The Apparent Italian Bostonian Was Really an Italian Floridian

15 April 1906

Death of Joseph (Giuseppe) Damato

A cursory glance at the vital records for Joseph (aka Giuseppe) Damato might lead one to assume that after immigrating from Italy in 1881 he lived his life in Boston. It is true that he married and died in Boston, but the years between those events reveal a very different story.

A tailor by trade, perhaps he found an abundance of tailors in Boston and decided, instead, to offer his skills in a less competitive market in the South. Among the family memorabilia is a personalized box lid indicating that Joseph Damato, at least for some period of time, practiced his trade in Spartanburg, South Carolina. But it was in Jacksonville, Florida, that he made his home and his reputation as a tailor merchant.

Box lid - Joseph Damato - tailor0001

Having been born Giuseppe, he chose to use the English form of his name, Joseph. Joseph Damato can first be found in the Jacksonville city directory in 1887, listed as a tailor working and living at 14 Bridge in LaVilla. Although he is listed in the 1888 city directory, he did go to Boston for at least a short time during that year. Perhaps the Yellow Fever epidemic gave him cause to leave town and visit his brother in the Boston area. Regardless of why he left, while he was away, he married Angela (aka Angelina) Previti. How my great grandparents met remains a mystery, but marriage intentions for the couple appear in the 24 August 1888 issue of Boston Daily Globe, and they were married 2 September 1888. By 17 October of that year he was back in business in Jacksonville according to an ad in the Florida Times-Union. Every year through 1906, Joseph Damato can be found in the city directories in Jacksonville.

Joseph faced two difficult situations in the last ten years of his life. In 1896 he was involved in a business lawsuit (Reese v. Damato) which was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Although Damato was vindicated, it must have been a stressful ordeal. Then sometime in 1905, he became ill with testicular cancer. He was still living in Jacksonville in 1906 according to the city directory. His wife’s brother was a physician in Boston, and the family story is that he wanted to be treated medically by his brother-in-law. I wonder if he might also have been thinking of  his family’s welfare – how would they manage if he died? Angelina’s family lived in Boston; they would surely look out for her and their two sons, ages 16 and 12.

On 15 April 1906, Joseph Damato passed away in Boston and was buried in an unmarked grave at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. One of the names of the two physicians on the death certificate was Joseph Prevett, so that lends credibility to the family story.

The grave remained unmarked, but identified in the cemetery office, for 104 years.  His grandson, my daddy, remedied that in 2010 when he purchased and had set a headstone to mark the grave of this man who can be found in vital records in Boston, but who lived most of his life in the United States in Jacksonville, Florida.

EPILOGUE – Watch for the 16th June post for the story of what happened to Joseph’s family after his death. See a former post “My Great Grandparents” for a photo of Joseph Damato.

NOTE: To post this without the proper citations goes against every fiber in my being, but I want to post this on the appropriate date, so I have chosen to post it as is. However, I will list my sources in an abbreviated manner for those who wish to search out the information for themselves. I will edit the post with proper citations in the near future.


~The immigration information for Giuseppe Damato can be found at by searching for his name and the year 1881.

~Jacksonville city directories can be found online at Jacksonville Public Library ( or at the Jacksonville [Florida] Public Library.

~The 24 August 1888 issue of Boston Daily Globe was viewed through an online subscription of my local library system to ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

~The Damato-Previti marriage record can be viewed online at searching records in the collection “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915.”

~The 17 October 1888 issue of Florida Times-Union can be viewed online at  on page 3, column 6.

~The Florida Supreme Court ruling in Reese v. Damato can be read online at Google Books by searching Reese v. Damato. Although in several books online, look specifically at The Southern Reporter Volume 33.

~Death certificate for Giuseppe Damato can be viewed online at searching records in the collection “Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915.”

~Headstone for Joseph Damato can be viewed at


Please let me know if you have any trouble accessing the websites posted above.

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It’s hard to think that I have seen almost as many days on this earth as my grandmother did. But I have. Flossie Irene (Dow) Damato passed away from this life on 1 April 1954 at the age of 62 in Jacksonville, Florida.  Image

She knew me – at least as much as anyone can know a child until the age of 2½. But I know her only from stories told to me by my parents and other relatives.

