Custode’s Story

We’re less than 48 hours away from the start of the Family History Writing Challenge, which is sponscustodeiacobuccigeorge-youngored by Lynn Palermo, the Armchair Genealogist. Check out her blog here.

I’ve set up a gmail account ( that is devoted to gathering stories and pictures about Custode. If you are one of her descendants (whether lineal or by marriage)  and I have your email address, you should have gotten an email from me earlier today. If you didn’t and you want to be in the loop, please send me an email.

I’ve gathered quite a few “Custode Stories” since the search began in 2013, but I am sure there must be more. My objective is to bring Custode to life by combining the stories that many of her grandchildren have shared with me with the facts about her life that my genealogy research has revealed.

There will undoubtedly be gaps so I will do my best to weave the “unknowns” into the story in a way that doesn’t break the flow. But I want to be careful not to make up a story that isn’t supported by your personal recollections and the facts. This will be my third year “participating” in the Family History Writing Challenge but the first year I’m serious about completing it.

I’ve mapped out my strategy for getting Custode’s story written in four weeks. The main thing I haven’t nailed down is when I’m going to write it (meaning what time each day) but I think it will have to be when I get home from work in the evening and first thing in the morning on the weekends. I’ll probably devote at least an hour on Saturdays and Sundays but only 30 minutes on weekdays.

Defining a time and place to write and setting a goal (whether by word count or time spent writing) are important to achieving success. But as I’ve said before, disciplined – I am not. I will keep up with the daily emails designed to support and encourage participants. I suspect that as I get into the writing process questions will pop up so I hope those of you reading this blog will be able to provide some answers.

If I can figure out how to do it, I’m going to create a dedicated space on the front page of this blog (Custode’s Corner) where I’ll post these questions. Please don’t be shy about sending a response. If the process of commenting on the blog is difficult you can always email me directly at: Email may be easier if you have a lot say and I hope you do!







Thursday Tidbit – Pennsylvania Marriage Records

Today’s tidbit comes from a genealogy site that I follow by email – by Randy Seaver. Randy’s site has a lot of practical advice and its often the first place I learn about new records. I’m always happy when records are digitized and come on-line but even more so when the new source might have information about my family.

 The new collection doesn’t contain marriage records from all of the counties in Pennsylvania. Notably absent are ones for  Lawrence and Fayette county, where most of the Georges and Iacobuccis would have married (unless they eloped to West Virginia!)

There are records for Philadelphia. I remembered that Pasquale George and his second wife, Filomena Ranieri arrived in Philadelphia in August 1914. The ship’s log indicates they were married and I always assumed they got married in Italy. But a quick search of the new database reveals that they also got married in Philadelphia on August 22, 1914. 


There are quite a few nuggets of information in this affidavit for a marriage license.  

1.      Confirmation that Pasquale’s first marriage ended with the death of his wife, in New Castle, one year prior to this marriage. His first wife was Concetta Iavicola. She actually died on January 12, 1914, from complications of childbirth and her daughter was stillborn.

2.      Confirmation of Pasquale’s birth date as 20 May 1877. This is consistent with most other sources for his birth date.

3.      Confirmation of Pasquale’s parent’s names: Nicola Giorgio and Filomena Pace.

4.      New information that Pasquale’s mother was dead in 1914 but his father was still alive and working as a laborer in Italy. This will make it easier to find information on Filomena Pace in Italian records because we now know she died before 1914.

5.      Confirmation that this was Filomena Ranieri’s first marriage.

6.      New information that Filomena Ranieri’s birth date is 30 September1890, which makes her 13 years younger than Pasquale. Not that unusual for many of the marriages I’ve seen, which makes the 9 year difference between Adriano and Custode seem small by comparison.

7.      New information that her mother’s maiden name was Di Sandra, her father’s first name is Nicola and her father was a stone mason in Italy.

8.      New information that Filomena’s residence was a detention house. WHAT? 

I’m not sure what that means exactly but now I have a new mystery to solve. Maybe this means she was temporarily detained by immigration when she arrived in Philadelphia, possibly for a day or two if there was any sign of illness.  

Or does it mean that she was in a detention house before she left Italy? And what exactly is a detention house? A quick google search for “detention houses early 1900s Italy” didn’t yield any useful results.

 My next step might be to look at some other immigrants’ marriage license affidavits to see how often detention house is listed as someone’s residence. Or to Google – Philadelphia – Detention House 1914.

Thursday Tidbit – Prayers for Italy

I hope by the time Rick and I visit Abruzzo, Italy (it will be many years before we can do that) there will be anything left. I was checking the internet this morning to see where last year’s earthquakes were (Amatrice) and the search revealed the account of new quakes – four in four hours – that hit Abruzzo yesterday. As if magnitude 5 and higher earth quakes weren’t bad enough, there has been a lot of snow so the quakes set off an avalanche that hit a hotel in Pescara. We probably won’t visit in winter but I bet the Apennines are beautiful with all the snow.

In preparation for February’s family history writing month, I was studying a map of Italy to see where Abbateggio is located. There’s a family tree on with a Iacobucci family from Abbateggio. There is no obvious connection to our Iacobucci family tree from the other but I thought if the towns were close it would strengthen the likelihood there might be one.


The two towns are not as close as I would have hoped in order to make a connection between the two Iacobucci families but it is interesting that the route from Chieti (where Adriano Giorgio was from) passes through Abbateggio to get to Castel di Sangro.

