Good Night Irene (Irene Rose George Veri: 1935-2018)

Conventional wisdom in genealogical circles is to start with your oldest living relative. Ask questions, draw charts, see what they remember about their grandparents.

What conventional wisdom doesn’t tell you is that you might be lucky enough to find a relative like Irene Veri. Irene was my portal to the past and I was her grateful padawan.

Irene Rose George Veri passed on June 17, 2018. She was 83. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Irene for almost 5 years. Soon after my husband took a DNA test to learn more about his Italian ancestors who he never knew, a match led us to Irene. Her father, Nick George (born Nicola Vitus Giorgio in 1896 in Castel di Sangro, Italy) was the first-born son of my husband’s grandfather – Adriano Giorgio. Technically this makes her my husband’s cousin once-removed – but in reality she was the living memory that only a few genealogists are lucky enough to find. Most of all – she was my friend – and I will miss her.

I keep a notebook of all my emails with relatives as I try to reconstruct my husband’s family tree that his father abandoned at an early age when his parents divorced. No surprise that the tab behind Irene’s page is the largest – by far.

People say that timing is everything. Very true. I met Irene at a time when it was convenient for her to share what she knew about her family and I was the grateful recipient of her vast stores of knowledge. The timing was right.

For anyone without Italian relatives let me just say that without a living relative who knew “la famiglia” you will have a very hard time determining which Nick is the son of your direct line of the family. If four Italian sons all name their first-born son after their father, as is the Italian naming convention, you will find four Nick’s about the same age, living in the same location and you will have a hard time knowing which Nick goes with which father. But if you are lucky enough to have someone like Irene to help you sort it out, you will know that the Nick on Hazen Street was the son of Romualdo and Dorinda and the Nick on Mill Street was the son of Pasquale and Filomena. And if you’ve done any genealogy at all, you will appreciate how much this stuff matters.

So yes, timing is everything, but now, the timing is all wrong. Because the cancer that consumed Irene’s body took her away much too soon and all I am left with are the volumes of information she shared and a big empty hole in my heart.

Here is what I am most grateful for about Irene.

1. Top of the list, without a doubt, is her razor sharp mind. Irene had a memory beyond compare. She grew up with the people I’m researching. Names on a page to me became the living people she knew. This one was “good looking,” that one was probably demented, this one never married because the girl from Italy brought over for him in an arranged marriage found out that New Castle, Pennsylvania was a far cry from New York, New York – so she went home and he remained single for the rest of his life. I could go on and on with the personal details that Irene shared with me. Thank you Irene.

2. She loved her family. She was without a doubt a “Daddy’s girl” and it will always make me happy to think that the reunion with her father in heaven occurred on Father’s Day. She loved her father and knew so many details about his life. She was glad to have someone interested in hearing those details and she would always correct me if I got it wrong, for which I am grateful. She also loved to tell me about her daughters and her grandchildren. I think Irene was one of those people, like my own mother, who may not have always done the best job of letting the people who mattered most to her know how much they mattered – but I can honestly say that she cherished her children and grandchildren beyond measure.

3. She was a straight shooter. She was honest, open and opinionated. You have to understand that she was telling things from her perspective, but as far as she was concerned it was the only perspective that mattered. And as far as I was concerned, it was the best way for me to learn about people I never knew and never would have known, without her willingness to share her memories. So what if there were minor discrepancies between the “official” records and Irene’s memory of things. It doesn’t really matter whether her parents were married in October or November of 1915. It matters so much more that her father loved to sing, that he wrote lyrics for songs and tried to get them published and that she was his secretary who mailed the post cards with the lyrics so that there would be a postmark to establish a copyright, that he made wine in his basement, that he took her downtown every Thursday night when she was in junior high school and bought her a milk shake at the soda shop while he went next door to the bar. Yes –those are the memories and stories that will always mean so much more than anything I can find on any official genealogical records.

There will be many, many reasons why I will miss Irene. But there will so many more where I will be thankful for the many gifts she shared with me over the past five years.

