Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini

Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini is a lovely tale of one man’s family history quest. The factual research done, including long-lost pictures, medical files, and official documents, is interspersed with imaginative scenes of what might have happened.

After the author’s father’s death, the author and his siblings began looking into the past. With nothing more than some tentative dates and names, the search started and what they found shocked them. The story of two struggling Italian immigrants and their disappearance was, sadly, a common one.

This story resonated with me, being the great-grandchild of immigrants myself. In fact, not only did my ancestors arrive through Ellis Island more or less the same time as the author’s grandparents, but they also settled near New York City, in Hunktown, Connecticut. The places named were therefore familiar to me. My mother did extensive research about my father’s immigrant origins, but the farthest back she could go was the ship manifest for Jan and Maria, who became John and Mary. 

The author’s writing style draws the reader in as each clue to the past is discovered, researched, and analyzed. Unfortunately, not everything was made clear. However, there was enough for the author to recreate plausible scenarios and well-researched commentary. The pictures of relevant buildings and documents made the story come alive. Immigrants Secrets is not the first story origin memoir I’ve read, but it was one of the most enjoyable.

There were a few instances where the information seemed redundant since the fictional sections and actual research process ran parallel, but nothing detracted from the story. There was also some allusion to a family friend who knew about his father’s family and married his father’s widow, the author’s mother, but the reader is never given more on that tangled story and the mystery is set aside.

On the whole, Immigrant Secrets: The Search for my Grandparents by John Mancini was a captivating read about the discovery of one family origin that anyone who has ever found a clue to themselves in the faces of the past will enjoy.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

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