Hi everyone, this is my very first post. I would greatly appreciate anyone's thoughts on this recent discovery- I'm baffled! I have a copy of my's gggf, Ermenegildo's baptism certificate from Menfi, 1799. The surname of each infant was printed inside a box drawn on the top corner of every record (my copy shows 2 pages and about 8 different records). His was "Incerto", which makes sense, since it was uncertain as to who his parents were. His godparents were an Antonino (Di) Giovanna and Pietra Scarpuzza, wife of Josephi. No mention is made as to either taking him home or anyone else, for that matter. I've read that a married woman on a baptism record would be recorded with her husband's last name. And this is the case here. Her actual name is Pietra Buscemi, and her husband is Giuseppe Scarpuzza. Now here is what is confusing me - Ermenegildo's 1825 marriage record has his surname strictly as Incerto, with parents unknown. On the birth record of his first child 1 year later, it is Ermenegildo Scarpuzza (Incerto), with the 2nd child - Ermenegildo Incerto Scarpuzza, and then with all the rest of his children and on his death record, Incerto is dropped completely, it is just Ermenegildo Scarpuzza. Any ideas, please?!
Hello, Thank you for your input. I do have a copy of his death record - as "Ermenegildo Scarpuzza" and along with his wife's name, it states that he is the son of unknown parents. No one else is mentioned. What I do notice though, is his last name of Scarpuzza, is written somewhat differently from the other words. It almost looks as though it may have been added later, or that a different surname was erased (?) and then Scarpuzza added. But I don't think they had erasers back then! LOL! Also, in the title for his his death record, the same thing - Scarpuzza is written differently than the other words - almost as if a different pencil was used to write only that word. Thanks again.
Many abandoned children were not actually given surnames at the time of birth during the 1700's. They were just identified as 'Incerto' or Esposito. If they survived and married or went into military service it was often at this point a surname was assumed. In his case it would appear that he assumed the surname of his Godparents. He may, or may not have been adopted or fostered by them although they probably tried to help him out during his life. To be sure you need to check if this couple habitually became Godparents to abandoned children or it was a single occasion.
Thank you for your post Italysearcher. Funny that you should bring this up, as I had come across 2 additional male "Incerto's" who also had unknown parents. They were born a few years from my 2nd ggf, and had originally used the Scarpuzza surname, but upon their 2nd child or so, changed their surname to something entirely different. Unfortunately, I do not have their baptism records. I always wondered if there was something in common betwen them and Ermenengildo, but without the records and with all 3 having named their children differently, it was difficult to tell. Could you please tell me what it would mean if only the wife of this couple (her husband was not the Godfather) did habitually become Godmother to abandoned children? Was this a common practice? I have never heard of this and find it very interesting. They had many children of their own and I can only wonder how they could afford this. Thank you, again.
Godparents were important for the church and the families who bore children. In theory, a Godparent would take responsibility for the child if anything happened to the parents. In times when life span was short this was important. You will sometimes see a local wealthy family asked to be Godparents. The family would hope for help in getting a male child a trade when he is old enough, or schooling. A female child might hope for a dowry from her Godparents. Since an abandoned child starts out without parents at all, some one has to stand with the priest at the baptism. The lady who cleaned the church might have been available, or someone just praying at the time the child was brought in. I believe that if you were asked to be a Godparent you couldn't refuse without (religious) consequences. I am not Catholic so on this I am not 100% sure. The woman who became his Godmother could also have been the one assigned by the Mayor to feed him. She would have received a monthly amount of money for this service which would have helped her family a lot.
Thank you, Italysearcher. I know that I'll never find the real truth to this situation, or find out who his actual birth parents were, but I find it all very intriguing. You have provided many possible scenarios, and I appreciate it. -K