Good Night Irene, Good Night Irene

obituaries.ncnewsonline.com/obituary/irene-veri-1935-2018-106470782

Irene and Butch Veri

Irene and Brother Anthony George

img092

Irene George – At home in New Castle PA

Irene and Eleanor

Irene George on left – cousin Eleanor George on right

Irene Rose George

Irene Rose George

Advertisements

Love is in the Air

How romantic to get married on Valentine’s Day. The date is shared by at least two couples in the George line that I know of – Custode Iacobucci and Adriano George and Elaine (Lainey) George and Richard McGreevy. Thankfully Lainey and Rick have had a much longer run than Custode and Adriano. Happy 47th anniversary Lainey and Rick!

Custode and Adriano married in Pittsburgh on February 14, 1899 and parted ways sometime around May 20, 1912. I’ve never found any indication that they ever got a divorce. According to Custode’s testimony in a lawsuit in the summer of 1912, May 20th was the last time she saw her husband and she didn’t think he was ever coming back. It looks like her hunch was correct – I’ve found nothing to suggest that Adriano ever returned to America.

None of their children are alive to shed any light on what happened or how their father’s absence affected them. Most of Custode and Adriano’s grandchildren say that their family never talked much about Adriano.  The leading theory of why he left, which was the only thing Joseph George told his daughters, is that the Black Hand was coming in the front door (of the grocery store) while Adriano was going out the back.

Another theory, shared among some of the grandchildren is that Grandmother might have had an affair with a boarder, which prompted Adriano’s sudden departure and apparent attempt to leave her, and their eight children, without support. We’re not likely to prove that theory without DNA testing but it could be done. We know that Frank, the last child born to Custode, was born sometime in 1912 or 1913. If Adriano were his father, he and any of his male descendants would have the same Y chromosome as  any other male descendants of Adriano and his sons. We know that Frank George had a son named Gerald George, born in Pittsburgh (I think) on September 16, 1937. If that son, or any of his sons, were willing to take a DNA test, we might know the answer to the mystery of whether or not Custode was unfaithful to Adriano. Of course, that wouldn’t prove that was the reason for his departure, but it would be interesting.

It’s still a mystery as to where Adriano went when he left Pennsylvania. In her testimony Custode speculated he may have gone out west or to South America. Some of his grandchildren remember hearing from their parents that he went to Argentina. If he did go to South America, Argentina’s a good guess because during the peak of Italian emigration, from the late 1800s to 1930s, Argentina was second only to America as the destination for Italian emigrants. From 1857 to 1958, 46% of all immigrants to Argentina were from Italy.

I’ve searched for Adriano Giorgio and Andy George in immigration records to Argentina without success but I do know there were quite a number of emigrants from Castel di Sangro – Custode’s home town – who settled in Argentina – beginning as early as 1857. I’m creating a spreadsheet to see if I can make a connection in Italy between those immigrants and the Giorgio or Iacobucci families. It’s taking awhile but it might help identify known relatives in Argentina.

But back to the more romantic facts about this day. Here is the marriage license application filed by Custode and Adriano in Alleghany County, which is the source for the date of their marriage. The April date at the bottom of the document is the date the marriage return was sent back to the county courthouse from the officiant performing the marriage ceremony.

And here’s an excerpt of Custode’s testimony in the summer of 1912

Custode George (the orator in the complaint) is a resident of Fayette County, Pennsylvania and resides in Dunbar. The defendant, Andy George, was, until on or about May 20, 1912, a resident of Dunbar, but that his present residence is unknown to Custode.

Custode avers (says) that she and Andy George, were married on February 13, 1899, at Pittsburg, PA and that from that day until May 20, 1912, lived and cohabited together in the relationship of husband and wife. They have resided in Dunbar for the past eleven years and that there has been born to them eight children, the oldest of which is now twelve years old, the youngest one year, all of whom are still living.

For the past seven years Custode and Andy have been in the grocery business in Dunbar and during that time they devoted their time and attention to that business, by reason of which they have acquired considerable real estate and earned a good living for themselves and their family.

With the profits they made and by their thrift and energy, Custode and Andy acquired certain real estate in Dunbar, defined as follows: three separate lots with improvements each of which was originally conveyed to Andy and Custode, jointly.

