52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Custode Iacobucci George

I continued to be surprised at how many people are into genealogy and the number of creative and informative blogs available for people trying to capture their family history.  This post is in response to an idea posted on a blog entitled “No Story Too Small” that encourages other bloggers to post a story each week about an ancestor. In my case it might only be 37 ancestors since I’m not starting until April 21st but that’s still a good start.

Custode Iacobucci, my husband’s great grandmother, seems like a good person to start with. She was born in Italy on May 27, 1880 and immigrated to western Pennsylvania in 1886 or 1887. She lived in Pittsburgh with a guardian named Vincenzo Iacobucci, but exactly what relation she was to him is unclear. He signed the consent to marriage form when she married Adriano Giorgio on February 14, 1899 and identified her as his ward. My guess is that he was her uncle or older brother.

Wedding Photo 1899

Wedding Photo 1899

Sometime before December 1901, Custode and Adrian moved to Dunbar PA with their young son Frederick William George, where their second son, Luigino Anthony George, “Gene” was born on December 19, 1901. They had six more children and all but one of them, Lucia Lydia, lived to adulthood. Lydia died of scarlet fever in 1916 when she was 7 years old and is buried in the St. Aloysius church cemetery in Dunbar.

After the 1910 US Census when Adrian was listed as head of household in Dunbar with Custode, their children and Custode’s sister Rose Buzzella, Adrian, who sometimes went by Andy, disappeared. Custode George shows up in Dunbar in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 US Census reports but Adrian is not on the list. To make it more complicated, in the 1920 and 1940 Census Reports, Custode is identified as widowed, but in the 1930 census she is listed as married.

In May 2013, my husband found a third cousin when he had his DNA tested (her great grandfather was Adrian’s brother, Pasquale). We visited her in July 2013 and met other relatives, including one of Custode’s granddaughters who remembers visiting her in Dunbar although she knew her as Christine. We knew we were on the right track but there were still so many mysteries.

The last stop on our week-long ancestry trip to western PA was the courthouse in Uniontown, county seat for Fayette County, the county where Dunbar is located. Since two of Custode’s and Adrian’s daughters lived to adulthood and married, we were able to find their marriage licenses and that was how we finally discovered Custode’s maiden name – Iacobucci. All references to Custode before these used the last name of George. We also found Custode’s will, which provided information about the property she owned and the names of her children. The will was made in 1966, just one year before she died.

Perhaps the most interesting find was the record of a 1912 lawsuit that Custode brought against Adrian in an effort to keep their house after he abandoned her. Adrian and Custode ran a grocery/general store in Dunbar. They also owned property, one piece in her name, one piece in his name and one piece in both their names. According to Custode’s testimony, in February 1912 Adrian forced her to sign over her interest in the properties to him so that he was the sole owner. He threatened to kill her if she refused. In May 1912, Adrian left Dunbar and went to New Castle, PA where his brother Pasquale lived. The court in New Castle entered a judgment note in favor of Pasquale to collect $3,000 that Adrian “owed” him. (Coincidentally the value of the three properties just happened to be $3,000.) The court issued an order to the sheriff in Fayette County to force the sale of Adrian’s properties to satisfy the note. This would have forced Custode and her children out of their home but Custode brought a law suit to stop the forced sale. She claimed the note that Adrian issued Pasquale was fraudulent. Although she lost the case on a technical point (the court in one county doesn’t have the right to second guess another court’s decision) she got some help from an unexpected source when Adrian filed for bankruptcy.

In the bankruptcy action, Adrian’s creditors tried to foreclose on the properties he owned in Dunbar. Since this action was in the county where Custode lived she was finally able to have her day in court and got to keep two of the three properties. As far as the records go, Adrian never returned to Dunbar. Family stories suggest that he may have gone to Argentina and started a new family there. Other accounts indicate that he returned to Italy and died there around 1950. Custode stayed in Dunbar and provides a good example of what one determined woman can accomplish when she’s willing to fight for what is rightfully hers.

Proof Positive!

As college acceptance time winds down, I’m sure there are still a few people waiting to see if their envelope is thick or thin. I was happy to get a THICK envelope yesterday from the Department of Court Records Allegheny County, Pittsburgh PA.  About a week ago I submitted an online search request for Adrian’s and Custode’s marriage license. Yesterday it arrived.

