Who’s Who in this Photo

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Adriano Giorgio’s Children

This picture was taken in 1907. We know this because the youngest child in the picture – Lena George (in the high chair) was born on 21 November 1906 and the next youngest and only other girl, Philomena, was born on 3 June 1905. This picture was taken before Hubert (1908), Lucy (1909), Victor (1911) and Francis (1912 or 1913) were born.

From left to right the children are: Philomena George (1905) sitting on stool; Nick George (1896) standing; Lena George (1907) in high chair; Gene George (1901) standing; Joseph George (1903) sitting on stool and Frederick William George (1899) standing with hand on Joseph’s shoulder.

Interestingly, although Adriano named his first-born son after his father – Nicola and his first daughter after his mother – they didn’t follow the Italian naming tradition for the rest of their children.

This photo was one that Irene George Veri shared with me last summer. Irene is the youngest daughter of Nick George. Nick was born in Italy to Adriano’s first wife – Marianne Frattura who died a few weeks after his birth. Adriano went back to Italy and brought Nick to America when he was 8 years old. Here’s the ship’s log from their arrival in December 1904:

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It is almost impossible to read that entry but from the index for the document it is clear that Adriano and his son Nicola arrived in New York on December 19, 1904 after leaving Naples on December 3, 1904. A nephew of Adriano’s – Nicola Scoccimarra, age 18, was also travelling with them. Interestingly, his final destination was listed as Dunbar and the relative he was visiting was identified as his uncle, Ciro Giorgio. Ciro was Adriano’s oldest brother. Most of the information we have about Ciro shows him living in New Castle, PA, not Dunbar, so this record helps place him there as late as December 1904.

I need to spend more time studying the ship’s manifest and looking into Nicola Scoccimarra. The oldest child born to Nicola Giorgio and his wife Maria Pace (Adriano’s parents) was a girl named Vita Amalia Vittoria Giorgio born in 1861. Her husband was named Dominick Scoccimarra so I assume that Nicola Scoccimarra was their son.

Friday’s Photo Feature – Custode, Philomena and Lena

I don’t know when or where this picture was taken but my guess is that it was taken in the early 1930s in the back yard of Custode’s house in Dunbar. I wonder if that is the school in the background? Philomena and Custode look very much alike in this picture. Lena seems unhappy. Her expression seems to say “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”

I’m not sure who sent me this picture but like so many pictures I’ve seen with Custode in them, it seems marked with gouges and tears. True – the marks are not as distinct as the “X” over Adriano in the wedding picture or the eye-shaped mark over Custode’s forehead in another picture of her, but there is a definite line across Custode’s face in this picture. Just a random rip in an old photo or something more?

It would be great to hear more from anyone who wants to share their recollections of these ladies. In my time of gathering the Giorgio family stories, I’ve often heard that Philomena was a wonderful cook and a very sweet lady. Carole Johnson remembers Aunt Phil taking her shopping for household items when Carole was a newlywed.

People do not describe Lena with such fondness. I have heard that she was a very good piano player and I think I remember Dominic saying that when Lena married his father in 1939, Custode would not let Lena take the piano with her to their farm house.

And then there is Custode – who seems to be smiling in this picture. I am reminded of Richard Galland’s comments at this summer’s family reunion – he knew that his grandmother loved him.  “Her children feared her but I never did.”  Richard was Philomena’s youngest son, born in 1943, and grew up closer to his grandmother than most of his cousins. His house was directly behind Custode’s, just up the hill that is now Highland Street, separated by a large garden that his father Anthony Galland tended.

Custode Iacobucci Giorgio and her Daughters Philomena and Lena

Custode Iacobucci Giorgio and her Daughters Philomena and Lena

 

 

Enjoy the Frosting on Life’s Cake this Holiday Season 

I am missing my Giorgio famiglia and this blog! It has been 4 months since our reunion and life in the modern world has taken me away from my family history research. I’ve spent almost a month in Richmond VA since September 19th when my mother was hospitalized with an irregular heart beat. She is on the road to recovery after having a near death experience that coincided with the doctors saying she was not likely to recover from her condition. It took almost 10 days for the doctors to get the right combination of drugs to get her arrhythmia under control and by then her week on a respirator had started to create other problems. The week I spent with her in the ICU was an experience I would gladly forget if I could. But she was determined ‘to beat this thing’ especially after the doctors told her she couldn’t and for the time being it seems she has.

We like to call her our “contrarian octogenarian.”  There’s nothing my mother likes more than proving other people wrong – anyone really – but especially authority figures. As you can imagine, this is not her most endearing trait and can sometimes wreck havoc on family gatherings. I don’t think she realizes how other people perceive her opinionated approach to life. It can sometimes be interpreted as mean-spirited but I don’t think she means it that way. It’s just the way she is and always has been. But in this particular case we were thankful for her determination to prove the doctors wrong. The doctors (who don’t like to be proven wrong) just say it was a miracle. I suppose we can all use a miracle now and then.

img_1198-2((So on Thanksgiving this year Rick and Sarah and I drove to Richmond to spend the day with my mother at her younger brother’s house. I love to prepare Thanksgiving dinner and Rick has always done the lion’s share of the work – turkey, dressing and gravy. (Hey -maybe that’s why I like it so much – Rick does most of the work!)