On February 24, 1912, at Andy’s suggestion and request, Custode signed over her interest in the property to him. This was done by a deed, which legally vested title to the property (all three lots) to Andy.

Since May 20, 1912, Andy has willfully, maliciously and without reasonable or just cause, deserted Custode and their children and since that date has neglected and refused to provide for suitable maintenance for his wife and children even though he has sufficient means and ability to.

Notice that in her testimony, Custode cites as their marriage date as February 13th, which doesn’t quite match the official records.

We find evidence of Adriano’s return to Italy in the margin note of his birth record copied below. The note indicates he contracted to marry Maria Flamminio on June 1, 1913.  Unfortunately, the marriage records for San Vito Chietino for 1913 are not available on line and the margin note is hard to read so I can’t actually determine whether or not the second date is the date of their actual marriage or something else.  It is certainly possible that Adriano could have returned to Italy and never told anyone about his marriage to Custode in America but how sad to not have any contact with their eight (or perhaps nine) children.

Before ending this post I want to wish a belated happy anniversary to Carole Ann George and Glenn P. Johnson who were married on February 8, 1964. This picture is from the local paper published shortly after the wedding. Congratulations on 54 years of marriage!

CaroleAnn.weddingpic.22Feb1964

Happy Birthday Irene!

img092
I woke up this morning with this song running through my head but with slightly different lyrics. Not the sad blues version first recorded in 1933 by Louisiana bluesman Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter

and popularized by the Weavers  in the late 1940s –

but a happy birthday version for cousin Irene Rose George Veri. Happy Birthday Irene!

When I met her I asked Irene if she knew where her name came from. I think she said she didn’t (I always hesitate to recount what Irene told me about things because her memory is better than mine, but I’m pretty sure she said she didn’t know who she was named for other than her middle name Rose.)  Her middle name might be from her father’s Italian family – specifically Custode’s sister Rosallia. Rosaria is another form of that name and was the name of Nick George’s aunt, Rosaria who was married to Ciro Giorgio, Adriano Giorgio’s older brother. Ciro died in 1926, but Rosaria Giorgio and her children, including Josephine Bucci, lived in New Castle, PA near Irene’s family. Several girls in the George family have Rose in their name, usually as a middle name, so I think there is a family connection for Irene’s middle name.

What Irene did tell me is that her father often wrote songs and she was his secretary. They preserved the copyright for the songs Nick wrote by mailing them back to themselves so they’d have an “official” date (the postmark) of when they first created the lyrics.

My hunch about Irene’s name is that it came from the song Leadbelly Ledbetter sang at every show he performed. It became his “signature” song and you can read more about it here . His music was discovered in the early 1930s when John Lomax from the Library of Congress was sent to record American folk/blues music, specifically “Negro” songs of the South. He visited Southern prisons because he reasoned that the folk music he was after was going to be in songs by people who’d had a hard life. He recorded Huddie Ledbetter’s music in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1933.

Nick and Mary George followed the Italian naming convention for their children – first son after the paternal grandfather, first daughter after the paternal grandmother, but by the time Irene, their last child came along, I think they chose a name just because they liked it. I realize it’s probably more likely they knew someone with that name but I like to make up fun theories to explain family history, and given Nick’s love of music (and my love of this song, which I can remember my grandmother singing to me) I’m sticking with my theory that Nick’s love of music influenced Irene’s name.

Be sure to check out this version by Ry Cooder, which has all the gruesome lyrics of love gone wrong. I linked it because of the accordion – when was the last time you heard an accordion in a band?

Whatever the reason for your name, I’m sure glad you were born and wish you many happy returns of the day!

Irene George and Andrew (Butch) Veri

Irene George and her brother Anthony

Irene and Eleanor

Irene George on left, cousin Eleanor George (daughter of Fred and Betty) on right.

A Horse with No Name

The band America had a hit in 1971– A Horse with No Name

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”

Of course I remember the song because I was in high school when it was a hit.
In fact, it might have been playing in the background while I worked on my high school year book – carefully inserting the names of the seniors beneath their pictures – probably in alphabetical order. Enabling future generations to find their parents, or their father’s girl friend.

