As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
I am researching one line of my family that came to the US from Italy much, much earlier than all the rest, and indeed earlier than most Italian immigrants - the 1840's- when all of 7,000 Italians immigrated to this country. My direct line ancestor came in 1896, but as I've dug deeper, I have discovered at least one brother of hers and potentially several uncles and an aunt who came over 50 years before.
One way I've been able to link all these folks is the common reporting on some of their census docs and NYC death certs that while they come from Italy, their own parents are Spanish and sometimes English. This was also part of my family lore - that an English sailor met an Italian woman and italicized his name from Thomas to Tomaselli.
I've gotten some vital records back from Palermo, Sicily where this family originates. The father of my direct line ancestor was born in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto. I've ordered the census records from the FHC (the civil records don't go back any further) for BPG but I'm wondering about how an impression was created in this family that they are of Spanish descent. Could the hometown of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto have been confused by these folks, given the time and distance that eventually separated them from Sicily, with Barcelona, Spain? Perhaps BPG had a sense of a Spanish colony, since it was in fact founded by the Spanish in the late 1500s and that folks may have identified with Spain? Another theory - in the 1840's there was no "Italy." There was the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies or the Kingdom of Naples back in the early 1800s when many of these folks were born. Although Spain no longer ruled at this time, perhaps there was an identification with Spain, particularly in reaction to Austrian rule?
I'm also fascinated in how they were able to come over so early - could they have had a leg up in that they were English-speakers. I've noted the repeated reference to English parentage in some of their census docs. And in almost every case, those Tomaselli's who arrived in the 1840's married English speakers. They did not return to Sicily to marry, nor did they seek others of Italian descent to marry, nor did they settle in close proximity to other Italians. In fact, these relatives of my direct line ancestor include at least one person who fought in the US civil war.
One other interesting tidbit - the brother of my direct line ancestor made the front page of the NY Tribune in 1869 due to a dispute he had with a Spanish military man and journalist. The latter published a pro-Spain newspaper in NYC during the war of Cuban independence and my ancestor put a cariacature of him on the wall with insults written all over it. The journalist attacked my ancestor. And they ended up in court. The story likely made the front page due to the fact that the war in Cuba had just started and was itself front-page news. But it's interesting how he harbored anti-Spanish - or at least pro-Cuban views.
I'm really fascinated by this line in my family and plan to dig deeper. If anyone has any insight into Italian immigration during this early period and/or insight into how national identity was constructed among Sicilians during this period, I'd love to hear.
My great-grandparents were from Barcellona P.G., and my GGF returned to the town, after my GGM died, to get a new wife. His 2nd wife, from Barcellona, was named Maria Fernandez. Perhaps there was a Spanish community in that city, although I have no evidence, other than her name, that my GGF's 2nd wife was of Spanish descent.
The microfilm I ordered from the FHC just came in - it is the 1811 census for BPG. Hopefully this can shed some light. Let me know if there are any surnames you're interested in - I can keep an eye out for them when I review the film.
BTW, the FHC collection also includes two different BPG censuses taken in the 1600's. I haven't ordered these yet - wanted to see what the 1811 census yielded, but what a potential treasure trove!
Well, you can look for Calabro', Alosi, or Cutropia. But Calabro was probably one of the most common surnames in the town, with hundreds of residents. In fact, the only place with more Calabro's (that's an accent, not an apostrophe) is the city of Messina. Alosi is also a common name there, with more than 100 residents currently. And the first names wouldn't be that helpful for identification either since they are so common in that area: Antonino, Giovanni, Francesco, Francesca, Antonina, Carmela, etc.
I had ordered some microfilms of birth and marriage records for BPG for the late 1800s/early 1900s, but I haven't had a chance to go through them all at my local FHC. It might be a while before I can take off from work again to do so, and by then they may no longer have them, but if I can still view them, are there any surnames that you'd be interested in, in addition to Tomaselli?
Hello! If you have the time and can take a look---I found out that my Great Great Grandmother and her parents were (possibly) from BPG! We thought they were from Novara di Sicilia. The names I'm looking for are Rosalia Di Salvo--her birth date is February 6, 1834 and her parents names were Antonino Di Salvo and Domenica Campo! Anything you find would be helpful! Grazie!
I'd be happy to look for you both. The film I ordered is an index of the 1811 census, so I will scan the pages w/those last names and send as an attachment in a pm, and leave it to you guys to interpret and do follow-up. The LDS does have the census records themselves on microfilm, so if you strike gold with the index, you could order those for more detail.
I have a feeling that the index will be quite short: The census is of Pozzo di Gotto before it merged w/Barcellona. (The LDS did microfilm Barcellona censuses, but they are 17th century censuses, which at this point in my research will not be useful, and there does not appear to be a separate index.)
The 1811 PG index could, for all of us I suppose, answer the question as to whether our folks were from Barcellona or PG before the two towns merged.
I plan to go later this week. I'll let you know....
carubia wrote:It might be a while before I can take off from work again to do so, and by then they may no longer have them, but if I can still view them, are there any surnames that you'd be interested in, in addition to Tomaselli?
Thanks, yes. Lauro and Nocilla. Re: the latter, I note that Nocilla is the Spanish Nutella.
I'm back from the FHC. I found several Cutropia's and a single Calabro in the index of the 1811 Pozzo di Gotto census. No Alosi's. I also found two Di Salvo's. I can't figure out how to attach the scans to the pm, so pm me with your email addresses and I'll send them.
BTW, not a single Tomaselli, Nocilla or Lauro in the Pozzo di Gotto census. Perhaps my people were from Barcellona. I did find a ton of Tomaselli's in Pedara, which was on the same microfilm. Pedara's outside of Catania - not really near BPG, though.
I think I will have to get the 1681 census for BPG and see if they show up there.