I think of her as a strong woman. Widowed at age 46 after 22 years of marriage, she experienced several tragedies and hardships in a few short years. In 1935 her youngest son drowned in an accident at the age of 2½. Less than three years later, she was widowed and left with a seven-year-old son to raise. She honored her husband’s promise to care for his own widowed mother who lived with them. Her two oldest sons joined the US Navy in January 1940. In September 1941, her mother, who had been ill, passed away while living with her. Her son, Joe, was on Pearl Harbor when the island was attacked on 7 December 1941. My daddy said his mother didn’t sleep for three days until she got word from the Red Cross that Joe was safe.[1] Surely that must have been the most brutal six year period of her entire life.

For all her strength, there are other sides to this lady that I’d like to share.

She was an avid reader. I think the accompanying photo is characteristic of her. ImageThis is my daddy’s recollection of his first year of school: “Every afternoon my mother would walk to the school and meet me when school was out. Riverside Park was across the street from the school and many times she would let me play in the park before we walked home[;] she did much of her reading during this time.”[2]




I discovered she played the piano in a newspaper article I found online.[4] My cousin Joan Sendling, who called Grandma Damato “Mama,” wrote, “I remember Mama playing the piano and we would all sit around and sing songs. She taught me to play Chop Sticks. I would play one part and she would play the other part.”[5]


Grandma Damato enjoyed working crossword puzzles. I suppose she had a great vocabulary because of all the reading she did. I don’t know that she ever won any, but she entered all kinds of contests. On the back of a letter from her son dated 18 January 1941, I found written in her handwriting, “I like Ivory soap because  Ivory soap Cincinnati, Ohio.”[3] I wonder if she entered that contest. I wonder what her answer would have been.

Ivory Soap-edited

In the kitchen, spaghetti and homemade bread must have been her signature dishes. Having married into an Italian family, she learned to cook spaghetti sauce from her mother-in-law, and she served it every Sunday at lunch for her entire family. I grew up eating my mother’s variation of my grandmother’s recipe, but recently my mother wrote from memory the way my grandmother cooked spaghetti sauce; she said she had watched her make it often and remembered how she did it. I plan to try the original recipe one day when I have a lot of time because it looks like a lot of work. Apparently, her sons really liked her recipe because they mentioned more than once in letters to her how much they wished they could eat some.

The aroma of homemade bread brought back memories for my cousin and my daddy. Joan wrote, “I remember Mama baking bread and sometimes I got to help. A few times the bread would raise so high that it would run over the pan and we would have to kne[a]d it back down and wait for it to rise again. The house always smelled so good.”[6]  One time my parents arrived for a visit, and I had just taken some bread out of the bread machine and cut off a couple of slices. My daddy asked if he could have a piece and put some butter on it while it was still warm. My mother told me later the reason he was so excited about the homemade bread was because his mother used to make it.

Although her husband was the tailor in the family, she could sew as well. She stitched together wool swatches from his samples and made blankets for the family.

My grandmother apparently could get wrapped up in something she was watching on the silver screen. My daddy told me of a scene in My Son, My Son (a 1940 film) in which the actor shaving was shaking the straight razor at another actor. My grandmother’s father never let his children around him when he shaved because he thought the straight razor was too dangerous. Apparently, Grandma Damato had a great reverence for straight razors because of that. My daddy said that when they went to see the movie, she got so upset watching the actor waving the razor around that she stood up in the theater and shouted, “If you don’t watch out, you’re going to cut him!”

Flossie Damato also had some spunk about her. My daddy had lots of jobs growing up and “selling corsages for a local florist at the George Washington and Roosevelt Hotels [in Jacksonville, Florida] to people going to big band dances” was one of them. “It was doing this job that the police arrested me and took me to jail for being out at night. Mom came down to the jail, and when she got through telling the police how wrong they were and what she thought, they let me go and had no charges against me.”[7]

My grandmother could also laugh at herself – a trait I think is healthy. She experienced an event that, undoubtedly, would have been on my top ten list of most embarrassing moments; however, she took it in stride and kept going. In the words again of my cousin Joan: “Mama, Ann and I would go to town to do some shopping and one day when we were leaving the store Mama’s panty fell down to her ankles, she stepped out of them, put them in her purse and we all walked on as if nothing happ[ened]. Laughing all the way.”[8]

I’m so glad my family shared stories with me of this lady I never really knew but wish I had.