It might be okay to be in a desert on a horse with no name but it is definitely not okay to create a high school year book without names. Yet that seems to be exactly what the staff of the Union High School Yearbook of Burgettstown PA decided to do in 1941. The year my father-in-law was a high school senior.

Seniors Union HS. 1942

I could live with names being out of alphabetical order, or even having to flip from one page to the next to match the location of the picture with a list of names on another page. But in this particular yearbook there is no way to make the connection between the picture and the “senior statistics” that appear on the following pages.

Now fortunately, because we have pictures close enough in time, we know that my father-in-law, Frederick William George,  is third from the left on the fourth row up from the bottom. But that doesn’t help us much in finding the friends he remembered from high school: Jay Jackson, Glenn Nichols, Donald Tope, Clark McKenzie, Frank Rumbaugh, Donald Bywaters and Dwayne Reed.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what they looked like? But alas, we can’t tell whose picture is whose because for some reason the staff of the Union HS Yearbook in 1941 thought it would be a good idea to just sort the seniors in random order without putting their names under,  or even on the page beside, the pictures.

They knew how to alphabetize things because the “Senior Stats” on the pages that follow the pictures include the favorite expressions, career aspirations and hobbies of each Senior. That’s how I know that my father-in-law Fred wanted to be a doctor (and he became one) and that his hobby was playing the saxophone. And his favorite expression was “Did ja know.”

1941.BurgettstownHS.Yearbook.p.16.stats

It’s the USC philosophy of no names on the backs of the football players’ jerseys. “We’re a team – it’s not about the individual wearing the jersey.” I’m a fan, so I accept that – and #16 will always be Rodney Peete and # 42 will always be Erik Affholter (sorry Ronnie Lott and Ricky Bell but you were before my time). It might work on the gridiron but definitely has no place in high school year books.

What’s amazing is that back in the early 1990s when we lived in California about 5 minutes away from Dad, Rick and Dad spent time together on Tuesday nights. Sometimes it was a movie and dinner and sometimes it was sitting around Dad’s family room with Rick asking questions and Dad reminiscing, while Rick captured those memories on a cassette recording. And it is great to have those recordings and to be able to hear Dad’s voice eighteen years after he died.

And it is quite remarkable that Dad had such a good memory of his high school days more than 50 years later. So now that the wonders of the internet make it possible for me to see Dad’s high school year book, wouldn’t it be great to be able to look up the names he mentioned and see what his friends looked like?

Yes it would, but it’s not going to happen because for some reason that defies all logic – there are no names beneath the pictures of the seniors in the yearbook !!!

Oh well, we must content ourselves to know that two of Dad’s friends wanted to be doctors (Glenn Nichols and Jay Jackson) and to know that his friend Donald Tope wanted to be a petroleum engineer. Interestingly several of Dad’s friends listed their hobbies as hunting and fishing (four of them) but his was playing the saxophone.

I’ve searched the other Union High School yearbooks from the time period and fortunately a couple of years later, in 1943, when Dad’s younger brother Richard was a senior, the names and senior statistics appear with the photo, which is why we have this picture of Uncle Richard.

HS Senior.YearbookPic.1943

 

 

Iacobucci Family Research

Here’s the revised post about the Iacobucci family.

Trovando Famiglia

I’m using a day off in the middle of the week because of a big Southern snow storm to dig a little deeper into my husband’s Iacobucci ancestors. His great grandmother, Custode Iacobucci George, was born in Castel di Sangro, L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy on May 27, 1880. She immigrated to America with her older sister Rosie (Rosallia) when she was 16 years old, arriving in New York in April 1897. Their immigration papers indicate they were coming to visit an older brother named Vincenzo who lived in Brandeville, PA.

This post will identify the Iacobucci siblings I’ve discovered through my research and provide the basis for why I believe that their parents are Agostino Iacobucci and Filomena Petrarca of Castel di Sangro. If they are all the children of this pair, it would mean Filomena had her first child (Vincenzo) in 1861 when she was 23 and her last child…

View original post 1,434 more words