No matter how many times I find confirmation of birth dates, marriage dates or other personal details about someone there’s nothing quite like seeing the original document that provides the proof (or in this case a copy of it).  Seeing Custode’s and Adrian’s handwriting somehow makes them more real to me.  And of course there are always a few tidbits of new information in such documents.

First of all – Custode has beautiful handwriting – although the “I” in Iacobucci looks more like a “G” so the name looks like “Gacobucci.”  Adrian’s writing looks a bit more practiced, but is also very clear and legible.  Adrian’s name on the marriage license is spelled “Adriano Giorgio.”  He lists his occupation as laborer and he notes that his earlier marriage (no names given) was dissolved by death. Their address is listed as 37 Washington Street, Pittsburgh, PA.

The license also provides birth dates for Adrian and Custode.  True – this is their report of their birth dates so not as good as the original birth record from Italy would be but good enough for our purposes.  Adrian was born on 27 December 1872 and Custode was born on 27 May 1881. So when they married, Adrian was 26 and Custode was 17.  Interestingly, Custode died on 27 December 1967. I wonder if she was thinking of Adrian on her death bed?

Included with the record was a document entitled “Consent to the Marriage of a Child or Ward” and it was signed by Vincenzo Iacobucci. The relationship between Custode and Vincenzo is not stated but he was probably her brother or uncle because he is identified as her guardian and she as his ward. Later marriage licenses provided more details including the maiden names of the bride’s and groom’s mothers, but in 1899 the form was not so detailed.

St. Peter's Church, Pittsburgh, PA

St. Peter’s Church, Pittsburgh, PA

And finally, as we prepare to celebrate Easter, it is fitting that the last document in the file is the certificate signed by the priest who performed their marriage ceremony on February 14, 1899 at St. Peter’s Church in Pittsburgh. His handwriting is a bit hard to read but I think it is Rev Tittus Lagosia or Lagoria.

So there we have it – not that we had much doubt. Proof positive that Adriano Giorgio and Custode Iacobucci began their married life in Pittsburgh PA on February 14, 1899.

 

Custode Iacobucci George

One “truth” about ancestry research is that it’s easy to get pulled in a lot of different directions and hard to stay focused on one ancestor’s story. A key purpose of the blog format, other than to encourage regular writing, is to get family stories and accumulated research on paper – or whatever equates to paper in today’s online world.

Research is important to make sure you’re telling YOUR family story and not somebody else’s but without compelling details our ancestors tend to be just another name on a page. When there’s a bit of intrigue (and I haven’t met a family yet who doesn’t have some) so much the better. So with that in mind, let’s find out about Custode Iacobucci George.

Rick found Custode’s name on the WWI draft registration card of Frederick William George, her first son and Rick’s grandfather. The card was dated September 1917 and listed Custode George at 128 Connellsville Street, Dunbar, PA as Fred’s nearest relative. With that information it was easy to find Custode George in the US Census records for 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940. It helps that she stayed put and that she had a distinctive first name (even though she was sometimes identified as Christine).

From the census reports we know that Custode was born in Italy around 1880 and immigrated to the US in 1897. We later confirmed her birthdate as 27 May 1880 from other sources.We don’t know where in Italy she was from but we’re guessing Castel di Sangro. We don’t know her parents’ names but we know she had an older sister named Rose/Rosie Buzzella. Rose was already a widow in 1910 and lived with Adrian and Custode in Dunbar. It is unclear how long Rose lived with Custode or how close they were to each other. Custode’s grandchildren remember Rose as being happy – “she was always smiling even though she only had two teeth – one on the top and one on the bottom.”

Custode’s early life will remain a mystery for now but we do know she married Adriano George on February 13, 1899 in Pittsburgh, PA. She was busy having children from about 1899 to 1912 and according to her testimony in the 1912 lawsuit – she and Adrian had eight children. One daughter – Lucia Lydia – died in 1916 at age seven and is buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Dunbar.

In addition to taking care of her children, Custode helped Adrian in their store in Dunbar up until 1912 when Adrian left town and declared bankruptcy. If you’ve been to Dunbar lately, it might be hard to believe that in the early 1900’s it was a thriving town. There were several hotels and the railroad and coke furnaces provided work for the burgeoning immigrant community.