[1] Ray Robert Damato, September 2007; copy of audio and notes privately held by Margaret (Damato) Chatraw, [Address for private use,] Milton, Florida, 2007. This was a recorded conversation between the three sons (John, Joe, and Ray Damato) of John and Flossie Damato.

[2] Ray Robert Damato, “My Story,” (MS, Martinez, Georgia, 2006); copy supplied by author and privately held by Margaret (Damato) Chatraw, [Address for private use,] Milton, Florida, 2006.

[3] [John Anthony Damato] (U.S.S. Tarbell 142, c/o Navy Yard, Charleston, S.C.) to “Dear Mother” [Flossie Irene (Dow) Damato], letter, 18 January 1941; box of letters from WWII, privately held by Margaret Damato Chatraw, [Address for private use] Milton, Florida, 2012. This collection of letters was loaned to Margaret Chatraw by cousin Nancy Damato. Only the first page of the letter is available, the remainder being missing, so there is no signature. The authorship of the letter is surmised by the place of duty (U.S.S. Tarbell), the handwriting compared with other letters in the collection that are signed by John, and the fact that his brother Joe is mentioned in the text. The reference to “Ivory soap” is written in pencil on the reverse side of the letter.

[4] “Additional Society,” Saginaw [Michigan] News, 28 February 1910, p.5, col.2; digital images, ( : accessed 30 March 2014).

[5] Joan (Barry) Sendling, “Childhood Memories: Flossie Irene Damato (Grandmother),” (MS, Clarksburg, WV, 2002); copy supplied by author and privately held by Margaret (Damato) Chatraw, [Address for private use,] Milton, Florida, 2002.

[6] Joan (Barry) Sendling, “Childhood Memories.”

[7] Ray Robert Damato, “My Story.”

[8] Joan (Barry) Sendling, “Childhood Memories.”

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Who would have ever thought I would find some commonalities with my maternal 2x great grandmother who lived and died more than a century ago? Today is her birthday – 25 March 1813. Her name is Sarah L. Dell Fletcher. That’s not my birthday, and I share none of her names. She was born, as best I can determine at this point, in Georgia; I was not.  She had many more children than I did.

Since I’ve made a commitment to try to blog about all my known ancestors on the significant days of their lives, it’s challenging to try to write something original (or even to have a unique slant) when writing about people I’ve never met and have limited knowledge about. So when I was thinking of Grandmother Sarah – I wonder what her grandchildren called her – I started mulling over what I did know about her and found that she and I had at least a couple of things in common.

After marrying in Bulloch County, Georgia, she moved with her husband to Sumter County, Georgia. About seventeen years ago, I moved to Sumter County, Georgia, with my husband. Then they moved to north central Florida; we moved from Sumter County to northwest Florida in the panhandle. And both of our husbands were ministers. (Mine still is.)

Although her husband passed away only about four years after moving to Florida, her faith was apparently very important to her. About sixteen years after her husband’s death and twenty years before her own death, Sarah L. Fletcher deeded land to the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Lafayette County for the purpose of “Divine Worship.” She went on to say that the land could also be used as a “place of residence for the preacher who may from time to time be appointed to said place in the mission or circuit.”[i] She obviously had a heart to see that the pastor and his family were provided for in that regard.

Here are images of the deed quoted above.



I would like to have one more thing in common with her – generosity.


[i] I have not found the source for this deed yet.  The first image is a portion of the entire document image received in an email (Emailing: deed 1874) from Betty Mikell on 18 August 2013.  The second image is a clearer image of the same document but the beginning was missing; thus, the reason for the two separate images.  The second image was received by email (Fletcher Marker Application) from Michael F. Zimny of the Florida State Department Division of Historical Resources containing the documentation used for the 2005 erection of a historical marker for Fletcher Community in Dixie (formerly Lafayette) County, Florida.


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No Birth Certificate? No Problem (for some)!

