Although I knew his birth name was Statuto, based on the 1930 census, I had only scraps additional information. I knew his birth date of June 1920 and I knew he was born in Pepperell, Ma. Having contacted the Pepperell Town Clerk in 2004, I was informed that I was barred from accessing my grandfather’s birth record for 100 years, as he was an illegitimate birth.
|The 1930 US Census showing my grandfather as Peter Statuto|
Although my family and I had suspicions about his parentage, for almost nine years of genealogical research I made little progress in solving the original mystery of my family, the reason I began research at all. There were quite a few Statutos of the correct age in Massachusetts in 1920. I had a long list, but I had no idea how to narrow it down to find which one was my great grandparent. In the spring of 2013 that all changed.
In May of 2013 I was contacted by a fellow genealogist who was related to the Statuto family of Pepperell Ma. He informed me that during 1920 the sister of one of his Statuto ancestors moved into his ancestor’s home and appeared on the 1920 census. His relative was named Amelia Statuto and the mysterious sister was named Mary Rose Statuto. In addition, he suspected that Mary Rose had been pregnant at the time.
|1920 US Census showing Mary Rose Statuto|
I re-examined Statuto records I had saved and saw both women on my list of potential suspects. However, I had no information about the family. In a couple emails, the other genealogist gave me a crash course on the Statuto side of his family.
Although I could not be sure, as I believed I was still forbidden access to my grandfather’s birth records, I believed I had enough circumstantial evidence to be 95% sure Mary Rose Statuto was my great grandmother.
I once again contacted the Town Clerk where my grandfather was born and was informed that his birth certificate was now available, which was a little surprising because I had been told previously that I had to wait until 2020 to see it. However, the record did confirm that Mary Rose was the mother of my grandfather. His father’s name was still missing however. Thus began my adventure into the Statuto family of Lowell and Pepperell, Ma.
Mary Rose Statuto was born 12 November 1896 in the City of Lowell to Peter Statuto and Marie Therrien. It was the second marriage for both Peter and Marie. Peter was a recent Italian immigrant and Marie Therrien was a recent French Canadian immigrant. Peter Statuto also had an older daughter named Amelia Statuto from his previous marriage. Along with Amelia, Mary Rose had three other sisters.
- Mary Lora b. 1897
- Mary Philomene b. 1898
- Mary Louisa b. 1901
Of course, all sisters are named Mary, but they seemed to go by their middle name in later records.
Mary Rose appears in the 1910 census, living with her father Peter Statuto, who was a well known fruit dealer in the city. She also appears on several city directories between 1913 and 1917, all showing her occupation as “Dress Maker.”
Then in 1920 Mary Rose appears on the US Census in the household of her half sister Amelia in Pepperell. Amelia had married a man named John W Gilman. Together, he and Amelia already had a substantial family. Aside from my great grandmother, the Gilmans were also boarding a Philip Therrien, who I must assume was a relation to Mary Rose. Perhaps an uncle or cousin on her mother’s side of the family, it’s unclear as of yet.
After 1920 and the birth of my grandfather, Mary Rose and Philip both seem to disappear. I can find no trace of either on the census records for 1930 and 1940. In fact, I initially believed that Mary Rose had died soon after my grandfather’s birth. However, I was wrong.
Using newspaper archives in Massachusetts, I was first able to find additional information about Peter Statuto and his business in Lowell. Following this lead, I then used the archives of the Lowell Sun to find an obituary for Mary Rose Statuto in 1955.
This meant that Mary Rose had, for whatever reason, intentionally given up my grandfather. As far as I know my grandfather, when he supposedly found out about his parentage, was never interested in contacting his biological mother. I wonder if the same could be said for her. I’ll probably never know.
The obituary lists several pallbearers at her funeral. Some additional research showed that Peter Gilman and Albert Clark were both members of Amelia Statuto’s family. It seems the sisters had kept in touch. I am currently trying to track down Wilfred Bouchard of Pepperell and Daniel Dwyer of Groton to see what connection they had to Mary Rose.
According to this record it seems that Mary Rose Statuto never married and potentially never had any other children, as no other family was mentioned. I can’t help but wonder what the rest of her life was like and where she lived between 1920 and 1955. I also still wonder who my paternal great grandfather was.
So, it only took about nine years of research to uncover half of the mystery I first set out to solve. I’m still not sure who my grandfather’s father was, but I have several new avenues of research to follow for clues.
I’m also grateful that in those nine years I’ve met and maintain contact with some awesome members of my family I had never known. I’ve been to places connected to my family which I never would have gone. I learned a lot about my grandfather and how he grew up. I was able to research and record my ancestry on my mother’s side, much more easily I might add. I’ve also continually developed my genealogical and historic research skills along the way. I now have a fairly comprehensive (and continually growing) family tree to pass on to the next generation of my family.
Even though I’ve now only solved half of the original mystery of my family, it seems that what I’ve gained along the way has been well worth the while. I just hope it doesn’t take another nine years for me to solve the second half.