Archive | March, 2011

New York City Marriott Marquis- April 8th

21 Mar

New York members of PCIR will be at the “Italian Weddings” table at the upcoming  Bridal Expo April 8th at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, along with Antonella and her crew from Venafro, Italy.  We look forward to collaborating with this new company in the coming year.  Their services will include arrangements for a wedding in Italy, and other event planning.  Pallante Center staff will be available on this day to discuss our own regular services.

NY Marriott Marquis , 1535 Broadway, 6th floor ballroom

LaRuota and Trovatelli

21 Mar

Many tracing their ancestry will come to the point where they cannot proceed because on a marriage or death record there are words such as “trovatello”, “proietto”, “esposito”, or “innocenti” ( meaning “foundling”). This refers to infants (orphans who aren’t really) who were ”found” at the regional ospezio (hospice), after being taken there by unwed mothers (willingly or not), or by a midwife, then given to other people, in another town. It started out centuries ago when in old Rome there was alarm at the number of dead infants found by fishermen in the Tiber River. It was first meant as an alternative to infanticide.

Somehow it later evolved into a forced system where all unwed mothers were required to give up babies (for no other reason than illigit), as a social institution got out of control. Forgetting the original reason to preserve life, hundreds of thousands died during transport, or from starvation at the foundling homes. Anonymously, babies were placed on “laRuota” (a wheel resembling a lazy susan) that turned to the inside of a local foundling home, where the baby was collected for processing at a larger regional home, and ultimately redistributed to another family. Here is one example that existed in Isernia (photos from the museum with permission).

Infants who made it alive to a foster family, usually remained in the same province.  Transported by wagon over land routes, they could only attempt to go so far. Typically, the infant would bear the surname of the town where they were born to the unwed mother. But you won’t be able to link to the family of origin, unless through a DNA study. Sometimes foundlings were sent a long distance by boat, such as from Sicily up to Genoa in the north. (However, Sicilian surnames near port cities on the mainland could also indicate people who fled Sicily during the 1837 cholera epidemic). If the latter, you’ll be able to trace the roots in Sicily. If a foundling, you’ll see one of the words that indicated this. Each regional government did their own thing when it comes to details of how the system functioned. If you have a foundling in your history, it could have happened centuries ago, or relatively recently. You will know when you can no longer trace the names of the next generation back and encounter one of these terms. (Note: “ignoti” could indicate something entirely different)

For more information on the foundling system, see David Kertzer’s book, Sacrificed for Honor. The system was widespread all over Italy. In the Molise Region, an example of a typical foundling wheel can be seen at the Museum of Isernia at

Pennsylvania Vitale Family – Montalbano Ionico, Argusto, Satriano…

1 Mar

The Vitale family moved around from 1700s  to 1900s.  James (Vincenzo) Vitale (b.1892 in Montalbano, Province Matera) moved to western Pennsylvania in 1910 — meeting half-brother, Gregorio Giorgio Vitale, who married in 1909 in Italy, but soon went off to find work in America.  Gregorio’s whereabouts after that is a mystery.  He may have died (he was much older than James).  James ended up living in Charleroi (Wash. Co., Pa) and then Ford City (Armstrong Co).  Their father was born in Argusto (Prov. Catanzaro) in 1851. He married second wife, Vittoria Ricciardi, in 1881 in her native village of Montalbano– according to tradition (wedding in the parish of the bride).  People in that area often chose marriage partners from outside their own village.  James and siblings were born in the mother’s village, but the half- brother was born in a different town, because his mother, Teresa Strano, was from another place.  When James went to America, his father was in Roggiano Gravina (CS).  Jame’s grandfather was born in Satriano (Prov. Catanzaro).  Each time a direct ancestor chose a marriage partner and raised children in a new place, there were also sideline relatives who remained in the original village.  The surname Vitale shows up today in various provinces. If you are seeking a Vitale from a particular village, those from other nearby towns should not be discounted as family, because they could well be related.   Many (not all) Vitales who exist in different villages  are related by blood–today spread throughout the Basilicata Region.  The link to the common ancestor could be in the 1800s or the 1700s or earlier.

To follow their trail, research must proceed backwards “from the known to the unknown” each step of the way in proper order.  From Jame’s death record in Penn.his date of birth and names of parents were learned;the ship record  mentioned his place of birth.  The birth certificate was then located in Italy, with his parent’s marriage in the same town.  This revealed year and place of birth for his father, providing names of the next generation back.  Proceeding to the other town, we found the marriage record of that next older generation.  One step at a time, a tree was built that included all siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles etc.  The Vitale tree now has over 1,200 people on it !  This includes the maternal lines of Vallone and Vecchio families of Argusto.  Pallante does a thorough job. 

But James Vitale who died in Ford City, Pa. left only daughters, and his surname did not carry on in the new country.  It remains unknown whether  Gregorio left sons in America.  The wife he left behind in Italy in 1909 died there “a widow” in 1931.  That village reports no children of Gregorio found, nor his death (1909-1931).  Jame’s family didn’t realize he had a brother, but would like to know what happened to him  after 1910.  A sponsor for a Pennsylvania research project is needed to solve this problem.   Also, many of the Vitale’s on our big tree in Italy who were sideline relatives of James  had descendants who also immigrated to America– to various cities. You may be wondering about the town of origin of your Vitale immigrant. Chances are the Pallante Center would only need to do a short project to connect your Vitale immigrant to the tree that is already built.

Biccari (Province Foggia) Italy

1 Mar

Many surnames in Biccari have roots that extend into the 1500s in that town. Luckily, church records do exist, so that extensive genealogical research is possible.  Civil records are available for 1809-1829.  The 1746 census of Biccari (Catasto Onciario) survives at the regional archives in Naples, Italy.  The Pallante Center can arrange for this to be searched.  It will show the head of the family, his age and occupation, his wife’s name and age, list of children’s names and ages, and also will indicate other household members, such as a parent  (with a mother’s maiden surname and notation if she is a widow), and also if a sibling of the head of the family is living in the same household.  It can help you see the big picture in the mid 1700s and how many families with your surname existed then.  Surname spellings may have changed as people emigrated out to various new lands.  It is important to consider alternate spellings when researching ship records, census and other records outside of Italy.  Often if the immigrant was not literate, they just kept the spelling as it was written for them in the new location.  Sometimes they went with a new spelling on purpose because they thought it would help them fit in better in their new homeland.  The Pallante Center has put together many Biccari family trees.  We are currently working on the Basile family, who immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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