In the days before birth certificates were required by states (usually the early 1900’s), are there any documents useful to assist in this dilemma?  There are many articles in books and online to answer this question, but I want to share just a few.

Today (March 22) is the observed birthday of my maternal grandfather, Oswville Lem Dukes. All of his most significant life events took place in March, so that’s why I’ve blogged about him so much recently. According to the Bible record, Oswville Lem Dukes was born 22 March 1887.[1]


The 1900 census is a useful tool in determining at least the year and month of birth for persons living in that time. Although the actual day may still be in question, at least there is one document to corroborate or contradict the observed birthday month and year.  Remember that just because it is written in the census does not make it true. According to this census record, Lem Dukes was born March 1887.[2]


Another document that might help is a World War I draft registration card. In this case, the birth date of 22 March 1887 is confirmed.[3]


As an aside to the authenticity of an actual birth date being in question in more recent times, I must tell about my daughter’s birth. Although I was in labor at the military hospital, she came more quickly than the medical staff thought she would. (My husband and I knew otherwise and tried to warn them based on the birth of our last son.) With no doctor or midwife on duty, only the nurse, my husband, and I delivered that precious little girl – and not in that order necessarily! It just so happened to be about midnight, and no one bothered to look at the clock the moment she arrived. It was about ten minutes after midnight when the nurse (while still waiting for the doctor to arrive) realized we did not know her exact time of birth. She asked us if we wanted to celebrate her birth on the 21st or the 22nd.  We chose the 22nd and agreed on the time of birth as 12:05 am. So, even in today’s world, there may be circumstances that don’t tell the whole story about an exact birth date.

And on top of all that, she was born in England. So, technically, she was born on the 21st in the United States.  Just something else to ponder…..


[1] Oswville Lem Dukes Family Bible Records, 1887-1931, The Holy Bible (New York: James Pott, 1901), “Births”; privately held by Jay L. Brinson [address for private use,] Cordele, Georgia, 2012. [Originally in possession of Rubanner Fletcher Dukes, passed to her son-in-law A. Earl Brinson at her death in 1969, and passed to his son Jay L. Brinson at his death in 2009.]

[2] 1900 U.S. census, Bradford County, Florida, population schedule, enumeration district (ED)19, p. 84 (stamped),  p.19A (penned), dwelling 405, family 408, John Dukes; digital images, ( : accessed 22 March 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 166.

[3]“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” online images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 March 2014), card for Os*ille Lem Dukes, Columbia County, Florida; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509, (National Archives, Washington D.C.); FHL microfilm 1556880.

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Bound for Life (or To a Wife)

They wanted to marry, but first there was the bond to be taken care of.

Until a few weeks ago, I had thought that a marriage bond was a guarantee that the groom was not going to cop-out on his promise to marry the bride. But I was badly mistaken. I participated in a webinar entitled “The Ties That Bond” sponsored by Legacy Family Tree presented by the Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, in which she set my thinking straight on this matter.

In 1804 in Kentucky, a marriage bond was required to guarantee that there was no legal reason that the marriage could or should not take place. No money was actually paid at the time the bond was posted, but the money would be required if a reason was discovered later.  If the marriage never took place, the bond was not paid.  And the bond was no guarantee that the intended marriage ever happened.

On this day, 21 March, in 1804, Joseph Abram [sic] and Thomas Abram bound themselves for fifty pounds to the governor of Kentucky for the marriage of Joseph Arams [sic] and Betsey Persefield, both of Madison County. Thomas Abrams signed his name to the bond, but Joseph made his mark, and the clerk wrote his name as Jesse [sic] Abrams.[1]


Especially disconcerting is the word “Paid” which appears on the reverse side of the document – almost as disconcerting as the different variations of one name (Joseph Abrams) in a single document.

Joseph Abrams and Elizabeth (Betsey) Persefield were my paternal 4x great-grandparents. Although married in Kentucky, the couple later moved to Ohio where many of their descendants were raised and lived.

[1] Madison County, Kentucky, Marriage Bonds 1804-1806, File 5, Joseph Arams [Abrams] – Betsey Persefield, 21 March 1804; digital images,, “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” ( : accessed 20 March 2014).

