198 – Pensa Family to America

Kathleen Gallagher – c 1929

Kathleen Gallagher grew up in Sedalia, Missouri. She was born in Sedalia in 1923 to Tom Gallagher and Catherine Rose Riley.

During her childhood and young adult years, Kathleen and her family often lived in the same household with her maternal grandparents, Will and Josie Riley. Kathleen was very close to her grandparents, especially “Mama Riley.”

“Mama Riley” was Josephine Jane Pensa Riley. She was called Josie. She had grown up in the 1870s boomtown of St. Louis, a melting pot of immigrants and cultures.

Josie herself was an immigrant, having arrived in New Orleans in 1869 as a baby.

From Genoa

Josie Pensa and her family boarded the S.S. Paganini in Genoa, Italy sometime in January, 1869. They were bound for America.

The price of a ticket was around $20.

They traveled in steerage, below decks and in poor conditions. On the Paganini, all 85 passengers traveled in steerage.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, steamship steerage decks were used to provide the lowest cost and lowest class of travel, often for European immigrants to North America. With limited privacy and security, inadequate sanitary conditions, and poor food, steerage was often decried as inhumane


To New Orleans

Port of New Orleans, c 1860

By the 1860s, New Orleans had become the second leading port of entry, after New York City. Immigration was stopped during the Civil War blockade of New Orleans. After the war, immigration resumed at a diminished rate, mostly from Italy and Eastern Europe, as well as Cuba and South America.

The Pensa family arrived at the Port of New Orleans aboard the Italian bark S.S. Paganini on March 1, 1869.

Ship Passenger Cards – Antonio and Giuseppina Pensa – March 1, 1869

Antonio and Rosa Pensa traveled with their five children:

  • Catarina (Katherine “Kate”) 9
  • Giovanni (John) 8
  • Rosa (Rose) 5
  • Andrea (Andrew) 3
  • Giuseppine (Josephine) baby

A Gardella family was aboard ship. They may have been relatives of Josephine’s mother, Rosa Teresa Gardella Pensa.

Excerpts of Passenger List – S.S. Paganini – March 1, 1869

Pensas in America

The Pensa family was in America. It was 1869.

But where were they from? What was their background? Why did they leave Italy? Who were their ancestors?

Italian family – c 1870


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