The Iacobucci family on the other family tree had a Valentio Iacobucci (1805-1870) and his wife Agata DiDomenico (1825-?). Their youngest son Carmine Giuseppe Iacobucci had a son – Nicola Iacobucci (1886-1935) who immigrated to America in 1910 and settled in Canton Ohio. Interesting variation on the name, his sons were named Buch.

I see a bright shiny object about to take me on another hunt. My hunch is that these could be distant cousins of our Iacobuccis but the names are rather different so that might suggest a more distant connection. I will probably contact the person who “owns” the other family tree to see if she or anyone in her family has had a DNA test then see if they are a match to Rick.





John Duggan, Jr. – A Bright Shiny Object

Bright Shiny Object is a genealogy term that is sometimes referred to by its initials – BSO. A bright shiny object is something that distracts your attention from your original research objective. 

Bright shiny objects are responsible for countless “wasted” hours of research time. Bright shiny objects rarely leave you feeling satisfied, despite their initial allure. Bright shiny objects are very hard to resist. I LOVE bright shiny objects! 

There are times when I find good information by chasing a BSO. And let’s face it – the internet makes it almost impossible to avoid the distractions of them. So in response to Lanie’s comment yesterday about John Duggan, Jr., I wanted to know more about him.

 Technically my search for information about John Duggan, Jr. is not a BSO because he was the object of today’s research session.  But if I go down too many paths to explore details of his children’s lives (he had 7) or to learn more about the Italian family that lived around the corner from him in 1920 (Vona and Mary Domanic and their four children), those would be BSOs.  But I do find it interesting that Vona Domanic was a shoemaker who owned his own shoe shop and immigrated in 1902 followed by his wife and daughter Rose in 1912.

So here’s what I know about John Duggan, Jr. the attorney who successfully represented Custode in a case that started in 1912 and didn’t end until 1915 – talk about tenacious! He was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1884 and died in Connellsville on February 20, 1957. His father was born in England and his mother was born in Maryland. He attended Georgetown University in Washington DC and got his law degree there in 1907. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1909 so he’d only been in practice three years when he took Custode’s case.

But even better than what I found on is this picture and information from the book entitled The Book of Prominent Pennsylvanians – A Standard Reference, published in Pittsburgh, PA in 1913 by Leader Publishing Co.john-duggan-jr-1913-book-of-prominent-pennsyvanians-1-18-2017

So to echo Lainie’s sentiment – it’s never too late to say “thank-you” to John Duggan, Jr. and his descendants. My guess would be that Custode had some money to pay him but the case also created an interesting legal question, which may have influenced his decision to take it.Whatever the reason, I’m sure glad John Duggan took the case.



The Path That Led Us to Custode

It’s time for me to set the record straight. It is true that I currently spend more time than Rick does researching the George family. But it is also true that Rick is responsible for getting us on the path to finding his family.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile you know that when Rick got a DNA test in April 2013, he found a match who turned out to be Terry Colaluca who we met in July 2013. Terry’s great grandfather was Pasquale George, Adrian’s brother.

But before that, when Rick was researching his father’s name in hopes of finding his grandfather, he came across this draft card from 1917 on

The card is really cool because:

  1. It has Fred George’s signature, which is VERY neat. Someone made sure he had good handwriting – hmmm… wonder who?
  2. It tells us that on September 12, 1918, Fred George was a clerk at P.R. Rys Co. (a drug store maybe) in Dunbar, Pennsylvania.
  3. It tells us that at age 18, Fred was short and slender with brown eyes and dark hair.
  4. It tells us that a woman named Custode George, who has the same address as Fred, is someone who will always know his whereabouts.

And that’s how Rick discovered that his great grandmother’s name was Custode George. (Finding her maiden name is another story but I’ll save that for another post.)

The discovery of her name (thank goodness her first name was unusual) led him to a google search for “Custode George,” which led him to this result which is from a 1912 lawsuit. He found it on Google Books.



This image is really sad, because the court goes on to rule against Custode on the grounds that the court in one county can’t overturn the decision of a court in another county. It seems that “Andy” and his brother Pasquala George, were in cahoots to find a way to deprive Custode (AND HER 8 CHILDREN!) of the house they lived in.

Okay, I get it, “Andy” may have been trying to escape the Black Hand (one version of why he left Dunbar) but he obviously took time to go to New Castle and give his brother a promissory note for $3,000 before he skedaddled. I may be reading between the lines but it seems that he really had it in for Custode and didn’t care too much about his own children who would suffer the consequences.

But of course, the REST of the story is that Custode did not take one adverse ruling against her as an answer. She pursued legal action for at least two years and in the end she got to keep two of three properties.

When Rick and I stopped by the courthouse in Uniontown on our way out of Pennsylvania last July, we didn’t have long enough to study things thoroughly, but in the deed books it seems that Custode may have owned several more pieces of property than the two that were the subject of this lawsuit. We definitely need to plan another trip for some more research.

How can you not be totally impressed with Custode Iacobucci George?

A young Italian immigrant woman who had been abandoned by her husband had the wherewithal to fight against what she knew was wrong and to keep fighting until she prevailed. This was before women could even VOTE in this country! After less than 10 years in America she owned property in her own name! And even though her husband forced her to sign it over to him, she fought and got it back.

That is ONE AMAZING woman who leaves so many of us (probably more than she ever knew) forever indebted to her.


So let’s not forget to thank Rick for setting us on the path that brought us together.