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Two Brides for Two Brothers OR Two Grooms for Two Sisters

A wedding took place on 14 March 1909 in Alachua County, Florida, between my grandparents – Oswville Lem Dukes and Rubanner Fletcher.  In the same county just two months earlier on 19 January, Rubanner’s sister, Ada, had married Lem’s brother, John Lonnie. The photo below shows both couples with the brothers’ parents and their older brother, Arthur.

ImageLeft to right, back row: John Martin Dukes, Arthur Dukes, O. Lem Dukes, John Lonnie Dukes.   Left to right, front row: Alice Allen Dukes, Rubanner Fletcher Dukes, Ada Fletcher Dukes.

The offspring of these two couples were double first cousins. I’m not sure if that makes them more related to each other than their other cousins, but it does mean that they all shared the exact same four grandparents. I wonder if these double first cousins looked more alike than their other cousins who had a larger gene pool.

Can anyone in the family comment on similar looks of the double first cousins based on photos or personal knowledge?

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The No Name Baby Girl

My great grandmother, Viola Bell Bennett, was born (or at least her birthday was celebrated) on 12 March 1868. In the Jackson County, Ohio birth records, she appears as an unnamed female born to Philander Bennett and Minerva Abrams in 1868 in JacksonTownship. Her birth was reported by A. J. Newell, M.D.[1] (See the image below – line 42.)


At first I was a little upset that Dr. Newell did not record more than the year of the births of the infants born in JacksonTownship when I saw that he had recorded the exact day of the month for the babies born in HamiltonTownship.

I decided to do a little more investigation of Dr. A.J. Newell.  I discovered that in 1870, he lived in HamiltonTownship in JacksonCounty.[2] I also learned that in Dr. Newell’s household was a female two years older than my great grandmother who was listed on the 1870 census as Viola B. Newel [sic]. That seemed interesting to me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the “B” stood for.

In searching more documents for Viola B. Newell, I had hoped to discover her middle name. Her marriage record only revealed the middle initial B in her marriage to Jacob Aukrom.[3]

I continued searching and found Andrew Jackson Newell, M.D. listed among the biographical sketches in volume 2 of the book A History of Scioto County, Ohio: Together with a Pioneer Record of Southern Ohio. Included in the sketch were the names of his children, one of which was Mrs. Bell Ankrom [sic].[4]

There was the answer to my question! Viola Bell Newell and Viola Bell Bennett. The question remains if this was a deliberate naming of their daughter after the physician’s daughter and, if so, why?  That will remain at this time a mystery. However, I noted several interesting facts about these two young ladies. They were married 19 days apart. Newell was married on 28 March 1887[5]; and Bennett was married on 16 April 1887.[6] They were both married by a family member. Newell was married by her brother Warren, who was a Justice of the Peace; Bennett was married by the groom’s father’s son-in-law (husband of Edward Dow’s half-sister).  During their lives, they both ventured far from their places of birth – Newell lived in the Philippines[7] and Bennett moved to Florida.

[1] Jackson County, Ohio, Birth Record, [vol.]A, p.20-21, [Bennett], 1888, line 42; digital images,, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” ( : accessed 12 March 2014).

[2] 1870 U.S. census, Jackson County, Ohio, population schedule, Hamilton Township, Oak Hill Post Office, p. 16 (penned), dwelling 106, family 108, Andrew J. Newel; digital image, ( : accessed 12 March 2014); citing National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 1226.

[3] Jackson County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Index 1883-1888, vol. H, p.262, Jacob Aukrom-Viola B. Newell, 28 March 1887; digital images,, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994,” ( : accessed 12 March 2014).

[4] Nelson W. Evans, A History of Scioto County, Ohio: Together with a Pioneer Record of Southern Ohio (Portsmouth, Ohio: N. W. Evans, 1903), 1086-87; digital images, ( : accessed 12 March 2014).

[5] Jackson Co., Ohio, Marriage Records H: 262

[6] Jackson County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Index 1883-1888, vol. H, p.268, Edward E. Dow -Viola B. Bennett, 16 April 1887; digital images,, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994,” ( : accessed 12 March 2014).

[7] Evans, History of Scioto County, 1087.

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