Joseph Corsi: An Immigrant on the Move

In Italy’s Many Diasporas by Donna R. Gabaccia, she writes, “in the years between 1870-1940, three generations of Italy’s poor saw their lives transformed by repeated experiences of migration, life abroad, and return.”[1] Joseph (Guiseppe Fernando) Corsi is an Italian immigrant that left Italy during the “Workers of the World” (1870-1914) time frame of Gabaccia’s book, but breaks the mold because he never returns to Italy.

Corsi was born on December 8, 1903 in Carpineto, Italy just south of Rome.[2] At the age of eighteen,  Corsi left with his older brother from Naples, on the S.S. Dante Alighien, arriving in New York City in 1921. [3]


S.S. Dante Alighien. (Photo Courtesy of www.Woodvorwerk)


New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957. (Courtesy of

Gabaccia names New York City as a common place for Italian immigrants to enter and settle in America; however, many moved elsewhere, depending on jobs and family/friends.[4] In 1930, the U.S. Census recorded Joseph Corsi as living in New York City in a home valued at $3,000. [5] Corsi has begun filing his naturalization papers and probably has no intention of returning.[6] Italy’s political climate with the rise of Benito Mussolini combined with the Great Depression, which Europe also experienced, might have impacted his decision to stay.  He was employed as a moulder by the steel foundry. [7]


1930 U.S. Census. (Courtesy of www.Ancestry)

It is unclear why, but by 1935 Corsi moved to Alexandria, Virginia, living at 704 N Columbus Street. This address was located in Ward 3, which is where most of the single Italian immigrants lived in boarding houses. At this point, Corsi was was working as a contracted night watchmen.[8] It can be assumed–because of his living arrangements–that he was not planning to stay in Alexandria.


1940 United States Census (Courtesy of

Soon after the 1940 U.S. Census was recorded, Corsi enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began working at the U.S. Naval Air Station, also known as FLloyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn. Although the United States had not officially entered the war, the country was mobilizing for the inevitable, and Corsi was part of it.[9]

Corsi’s journey after enlisting in the U.S. Navy is difficult to follow; however, based on a marriage certificate in 1948, Joseph Corsi married Martha Lee Vasto in Barbour County, West Virginia.[10] Vasto was born and raised in West Virginia. There is limited documentation following their marriage, and it is unknown exactly where the couple settled for the remainder of their lives.


Muster Roll of the Crew, 1938-1949. (Courtesy of

Joseph Corsi was an Italian immigrant on the move. He left Italy after World War I. According to Gabaccia, the rise of fascism pushed many Italians to leave the country.[11] Corsi left his home in southern Italy and lived in New York, Virginia, and possibly West Virginia and probably countless other undocumented places. This particular Italian immigrant seemed to have no intentions of returning to Italy, but pursued American citizenship.



[1] Donna R. Gabaccia, Italy’s Many Diasporas (Seattle: U of Washington, 2000), 81.

[2] Joseph Fernando Corsi Life Story, 1903-1986, accessed October 10, 2016,

[3] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, accessed October 10, 2016,

[4] Donna R. Gabaccia, Italy’s Many Diasporas (Seattle: U of Washington, 2000), 102.

[5] 1930 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] 1940 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016,

[9] U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949,

[10] West Virginia, Marriages Index, 1785-1971, accessed October 10, 2016,

[11] Gabaccia, 153.

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