My name is Michael and my last name is "Van Degna". I was curious to find out more about my family and our name. My Grandfather said that our ancestors were from Potenza. However, me (I'm 15), my sister, and my mom and dad live in South Florida. My Grandfather and grandmother live in North Florida.
My father said our last name meant "keeper of the grapes".
My guess would be that the other forms of our names probably mean the same thing. Hey, we could all be distant cousins or something, you never know!
Hey Family! Checking in here after a few years away. Peter, I believe the issue with my great grandfather was that he couldn't AFFORD to buy grapes, not that they weren't available. Story goes that my grandfather used his first paycheck to buy him some.
My family is chock full of Raphaeles, (Ralph), Josephs, Rocco's, Michael's and James'. The pattern was that the oldest son was named after his grandfather, a pattern that continued until my Mom refused to have a son named Rocco. I believe there was some falling out with my great grandfather (Guiseppe) and his brothers, the details have been lost to the ages. I know that when he and his wife came over they lived with his brother Raphael. My grandfather grew up in Fredonia, then relocated to Chicago where he met my grandmother.
My favorite family story that I've only heard third hand from my dad is that his great grandmother was quite infamous. Apparently she was a very attractive widow. A postman, in Potenza, made a pass at her and she retaliated by stabbing him. Not clear whether he was killed. She was deported to Argentina, where apparently some Vendegnas had moved. While there, she stabbed another man for making a pass, and since she was not a citizen of Argentina she was deported to the US. There she met and married a man whose last name was Claps or Clapps. She was stepmother to his children, not sure if she had any more with him. She eventually moved in with her son, my Dad's grandfather. All my dad has as first hand experience of her is an elderly lady who never spoke and whenever he asked about her, people would make the sign of the cross and bite their hand.