Italy to US Immigrants Changing Last Name with Gender?

Over 25 million Italians have emigrated between 1861 and 1960 with a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13,5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations.
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Italy to US Immigrants Changing Last Name with Gender?

Post by matta » 05 Sep 2008, 01:42

Hello all. I've come across an interesting issue in my family, and I wonder how common it is:

It's very common for Greeks and other Eastern Europeans to have different last names depending on gender. However, I've never heard of Italians doing this until I started researching my family.

I have three separate families that all immigrated in the 1900 - 1910 time frame that all changed their surname from ending in an "i" to ending in either an "o" or an "a" depending on the gender of the person. So you'd have a situation where a Silvestri would change their names to Silvestro and Silvestra. Then when the male Silvestro child married, his wife would take the name Silvestra. This creates all kinds of documentation issues, as you would imagine.

At first, I assumed they were possibly ethnically Greek, but as I mentioned, this happened with 3 different families, from 3 different provinces, and only occurred after they immigrated to South Philadelphia. The changes started appearing between 1910 and 1920. All families were at least 2nd generation Italian (that's as far as I can get in birth records) before immigrating to the US.

Anyone else run into this? Any thoughts on how frequently or why it occurs? Are my ancestors some sort of anomaly?


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