When I started researching my wife's family, the Cozzaglios, I was lucky enough to get a disk with the Tremosine, Italy, Archives of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. It's the area where my wife's ancestors, the Cozzaglios, came from. It was surprising how many people with the same surname, Cozzaglio, that were there. What came as an even bigger surprise (though it shouldn't have maybe) is that there were also many Italian surnames of natives of the area where my wife grew up (North Adams, MA) on there, too. It was like they had moved a whole slice of Tremosine to Western Massachusetts!
I looked up Google images and the Tremosine area is one of spectacular beauty. When I showed these to my wife, the first thing she said was, "Why did they all leave?" I'm wondering what prompted the Italian immigration around 1900 from that area? Economics? Famine akin to the Irish migration? Was it part of a larger Italian immigration to America? Was it prompted by hopes for a better life than they had in Italy? (Hard to say that when my wife recalls stories of how meager many Italian Americans' circumstances were back then.) Ancestry has a concentration map for surnames, and it also surprised me to see how most people of my wife's surname, Cozzaglio, ended up in Massachusetts. Why there? Did a previous emigre come there and leave a light on in the window for them?Did their ship land in Boston? Or did they somehow go right from Ellis Island up to Western Massachusetts? If so, what would explain that?
I was given a book named Tremosine: Lombard Voices from America, translated by Luciano F. Farina (Retaggio Italiano Publishers) that was compiled around the time that North Adams, MA designated Tremosine, Italy, as its sister city. For almost two decades now, local people with Italian heritage have returned to Tremosine. The book details how in the early 1900's, the local economy in Tremosine cratered. There were virtually no jobs, no places to work, so emigration was almost a way to save families. Generally, young males would come to America, work, and send back money so that relatives in their homeland could eat, pay their bills, and stave off foreclosures. The money and clothes they would send back was a real lifeline, and even to this day, citizens of Tremosine remember.
It was not unusual for those emigrees to board in homes of those previously emigrated. The wife of the household cooked and did laundry for them, charging a modest sum, which left the boarders free to send a big portion of their pay back home. It also provided the emigrees a support system. So, although we do not know who were the first from Tremosine to settle in North Adams, the jobs and support system of relatives there assured a steady stream of migrants from the homeland.
The answer to my original question of "why" was mainly economic. The Tremosine book also mentions how young men were eager to escape the clutches of fascism, too. Some first person accounts by women are clear that they wanted their own daughters to have more freedom (in America) than they would have had in Italy, where women were still in the traditional lower end of the social hierarchy.