re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

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mezzogiorno62
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re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby mezzogiorno62 » 19 Oct 2016, 00:52

my paternal grandmother,maria costante,was born in barcellona pg messina in 1883 ignoti genitori. i have the original birth record copy. her wetnurse,maria bonarrigo,applied for and was given full custody of her. my grandmother and her adoptive mother immigrated to boston in 1902. on the record it refers to them as"mother and adopted daughter". maria bonarrigo died 10 days after arrival so no further information is available. it simply states in her death record that she was the wife of frank landino. francesco landino,the cojoint/husband, didn't accompany them. maria bonarrigo and her cojoint/husband,francesco landino(not mentioned in the birth record),had 3 natural children.all born in barcellona pg.salvatore in 1872,rosalia in 1877,and mattia in 1880.according to salvatore's birth record,francesco and maria were married.francesco made the presentation of the child. but according to rosalia's birth record,where francesco once again made the presentation, they were non coniugale-not married. at the birth of mattia a wetnurse made the presentation,maria bonarrigo was named as the mother,and francesco's whereabouts are noted as unknown.i searched barcellona pg as well as several surrounding comunes and found no marriage record for them. i checked all years from the mid 1860s right up to my grandmothers birth in 1883. it seems unlikely that a married woman with children would wetnurse other children,and i'm wondering if being a wetnurse made the probability of her being married unlikely,and the reason i can't find a marriage record for them. one simply doesn't exist. situations of ignoti genitori seem particularly prevalent in southern italy and sicily. is there anyoneone out there familiar with this problem? any insight would be most appreciated. thanks

erudita74
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby erudita74 » 19 Oct 2016, 05:42

Marital status had nothing to do with whether or not a woman could serve in the capacity of a wetnurse. What mattered was whether or not the woman could produce breast milk, as wetnursing involved an infant suckling at a woman's breast. Women served as wetnurses when bottle feeding methods were not yet available, pasteurization of cow's milk had not yet taken place, and lactating machines and milk banks were not yet in existence. In some countries, such as England, unmarried mothers provided the main supply of wetnurses. In others such as France, married woman were preferred, and unmarried ones were only used when married ones were not available. In Italy, we find that even married women with children served as wetnurses, especially poor women who would then receive a stipend from their towns for serving in this capacity. The main concern though for a married woman with children serving as a wetnurse was that she could possibly contract a disease such as Syphilis, if the infant placed in her care was later found to have this disease. She could then sexually transmit the disease to her husband, or transmit it through her breast milk to any of her own children whom she was still breastfeeding. It might take a month or more for the disease to manifest itself and be identified but, by then, irreversible harm had already been done to her and her family. You might want to read a book called Amalia's Tale by Prof David I. Kertzer.
Erudita

mezzogiorno62
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby mezzogiorno62 » 19 Oct 2016, 10:14

thanks. i actually read a book on this subject by david kertzer years back.it covered this tradition in europe with particular emphasis on italy. sacrificed for honor.

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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby erudita74 » 19 Oct 2016, 11:47

You're very welcome. Yes, Professor Kertzer has written a number of very well researched and compelling books about various subjects which are useful to the research of our Italian records. Certainly the subject of wetnursing was very much tied to the subject of infant abandonment in Italy. There were both internal and external wetnurses whose job it was to feed such infants.
Erudita

Jean Galata
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby Jean Galata » 20 Oct 2016, 08:16

I understand that sometimes a married woman whose baby died might be asked to wetnurse a foundling.

erudita74
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby erudita74 » 20 Oct 2016, 12:21

Jean Galata wrote:I understand that sometimes a married woman whose baby died might be asked to wetnurse a foundling.


Good point, Jean. There is actually so much more to the subject of wetnursing than what I originally stated.
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mezzogiorno62
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby mezzogiorno62 » 20 Oct 2016, 15:43

it seems that ignoti genitori was very prevalent in sicily in particular. my paternal grandfather was from luogosano avellino,near naples,and researching his lines i found no incidents of this-but in barcellona pg messina,the birthplace of my paternal grandmother,it was extremely common. this really hurts in the search of a straight family line and does a great disservice to the dignity of the child. social stigma and disgrace were the root of this unfortunately. but it kills the family lines. and its not like others didn't know who the real parents were. it was often common knowledge. but protecting the identity of the father and mother for whatever reasons was what mattered. truthfully,i don't think this issue is given enough attention in i\talian genealogical research.

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dmt1955
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Re: re: marital status of wetnurse in italy

Postby dmt1955 » 21 Oct 2016, 20:16

interesting discussion - great information. thanks!

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