While working through the 1920 and 1940 U.S. Census, I came across an interesting family–the Fiermontes. James and Tony Fiermonte, two Italian immigrants, ran a store in Alexandria Virginia.[i] These two men peaked my interest; not only because they are two brothers living together, but also because of their financial situation.
While the U.S. Census from 1940 states that James Fiermonte owns a store, it is his older brother Tony who peaks my interest. Although the census names Tony as a clerk at his brother’s store, it also says that he is not making any money.[ii] One would assume that because Tony is employed, he would be making some amount of money. I found it extremely confusing that Tony claimed that he was making no money. By 1940, the two brothers had been living in the United States for forty years, so one would think that they would be well established. One finds it hard to imagine a man who is sixty-four not having a penny to his name. When I saw Tony Fiermonte’s finances, I knew that I had to research a bit to find out what was causing this money mystery.
My confusion was solved with some simple research. While I was looking through the internet, I found a newspaper article from August 15, 1911. This article states that Tony Fiermonte is filing a divorce lawsuit against his ex wife, Helen.[iii] After reading this article, it made sense to me why Tony was not forthcoming about his finances. Divorces can be extremely expensive, and Tony was probably trying to protect his assets. This also explains why it states that he is living with his younger brother in the census.[iv] What I had assumed to be a simple lack of information turned out to yield a pretty interesting discovery. I was surprised that a local newspaper would print an article about a divorce hearing, but without that piece of writing the questions that I had about the Fiermonte brother’s finances would have never been answered.
A second piece of information that I was able to find was Tony Fiermonte’s death certificate. Tony passed away on February 16th 1953 at the age of 75.[v] What was also interesting was that sometime between the year 1940 and 1953, he had remarried. His certificate of death lists that he is widowed, and lists his wife’s name as Rosie Spinks.[vi] I find it amazing that the last thirteen years of Tony Fiermonte’s life were so turbulent. Within that time Tony married his second wife, suffered through her death, and became a United States citizen. Once my research was complete; I felt as though I knew the Fiermonte family on a much more personal level, and solved some of the mystery behind their withheld information.
[i] 1940 census data, Alexandria Virginia
[ii] 1940 census data, Alexandra Virginia
[iii] Louis Duffey, “Post From the County Court Clerk’s Office,” Alexandria Gazette, August 15, 1911.
[iv] 1940 census data, Alexandria Virginia
[v] Department of Health and Bureau of Vital Statistics. Certificate of Death for Tony Fiermonte,
state file #2841. Registration district number 2020.