in upstate NY called Ormal, the middle name he gave to a son born 5 years before the horse. What was intended only to point future gens to the obscure location of the patriarch’s birth was the seed of the “named after a horse” story because Ormal, NY, just happened to be just up the road from the village of Belmont, hundreds of miles from the racetrack of the same name. Once the racehorse made headlines, it didn’t take much for “middle name + Belmont” to morph into “We were named for a horse”!

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