Abe Vigoda (who is, as of today, alive
) got his big break in Hollywood playing Italian mobster Sal Tessio in The Godfather
. So he must have Italian heritage, right?
Abraham Charles Vigoda was born 24 Feb. 1921 in New York City, the son of Samuel and Lena (Moses) Vigoda. His father was born in Ostrołęka or Łomża or (I believe) Przasnysz, Poland (then Russia) (his passenger manifest entry
, World War I draft registration card
, and petition for naturalization
each give a different place of birth). Curiously, none of the records consulted say that he was born in Italy. Samuel arrived at Ellis Island by way of Buenos Aires, 28 Sept. 1913, aboard the S.S. Verdi
(hey, that's Italian!), and was admitted a naturalized citizen 18 Dec. 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. He married
15 Feb. 1916 in Brooklyn (reported
in that day's Brooklyn Standard Union
) Lena Moses of Manhattan.
Based on info given in the censuses, it's likely that Lena was the daughter of Eli and Bella Moses, who lived in Manhattan in 1910, Wawarsing, N.Y., in 1920, and Brooklyn in 1930. Hilel and Beile Moses—with daughter Libe (Lena) and three other children—showed up in New York
27 Mar. 1904. Despite my best efforts to prove that they were Italian, they were not. They, too, came from Poland.