I’ve mentioned that one of my favorite parts of genealogy research is finding odd similarities. Sometimes the similarity is between an ancestor and someone alive today. Sometimes, like today, it is a sad coincidence from 1916-1917 when two little girls died within a year of each other – one just a few months shy of her seventh birthday the other almost 7 ½. The mystery is – how were they related?
Lydia Lucia (known as Lucy) was born to Adriano Giorgio and Custode Iacobucci in Dunbar PA in December 1909 and died on September 17, 1916 of scarlet fever. About a year later, on August 13, 1917, Virginia Iacobucci, daughter of Joseph Iacobucci and Marianne Giampaolo, who had just turned seven that March, died of rheumatic heart disease. If Custode and Joseph were siblings, these two young girls would have been cousins.
Lucy has been described as having red hair and green eyes and her death was a sad event that made enough of an impression on her older brother Joseph that he mentioned her to his children. He described her as having red hair and green eyes and some accounts of Adriano describe those same features. Others report he had dark eyes and dark hair and so did Custode. But some grandchildren of Custode think she had dark hair but blue eyes. It may be impossible to reconcile these different recollections, which may be based on what someone remembers themselves, or what they remember being told by their parents. None of the Giorgio cousins I’ve talked to could have known Lucy since she died in 1916.
Virginia Iacobucci has a different story and may have gone “unnoticed” if it weren’t for a casual mention of the death of Virginia Iacobucci in the index for the New Castle News. The date of the death announcement was August 13, 1917. I was confused, because Irene Veri had given me the rundown on the children born to Joseph Iacobucci and Marianne Giampaolo (Irene’s aunt) and told me that their daughter Virginia entered a convent. If you don’t know Irene you might think she was confused about which daughter entered a convent but I know that Irene has an amazing memory so I dug a little deeper. (Every genealogist should be so lucky to have an Irene in their family.)
The 1930 census for New Castle, PA shows that Joseph and Marianne Iacobucci have a 10 year old daughter named Virginia, which means she would have been born in 1920. Hmmm. . . a Virginia Iacobucci died in 1917 and another was born in 1920 to the same parents? Yep – not that uncommon. Remember the three Romeos from last week? Romeo, Romeo, Romeo There was a tendency for families to give subsequent children the same name as a child who died. But it can create a lot of confusion when you’re researching them later and may be what account for dates being off on some Ancestry.com trees.
Fortunately, the New Castle News is digitized and searchable on Ancestry.com. Even though not every name shows up (i.e. a search for Virginia Iacobucci turned up 0 results) if you have the date and page reference for a marriage or death announcement, you can browse that issue of the paper (scanning page by page) and sometimes find what you’re looking for. (I’m still learning how to imbed a screen shot but if you look in the upper left hand corner of the picture below (in the black strip just below the “back” arrow) you will see the date of the newspaper – August 13, 1917.
Often, but not always, you can find the death certificate
So that’s how we know that two 7 year old girls died within a year of each other of similar, but not identical, diseases. It turns out that rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that may develop after an infection with group A Streptococcus bacteria (such as strep throat or scarlet fever). The disease can affect the heart, joints, skin, and brain. Even though scarlet fever and rheumatic heart disease are not the same disease, they can be caused by the same organism. Almost unheard of nowadays with antibiotics, these were common causes of death for our ancestors’ children.
And now for the mystery – how were Lucy and Virginia related?
If Custode Iacobucci was Joseph Iacobucci’s sister (pure speculation on my part) they would have been cousins. I have yet to confirm that relationship. Nonetheless, it is likely the families knew each other even though Lucy lived in Dunbar PA and Virginia lived in New Castle PA – 100 miles away. They may have even played together at Nick George and Mary Giampaolo’s wedding in October 2015, if weddings in 1915 were as widely attended as they are nowadays.
And here’s why – Mary Giampaolo, Nick’s wife, had two older sisters, both born in Italy though she was born in New Castle, PA, much later in her parents’ marriage. The sister closest to her in age was Marianne or Anna Giampaolo who was 19 when Mary was born in 1899. By the time Mary was born, Marianne had been married to Joseph Iacobucci for about four years. Their daughter Virginia #1 was born in 1910. It seems likely that as a 5 year old, she would have attended wedding festivities for her Aunt Mary, especially since she lived in New Castle and Nick and Mary were married in New Castle. Be sure to check back tomorrow because I am going to use Nick and Mary’s wedding picture for my Friday Foto Feature.
The question is whether Custode and any of her children would have attended the wedding. By October 1915, Adriano had been gone about 3 ½ years. The groom Nick was not Custode’s son, but we know that he remained close to his “half” siblings who were born to his father and Custode. We also know that Nick’s children knew Custode as Grandma Christine so there was some remaining connection despite Adriano’s departure. It seems likely that some of Nick’s half brothers (Fred and Gene were 16 and almost 15 at the time Nick married) would have attended his wedding. If Joseph Iacobucci were Custode’s brother, it’s possible that she would have enjoyed the occasion of a wedding to visit with him.
So how would a mother and eight children go to a wedding 100 miles away in 1915? Even if she had a mini-van they wouldn’t all fit! They probably would have gone by train but alas, something we’ll never know for sure. (Makes you want to write down the names of everyone who attended your wedding – for posterity’s sake! A yet unborn descendant of yours might be trying to figure this out in about 100 years – so make it easy for them!)
So that is today’s mystery – not so much a “where did they go” but “who did they know.”