52 Ancestors, Week 9: Aunt Ada, Gone Too Soon

For Week 9 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, the theme is Gone Too Soon. The project was created by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow. And for this week, the theme is Gone Too Soon. Of course, I have many ancestors who had children die as infants. But today I want to write about my Great Aunt Ada.

I have not yet been able to find her birth certificate, but I believe her name was meant to Aida Tomassoni; her father was a musician and opera lover who named his children after characters in Italian operas. But later records list her as Ada, which would have been an Americanized version.

Born in northeastern Pennsylvania in 1920, Ada was the third child of my mother’s maternal great-grandmother Mary Bartocci Tomassoni. Her sister Norma, my grandmother, was the oldest. Her brother Romeo, called Rush, was the second child. I remember him well from my childhood. Ada would not have remembered her father. My great-grandfather Antonio Tomassoni was a coal miner who was killed in a mine cave-in in 1921, when Ada was 16 months old and her mother was pregnant with her fourth child. I have only one picture of Ada, taken shortly after the death of her father. She was an adorable toddler with big eyes and an alert expression. Unfortunately, she was gone too soon, only 26 years old.

The family story was that Ada died at her own hand in a mental hospital. My research has proven this to be untrue. My Aunt Ada spent more than three years in an institution, and died there. But she did not commit suicide. Her death certificate shows she died of tuberculosis. I hope to learn more of Ada’s story. Did she suffer from mental illness, as the family had thought? Or was tuberculosis the only reason for her institutionalization? I would like to have known her.

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