Unearthed: Four Faces

My husband noted this week that I’ve only posted about newspaper finds lately — no headstones, no graveyards.

“It IS Graveyard Snoop, after all,” he remarked (pretty bravely for a guy whose wife hangs out in cemeteries).

I couldn’t let that pass. As it happened, I was already struggling with the post I had meant for this week, so I took his words as an out.

Basile Family Headstone; Mt. Carmel Cemetery. HIllside, IL.
Basile Family Headstone; Mt. Carmel Cemetery. HIllside, IL.

I dug out this photo, which I took at Mt. Carmel some years ago. At the time, I was most drawn to the portrait of the young woman with the headband, so I apologize for not getting a better photo of the entire stone, or good closeups of the other three portraits.

This one has been a struggle. I mean, the basic facts are simple. Sorting out the family connections was a doddle.

Basile Family Tree
Basile Family Tree

What’s harder is to tell you about these people. Three of them spent their lives at home, as wives taking care of children. As I’ve discussed, this is important work — but unrecorded work. There’s not a lot of documentation to use for a framework. I can give you some contexts in which they lived, but that won’t tell you if those parameters made their lives easier or harder.

In its way, this is actually a good example of how my research normally goes. Most people don’t live lives that generate a dozen newspaper articles. Most lives — these lives — are quieter than that.

It gets more muddled because these are immigrants from non-English-speaking countries. Inconsistently spelled names will confound the best search engine.

Some cultures — who shall remain nameless — use the same family names over and over, such that by the 1930 census, you have three different variations on Maria, across three generations, living in the same house.

Hypothetically, I mean.

The couple at the center of this family is Frank and Maria Basile. They were not the only “Frank and Maria Basile” living in Chicago at that time. Both Franks were barbers. One of them even got a long article about his barber shop — of course, not this Frank. (I should probably avoid Franks anyway.)

Carmela (Salerno) Franchini Oriolo — Grandmother (1859-1924)

Carmela Oriolo
Carmela Oriolo

I couldn’t even find Carmela, the smiling nonna, in American records until the 1920 census. At that point she was living with her daughter Maria (below) and her family. Carmela had been in the country for about 20 years, but I can’t find an entry document or another census record, even after trying a dozen variations of her name. They’re out there… somewhere.

I can tell you that her maiden name was probably Salerno. That she came from a town called Montegiordano, at the bottom of Italy, where it curves around the Gulf of Taranto. She was married to Giovanni Franchini, and then to Thomas Oriolo. She arrived in America in about 1900, just as immigration from Italy was cresting. Her face was one among millions. By the time she died in 1924, the government had pulled up the drawbridge and cut immigration to a fraction. 1, 2, 3

She could read and write, but not in English. It’s an off-the-grid life, when your family may not have a phone and nothing is in your name.

Carmela (Basile) Hanneman — Daughter (1907-1931)

Carmela (Minnie) Basile Hanneman

Her family called her Minnie.

She was born in Chicago in 1907, the fourth of the Basiles’ seven kids and only their second daughter.

Her young portrait gives it away: Minnie didn’t get to enjoy a long and fruitful life. She did live long enough to marry Roy Hanneman in 1925, and have two sons: John in 1925, and Roy Jr. in 1929.

A blood clot took her at only 24 years old. 4, 5, 6, 7

Minnie's son John gets married. Chicago Tribune; Dec. 10, 1944
Minnie’s son John Hanneman gets married. Chicago Tribune; June 30, 1946

John Basile — Son (1905-1935)

John Basile

John was the third child in the family. Beyond that, I can only tell you about his ending. I was tipped off when the church burial record listed his cause of death as “inquest pending.”

It was… not good.

Chicago Tribune Aug. 18, 1935
Chicago Tribune Aug. 18, 1935

Maria Antonia (Franchino) Basile — Mother (1878-1944)

Maria Antonia Basile

Things get a little easier researching Maria. I mean, Marie. Er — Maria Antonia. Mary. Mare. Marion. Antonia. Antonia Marie.


For her at least I can isolate four census decades and a few other records, but it’s still not easy. Depending on the document, I have six different birth years for Maria spanning a decade, and about as many variations on how to spell her surname.

She and Frank filled their house with the kids: Maria Domenica, Anthony, John, Carmela, Joseph, Herman, and Paul. Their names get a little less Italian, a little more anglicized, with each one. 8, 9

Frank did well enough that he bought a house and owned his own barber shop. I can watch as they and their family move further and further from heavily Italian neighborhoods. By the time Minnie died, she lived near Portage Park, in an area that was less than 5% Italian.

Basile Family Homes
Basile Family Homes; Blue dot, 1910; Red dot, 1920. Green dot, 1930. Green area shows highest concentration of Italians.

One thing I did find charmed me, and I found it by chance.

I was actually looking at the 1898 immigration entry record for Maria’s husband, Frank Basile, who I thought had immigrated solo. But under his name, there she is: “Franchino, M. Ant.,” female. 10

She was using her maiden name, so I can’t tell if they were already married, engaged, or merely traveling companions. But they were already together, coming from Montegiordano and listing the same destination — Frank’s father Antonio, in Chicago.

Frank and Maria's Immigration Record; 1898
Frank and Maria’s Immigration Record; 1898

Maria preceded him in death by just a few months. It was during the war. At that point, the Basiles had four men in the armed forces.

Frank Basile Obituary
Frank Basile Obituary; Chicago Tribune; Dec. 10, 1944

They all came home. ☗



[1] 1920 US Census
[2] “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947,” database, FamilySearch
[3] “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947,” database, FamilySearch
[4] “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920,” database, FamilySearch
[5] U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 Record
[6] Cook County, Illinois Birth Index, 1916-1935
[7] “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947,” database, FamilySearch
[8] 1930 US Census
[9] 1940 US Census
[10] New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Other sources
US Immigration Flows, 1820-2013
Italian Immigration History
NY Times Immigration Explorer
1938 Chicago Map
Chicago Social Science Maps from the 1920s and 1930s

Author: Ms. Snoop

ABOUT I was lucky to be born into a family of genealogists, and to be gifted a family tree already bristling with names. Along the way, other names have somehow found me. My job is to listen to their stories.

4 thoughts on “Unearthed: Four Faces”

  1. Another great entry. I had to laugh at your comments about *some cultures*, as I come from a family that is made up almost entirely of people named Marie and Louis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just wait until you start researching Scandinavian last names. In Denmark, before 1820, last names were heritable patronymic. For instance, if a dad is named Nels Jensen, then a daughter could be named Agathe Nelsdattar. Women didn’t take their husbands’ last names, so marriages are a little hard to suss out. There were also these elaborate naming traditions for children’s first names: the first son is named for his father’s father, and a second son is named for his mother’s father. The first female child is named for the mother’s mother (which is what happened in my case). The second daughter is named for the father’s mother. There were a bunch of rules for remarriages and children who passed away. Around 1850 they quit most of that, thankfully.

    Liked by 1 person

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