Entries in East Hampton (1)


The Fascinating Story of Harry Loreto

It turned out that my grandfather's brother, Gaetano Cervone, was raised by his Aunt Cesidia (and her husband Casimero Loreto). My Aunt Ceil told me that "grandma couldn't raise him, so they adopted him".  "Uncle Harry" Loreto was born Gaetano Cervone in San Salvo, Italy. He married an Indian woman. No one but Ceil knew a thing about him. I am still trying searching for information about Harry's kids.

My great uncle, Gaetano Cervone, was born in San Salvo, Italy on February 2nd, 1890.  Gaetano was approximately six years old when his father immigrated to the US in 1896. Based on oral history (see above, and here), he was raised by Cesidia and Casmiro Loreto, his aunt and uncle, who had no children of their own. 

Casmiro immigrated to the US in 1901; Gaetano and Cesidia followed suit two years later in 1903. Based upon the ship's manifest (click on image to enlarge), Cesidia and Gaetano arrived at Ellis Island on June 24th aboard the SS Nord America. They were subsequently detained until the following day when Casmiro came to get them.

Like his father before him, Gaetano disappeared into thin air after arriving in New York, and did not surface again (genealogically speaking) until 1917 -- when he was drafted into the US Army as "Harry Loretto". According to his WWI Draft Registration Card, Harry was living at 444 Fifth Street in Greenport at that time, and was working as an Oysterman at the the Ellsworth Oyster Company in Greenport. Harry listed his marital status as "married" on the draft registration card, but did not list his wife's name.

As you will read below, this is not the last time that Harry indicated that he was married on an official document.  However, I have yet to find a single document that confirms he was ever married -- and I know for a fact that he was never married anywhere in New York State between 1901 and 1959 (which was the year that he died.) 

Harry enlisted in the US Army on September 1917 (103rd Infantry Division) and was honorably discharged on April 28, 1919. (His Aunt Cesidia died on May 6th, 1918, while Harry was enlisted.)According to the 1920 US Census, Harry returned to 444 Fifth Avenue (Greenport) after his discharge. He was 29 years old at the time, and he continued to list his marital status as "married". However, the only person living with Harry at the time (January 1920) was a 28 year old 'Black' woman named Nan Johnson.  He indicated to the Census agent that she was a "servant". 

I am still unclear who Nan was, but I find it highly unlikely that Harry had the means to have a servant. Rather, it seems more likely to me that Harry was living with Fran, and told the census taker that they were married.

Sometime between 1920 and 1926, Harry moved to Easthampton and left Greenport (and presumably Fran) behind.

Harry became a US citizen on May 6, 1931.  According to his naturalization papers, he was living on Springs Road in East Hampton at the time. He indicated that he married a woman named "Ethel B" (in East Hampton, NY) in September 1926 and that they had 2 children:

Madeline Loreto, born 15 August 1927 in East Hampton, NY

Robert Loreto, born 30 August 1931 in East Hampton, NY

A review of the NY State Vital Records Index (at the National Archives), however, turned up no evidence that Harry married a woman named Ethel in East Hampton (or anywhere in NY State) in 1926.  Once more, I could find no record of a child named 'Madeline Loreto', who was born in East Hampton in 1927. 

I did find a birth certificate number for a child named Harry Eugene Loreto, who was born in East Hampton on August 30th, 1931.  I subsequently ordered the birth certificate from the New York State Department of Health and was able to verifiy that Harry Eugene, AKA Robert, was Harry's son.

According to his birth certificate, Harry Eugene was born in Suffolk County, in the Town of East Hampton.  He was a 'legitamate' child and he was born full term.  His father was 40 years old at the time of his birth.  His race was listed as 'Italian' and his occupation was a gardener.  The certificate also indicated that Harry Sr had lived in the USA for 20 years.

Harry Eugene's mother was named Ethel Butler.  Ethel was 39 years old at the time of her son's birth.  Her race is listed as  'Indian' and her occupation was a housewife. According to the certificate, Ethel had 3 children who were "born alive and now living" and 2 children "born alive and now dead".

It is always exhilarating when oral history can be verified, and I was especially happy to realize that my Aunt Ceil's story was correct.  Harry's partner was an Indian woman.  But who in the world was Ethel Butler, and why was I unable to find a record of Madeline's birth?

I found Ethel and her extended family in the 1900 US Census.  At that time, she was 8 years old and was living with her father (Samuel), her mother (Ollie), and 9 siblings.  The family's home was on Three Mile Harbor Road, in a section of East Hampton called "Freetown" - where freed slaves and displaced Montauk Indians lived. A review of earlier census record later confirmed that Ethel's family had lived on Eastern LI for hundreds of years. (Much more on this fascinating story, at a later date.)

When my efforts to find Harry's marriage certificate and Madeline's birth certificate hit a wall, I turned to an unlikely source: Fred Overton, the East Hampton Town Clerk.  I realized that contacting him was a long shot, but in the end, he turned out to be an enormous help. I have included excerpts from our correspondence below:

Dear Sir:

I am currently researching members of my family who resided in East Hampton in the 1930's, and need to obtain copies of birth/marriage certificates.  Is it possible to obtain these records through your office?  If so, how does one request the records........

Michelle Cervone  


Dr. Cervone,

In my free time I have been working on your request. You may know the summer can get and does get a little crazy in this office. I have found this much so far:

Courtland Madison Butler was born to Ethel M. Butler February 17, 1911 (father unknown)

Madelene Elaine Butler was born to Ethel Butler August 15, 1927 (father unknown)

Harry Eugene Lorets (not Loreto-I will check further on the spelling) was born August 30, 1931 to Harry Lorets and Ethel Butler

James Arnold Butler was born November 14, 1932 to Harry Loreto and Ethel Butler

I will be sending information on Samuel and Olive M. soon.



Dr. Cervone,

Samuel Cortland Butler

Born about 1845 died June 30, 1905 at age 60

Father: unknown

Mother: Harriet ?

Olive M. Butler

Born April 1, 1852 in Montauk, NY died January 10, 1921

Father: William Fowler from Montauk, NY

Mother: Mary Cuffee from Montauk, NY

Harry Eugene Loreto. His name was spelled Loreto in the record

Father: Harry Loreto- Italian-Occupation Laborer

Mother: Ethel Butler- Indian-Occupation Housewife

There is no marriage record for Harry and Ethel. 

Based on this information, Harry also distorted his family status to the naturalization officer -- i.e he was not married to Ethel, and Madeline was not his daughter.  From what I can piece together, Ethel had 4 children before she met Harry (two of whom died) and at least 2 children with him. Robert lived to adulthood (see below), but James Arnold died on December 10, 1932 in Southampton (NYS Death Certificate #75750).  He was 26 days old.

Harry died on May 1, 1959. He was 69 years old.  He was laid to rest on May 5th at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY. (Section V, site 3959)

The 1940 Census will be released in 2012.  I hope at that time to better understand the next chapter of Harry's life. But until then,  I will end Harry's story on this fascinating note:  I found multiple pictures of Ethel, Madeline and Robert on the Montauk Tribe Website.  (See Historic Pictures, Gallery 2, #22)

Although I take issue with the racist tone of the accompanying text in the first picture, it did confirm that Ethel never married Harry, and that Courtland, Robert and Madeline lived to adulthood.  It is also uncanny to me how much Robert resembles his cousin (my Uncle) Ralph, when they were about the same age.