In every Census report after 1910, when she was listed as Adrian’s wife, Custode is listed as the head of household. She owned the house she lived in, which ranged in value from $2,500 in 1930 to $800 in 1940. When Rick and I visited Dunbar in the summer of 2013, we took pictures of the house and I’ll try to post them in a future post. Custode never listed her occupation or income in any of the Census reports. It is possible that her children supported her. Her second oldest son Gene lived with her until the late 1930s and I understand her daughters Philomena and Lena also lived nearby.

jimmyversace-2-4-1931-courier-p-1

An interesting article appeared in the February 4, 1931 Connellsville Daily Courier. It suggests there may have been another man in Custode’s life after Adriano’s departure in 1912.  The article announces funeral services for V “Jimmy” Versace, a section foreman on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad who was killed when struck by passenger train number 69. From the 1930 Census report we know that the V stands for Vincenzo. The connection to Custode appears in the last paragraph:

“The body was taken from the J.E. Sims funeral home to the residence of Mrs. Custode George, in Dunbar, where Mr. Versace had made his home for 18 years.”

Sounds like Jimmy Versace made his home at the residence of Custode George for the 18 years prior to his death in 1931. Don’t rush for your calculators – it would mean he began living there in 1913 – the year after Adrian left town. Perhaps he was a boarder and that might give a clue as to how Custode continued to support her family before her sons were old enough to work. It was very common for immigrants to take in boarders, especially more recent immigrants from their country.

Whether or not there was anything going on between Custode and Vincenzo,  claiming a dead body is an extremely intimate act, so I’m inclined to believe that Custode and Jimmy were more than neighbors. I also know from other Census reports that he had a brother living in Dunbar so it’s not as if Custode was the only one who could do it. His brother was the administrator of Jimmy’s estate so on another trip to Uniontown, I need to check that estate file.

Where’d They Go Wednesday -Adriano Giorgio

I’ve noticed other blogs have a theme for their posts that provide structure for both the writer and the reader. At the risk of being a bit too cute, I’m going to give it try. So Wednesday’s theme is — Where’d They Go?

It is fitting that the first mystery involves Adriano Giorgio (1871 – ?). We don’t know when he died because after showing up in the 1910 Census in Dunbar, Pennsylvania, he never appears on any subsequent US Census Reports. This would suggest he was no longer living in the US and left some time between 1912 and 1920.

Here’s what we know about Adrian:
1. He has brothers who came to the US in the late 1800s. Ciro came before him or with him and some came after him. The ones we know include Ciro (1865-1926), Pasquale (1878-1958), Romulado (1881 – 1941). They all lived in and around New Castle, Lawrence County, PA although Adriano spent time in Dunbar, PA, which is southeast of Pittsburgh in Fayette County.

2. His first wife, Marianna Frattura, died a week after giving birth to their only child, Nicola Giorgio, in Castel di Sangro, Italy in the fall of 1896. Sometime between fall of 1896 and February 1899 Adriano came to the US and met and married Custode Iacobucci. They ran a grocery store and owned property in Dunbar, PA. What we don’t know is whether or not Adriano and Custode knew each other in Italy or met after they arrived in western PA.

3. In May 1912 he left Dunbar, abandoning Custode and their 8 children. There is no evidence to suggest that he ever returned. This information (the date and the number of children) comes from Custode’s affidavit in a 1912 lawsuit that she brought to avoid being evicted from the home that she and the children lived in.

4. There is some suggestion (both from the lawsuit and from what living relatives remember) that Adriano went to South America when he left Dunbar in 1912.

5. He probably died in Italy sometime in the early 1950s. This is based on Irene Veri’s recollection that her father (Nick George) was going to take her to Italy to meet her grandfather Adrian when she was about 15 years old. They never made the trip because they got word that Adrian had died.

That’s what we know – so where did he go? Please, please, please – if you have any information, ideas, stories or things you even vaguely remember hearing, make a comment to this post in the box below marked – Leave a Reply. Since I think there is a pretty big Giorgio famiglia out there, please let me know if you think you are related to Adriano and share whatever information you have about him.