Family history research takes me to places all over the United States and the world. I get to travel vicariously through the genealogical research I do for my clients, and it’s always a fascinating journey.
This was my ninth family history narrative and it is by far one of the most interesting. I will say, trying to choose a favorite narrative project is like picking a favorite child; I love them all equally, yet for different reasons.
The Jinks and Aveta families could not have been more different and yet, both arrived in America for the same reasons – the chance at a better life and opportunity. The Jinkses immigrant ancestor arrived in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1643, from London, England. Joseph Jinks was a master cutler and was extremely well-respected in his field. Joseph, his father John, and his half-brother’s swords are on display in museums across the UK and in private collections.
In 1643, Joseph came to the colonies to design, plan and establish the first ironworks in America, located at Saugus, Massachusetts. Joseph invented the modern scythe as we know it and was also responsible for building the first fire-engine, under a commission from the city of Boston. Joseph’s son Joseph Jr. later moved to Rhode Island where one of his grandsons was a long-term Governor of that state. The Jinks family was heavily involved in Rhode Island politics as judges and deputies, and others served as doctors and Baptist preachers. The family later moved back to Massachusetts, then New York, and settled in Indiana Territory in 1814, in what would become the small community of Laurel, Franklin County, Indiana.
The Aveta family arrived in the United States over 260 years later, settling in the heart of Manhattan’s Little Italy on Mulberry Street in 1905. Little Italy at this time was vastly different than the Little Italy we know today. Over ten-thousand immigrants, mostly southern Italians, lived in extremely cramped apartments and tenements. The majority were men who sent money back home to their families for passage to the United States. Other immigrants were just in the States seasonally for work, then returned to Italy during the winter months. Work in southern Italy was difficult to find and poor crops, natural disasters (earthquakes) and high illiteracy rates took a toll on the population.
Gennaro Aveta arrived in New York City and brought his wife and four children over almost two year later. A gilder by trade, Gennaro started his own furniture manufacturing business which was located at 295 Bowery. The location had the distinction of being formerly known as McGurk’s Suicide Hall, after a dozen or so destitute young women, mostly prostitutes, drank carbolic acid on the premises in 1899. Gennaro later removed his business to Washington Street in Brooklyn and did quite well until about 1917 when he was sued by several investors. He kept the company going until about 1922, shuttered the furniture business and opened a music store. Gennaro and his wife, Consiglia, had four children—three boys, all of whom fought in WWII, and a daughter who married a young G.I. named Ronald Jinks while he was stationed in New Jersey in the 1950s, merging the two families.
Over two hundred and sixty years separated the arrival of these families, and yet both came for the chance of greater opportunity and freedom. Opportunity is the reason why most immigrants came to America, and both of these families succeeded in building a better life for themselves and their descendants.