The Tirocchis' move to Providence followed a classic pattern of chain migration. Very often one or a few members of a family went ahead to find work and then supported the subsequent migration of their relatives, who in turn encouraged and supported others.

The very poor could rarely afford to immigrate, and the wealthier classes were seldom motivated to leave their comfortable situations. Thus, those of modest means and immodest ambitions most often took the chance on a better life and emigrated.

The Tirocchis

The Tirocchi family lived in Guarcino, a village outside Rome. All of the Tirocchi children who eventually came to the United States, Frank, Anna, Laura, and Eugenia were born and raised there. Rosa Tirocchi, their mother, was twice married and twice widowed. In the 1890s, upon the death of her second husband, who may have been the brother of her first husband, she lost title to the family property. In order to support her family, she moved them to Rome and took a position as a cook in a wealthy household.

The Tirocchis’ move from country to city mirrored changes in Italian society at the end of the nineteenth century as Italy--like much of the Western world--was moving from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, industrial one. Their move also enabled the children to develop skilled trades and to be aided by Mrs. Tirocchi’s employer, who helped find positions for them. In particular, the employer recognized Anna’s talent for sewing and arranged a position for her with an established dressmaker in Rome--one who made clothes for wealthy, aristocratic clients, perhaps even for Italian royalty, as family legend has it. As a young man, Frank Tirocchi came to America to seek his fortune. He prospered by working on the railroad and encouraged his sisters Anna, Laura, and Eugenia to join him, aiding their passage with money he had saved.

The Cellas

The senior Cellas were both born in Italy. They settled in Providence and had thirteen children, several of whom died of tuberculosis or service in World War I. Several other children moved on, as adults, to California. Louis J. Cella, a younger son, benefited from the work of older siblings, which allowed him to go through the Rhode Island School of Pharmacy and the medical school at the University of Vermont.

The Tirocchi and Cella families were united when Frank Tirocchi and his wife, who were running a pharmacy at the time, played matchmaker with Frank’s sister Laura and Dr. Cella, then a young physician who frequented the pharmacy.

[ printable version ]

      Two Stories
      The Tirocchis
  The Family
  The Business
  The Clients
  The Workers




Think about rural to urban migration. What are some possible causes for this demographic shift?

In the U.S., 1920 was the first year the populations of cities outnumbered those in rural areas. (see the Timeline...)