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John Elengo
(October 2007 -- Cheshire, CT)

From where did your family emigrate and when? Who emigrated (self, parents, grandparents) and what were their names?
The name Ilengo became Elengo in the USA, supposedly an administrative error that stuck though I am uncertain of this. (The suffix “…engo” is characteristic in this area of Piemonte, e.g. Marengo, Odalengo, Giardengo, etc.)

My family emigrated from Castellazzo di Crea (Castlass), a frazione of Serralunga di Crea (Seralunga), southwest of nearby Casale Monferrato (Casal Monfrà).  It took three years to arrive.  My grandfather, Pasquale Ilengo, arrived alone in July 1913 settling in Berlin, Connecticut.  His oldest daughter, Letizia, arrived in October 1913 with his cousin Paulin Ribone.  His second oldest daughter, Valentina, arrived in February 1914 with cousin Paulin’s wife, Regina (Cerruti).  Pasquale soon relocated to New Haven and finally his wife, Luigia (Sandiano), arrived in September 1916 bringing the remaining children, Maria, Giovanni (my father) and Clelia.  I do not know the reason for the delay perhaps WWI played a role.

What led them to their destination (relatives already there, hopes of a job at a mill, mine, etc. Please explain)?
The basic reason for coming to the USA was to seek a better life.  From the trail in the Ellis Island records, it seems that Pasquale’s friends, Pasquale and Enrichetta (Gandino) Musso had immigrated to Berlin, Connecticut in 1907, and then Enrichetta returned to Castellazzo for a visit in December 1912.  Perhaps this provided the catalyst for Pasquale’s July 1913 destination.

Did they emigrate to another location before or after (Argentina, France, England, etc.)?
Like many others, Pasquale Ilengo had previously emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in search of a better life.  When it became evident that this was not to be, he returned to Italy to later immigrate to the USA.  He had owned a vineyard and also served as a Bersagliere.

Did they settle among other Piemontesi and were they members of a Piemontesi society (fraternal, mutual aid, etc.)?
Generally, people of various European origins inhabited the area however many were Italians from various regions of Italy.  My family joined the Settetrionale Society in New Haven.  One of Pasquale’s daughters married a Marchegian and became a leader in that society in New Haven.

Did your family maintain Piemontesi traditions -- language, culture, history, cuisine, etc.?
Yes, especially language and cuisine.  I grew up bilingual speaking English and Piemonteis.  At first I though it was Italian but truly it was Piemonteis.  Now I have lost my Piemonteis language skill for two reasons – those I could speak with have passed away and having done business in Italy I was more or less forced to convert to Italian.  I never could read or write Piemonteis so I only remember the sounds.  Recently, I visited a Piemonteis language site on the Internet that introduced me to its spelling and provided recollection of the words.

Did your family return home to visit or to live after the initial emigration? Did they maintain contact with family back home?
They did not return with the exception that my father did on a visit. My Ribone cousins often did return on visits.  However, I remember my grandmother sending packages back home in the course of WWII that were sewn up in cloth and then wrapped in packaging paper. 

I was stationed with the US Army in Germany from 1961 to 1963 and became first of our immediate family to visit the former home.  I traveled to Castellazzo every six months and thus became connected.  My father accompanied me on my second visit.  Business arrangements allowed me to again visit, including once with my wife. I remain in contact. 

Recently two USA first cousins visited with young adult children.  I arranged their contact and the latest generations are now also connected.

Do you identify yourself more as American, Italian or Piemontese?
Due to my birth, I am an American but, because I grew up in a Piemonteis home in the USA, I reply that I am an Italian-American of Piemonteis heritage.

Have you visited your family's town(s) in Piemonte? What was your experience like?
I remember my first visit, I felt right at home.  I still had proficiency in Piemonteis, but not yet in Italian.  During a lull in the conversation at dinner, a young cousin said to his father "...he (referring to me) speaks like an old man."  I immediately responded that because that I learned it from an "old man."  I was probably speaking the language at the time of the 1916 immigration.

I later conducted business in Italy often using a mixture of words, some Italian, some Piemonteis.   Occasionally, I received a number of puzzling looks. Then someone familiar with Piemonteis would interpret and correct my language.  I learned Italian in this way but I am not fluent.

As a boy, I had heard many stories concerning “the old country”.  One was that my grandfather asked a cousin to sell his property after he had emigrated.  During a visit to Castellazzo and while walking around, I met an old man.  I greeted him and told him who I was.  He replied that he knew my grandfather and that he had sold his land for him, it was true.

Have you studied your Piemontesi genealogy? Please explain why.
Yes, because I value my roots.  I am currently able to only go back to my paternal great-grandparents for lack of records.  However on my mother’s side I was able to go back to 1740.  It turned out that the brother of an acquaintance of ours was the current pastor of my maternal grandparent’s church.  Following a visit to her brother, she returned with Xerox copies of the pertinent old records of births and deaths.  Perhaps someday I might visit my father’s old parish for that purpose.  It is the place to go to find what you need.

Do you belong to the Piemontesi nel Mondo, Famija Piemonteisa or any other organization?
I have been a member of the Piemontesi nel Mondo.


Il testo in italiano è in preparazione


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