The Casamentos; an Italian-Australian family
Marino and Rosina Casamento at their wedding, photo courtesy Casamento family
Family history research can provide new insights into the experiences of parents, grandparents and other relatives. The children of Marino and Rosina Casamento, who migrated to Australia from Italy in the interwar years, were surprised to discover documents in the National Archives that showed their parents experienced discrimination during World War II because of their Italian origins.
A naturalised British subject
In 1931, 19-year-old Rosina Natoli left Lipari, one of the Eolian Islands off Sicily, for a new life in Australia. She travelled with her mother, sister and a cousin.
At Port Melbourne, Rosina was met by her brother, Bartolo, and his friend Marino Casamento. Marino had arrived in Australia six years earlier as an 18-year-old, from Lipari’s neighbouring island, Vulcano.
In 1933, Marino and Rosina married. They ran a fruit shop in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and, in 1938, were naturalised – that is, they became British subjects.
During World War II, with Australia and Italy at war, Italians living in Australia were viewed with suspicion. Marino felt it was necessary to place a sign in his shop window stating that he was a ‘Naturalised British Subject’. When he wanted to buy property, he was investigated by the Commonwealth Investigation Service because he was of ‘enemy origin’. His application for one house was refused because the town clerk objected and he withdrew another offer due to ill feeling among some neighbours.
After the war, Marino and Rosina helped new Italian migrants deal with the transition to life in Australia. In 1967, Marino was made a Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in recognition of his community service in Australia. He died in 1976. Rosina remained the focal point of the now extensive Casamento family until her death in 1987.
The National Archives holds records about Marino and Rosina Casamento that relate to their migration and settlement in Australia. They are typical examples of the records held on non-British Europeans who came to Australia in the first half of the 20th century.
Marino’s arrival in Sydney in 1925 is recorded on a passenger list. Every person travelling to or from Australia is recorded on a passenger list, and the National Archives holds 20th-century passenger lists and arrival cards on both paper and microfilm. They are usually arranged by date, name of ship and port of arrival and departure.
The National Archives has an index of the names of passengers arriving in Fremantle in Western Australia between 1926 and 1947. Many passengers from Europe and Britain stopped at Fremantle before travelling on to other ports, such as Adelaide or Melbourne. The index to passenger arrivals can be accessed through RecordSearch.
Marino and Rosina Casamento were naturalised. Naturalisation files such as Marino's generally include the application for citizenship, an oath of allegiance and basic personal information such as date of arrival, place of birth and occupation. Before 1949, being naturalised meant becoming a British subject. It wasn't until the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 that people could become Australian citizens.
The National Archives holds naturalisation or citizenship records for all states from 1904, when responsibility for citizenship passed from the states to the Australian Government. The collection also includes 19th-century records for Victoria and South Australia.
The National Archives holds other records on the Casamento family created during World War II. During wartime, special regulations were introduced to control the transfer of property. As a former national of a country at war with Australia, Marino’s applications to purchase property were investigated by security agencies and had to be approved by the Attorney-General.
Click on the images on this page to see documents about the Casamento family held by the National Archives. The files from which they come, and others, are digitised and available through our RecordSearch database – see the table below. You can also explore further with the links at the bottom of the page.