This year we took a prepared meal from a local grocery store since we were celebrating in Richmond for the first time in 20 years. It was almost as much work since the precooked turkey had to heat for 2.5 hours and I had to make my usual sides (or it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving) but everything turned out great! Right down to my mother’s birthday cake with “83” candles made from my grandmother’s scratch recipe for pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. img_1190-2

Yes – the cake that my favorite octogenarian said at least 5 times in the course of the day (that’s about once an hour) that I had made “wrong” because Nana always made it in a sheet cake pan – not in layers. Five times when I could have gotten irritated but didn’t (well – maybe a little by the 5th time I heard it) because I knew she would eventually learn why it was a layer cake. (And I learned that my grandmother didn’t like to ice layer cakes – something I never would have known if I hadn’t made the cake “wrong.”)

And in my favorite picture of the day – here is my mother licking the bowl, “just like I used to when Nana cooked,” she said between mouthfuls of frosting.

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So despite her constant protests that it would have been easier to go to Cracker Barrel (the only phrase I heard more often on Thursday than the one about the “wrong” cake) I’m pretty sure my mother enjoyed the day. So the next time the favorite contrarian in your life is starting to get to you – just remember to enjoy the frosting at the bottom of the bowl. (I’m pretty sure they don’t let you lick the bowl at Cracker Barrel.)

I hope all my Giorgio famiglia has much to be thankful for this year and will enjoy peace and blessings in the coming Advent season. img_1186-2

Friday Foto Feature – Custode with her Grandson -Richard Galland

One of the photos from the family reunion was this picture of Custode and her grandson Richard Galland. Richard was born in March 1943 so this must have been taken some time that year.

It was clear from Richard’s stories (of which I hope to hear many more) that he had a special relationship with his grandmother. Most of her grandchildren who I’ve talked to do not have fond memories of her. She was strict, had no time for grandchildren and was a bit scary.  To quote Richard, “Her children feared her, but to me she was just my grandmother – I knew she loved me.” img099

Now that I’m looking at the picture, I’m curious about where it was taken and who is peering out through the window?  To be honest, this picture seems to match some others of Aunt Rosie – so I’m happy to see a family resemblance between these two sisters who came to America together when they were 23 and 16. Any ideas on who the woman looking on from inside might be – or where the picture was taken?

 

Friday Foto Feature – Wedding of Philomena George and Antonio Gallanti (aka Galland) – June 27, 1923

For anyone out there wondering if you should go to the trouble of organizing a family reunion – take a look at the picture below and see what you might get if you ask attendees to bring pictures and memorabilia.

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Yes – just some faces to go with the names you’ve been searching for however long you’ve been pursuing your genealogical obsession. Just a wedding photo from 1923 of the oldest daughter of your family matriarch. Richard Galland brought this photo of his parents’ wedding to the Giorgio family reunion on July 24, 2016. His mother Philomena had just turned 18 and his father, Antonio Galanti, was 29.

Most Giorgio descendant’s remember the bountiful garden that Uncle Tony grew between his house and Custode’s house that was just down the hill on the main street in Dunbar PA.IMG_4364 This is a picture I took the morning of the family reunion. The grassy patch behind the fence is where Tony’s garden once flourished.  Out of view but to the right is the house on High Street (now Highland) where Phil and Tony raised their three boys. To the left, also out of view, is Custode’s house on the corner of Connellsville Avenue and Highland Street. The small shed is now the garage for that house.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the old school in the distance restored? I’m glad to see it’s still standing – it’s where all of Custode’s children went to school. I think it would make a great location for a museum that pays homage to Dunbar’s heyday – when there were multiple banks, at least four hotels and an Italian grocery store run by Adriano and Custode Giorgio. The days in the early part of the 20th century when the railroad provided good work for new immigrants and the coke ovens were still booming. It is hard to imagine all of that today when you visit Dunbar. Maybe we need to start a “Save the School” campaign.

Ofcourse, another reason for having a family reunion is the stories – the wonderful stories that need to be compiled before they are lost. Stories like the one that Richard Galland, one of the youngest of Custode’s grandchildren, told. He remarked that her children feared Custode, but he never did. To him, she was a doting grandmother. He grew up close to her and by the time he came along in 1943,  she may have mellowed some. He remembers coming home from school and asking Custode, “Grandma, the kids at school say you are a witch. Are you a witch Grandma?” And as Richard said with a chuckle, she didn’t deny it – she just gave a hint of a sly smile.

As someone who has a New England witch in her family background (or so the Kingsbury family lore goes), I’ve always thought that witches get a bad rap. I tend to think that most women believed to be witches were assertive women who did what needed to be done to take care of themselves and their children, perhaps even other less fortunate people in their communities. They probably understood herbal medicine and had plenty of “home remedies” that were essential in the days before doctors were readily available.

I am fascinated with the Italian legends of stregas and malochio. I love thinking (and I do) that Custode was a strega – practicing the craft that had been handed down through her maternal line for centuries before she came to America. So of course, the lingering question is which of her daughters inherited her craft? Or sadly, were they too much of the modern generation to believe in those ancient ways? The fact that Philomena and Lena burned everything that belonged to their mother after she died (in 1967) perhaps to ward off evil that might be lingering in her possessions – suggests that whether or not they practiced the craft – they believed in its power.

Rick’s favorite story from the family reunion was one that Richard recounted when Custode asked him if his father spoke Italian. To which Richard replied, “Grandma, of course  he does – you know my father speaks Italian.”

“No – he speaks “hillbilly” Italian,” corrected Custode. (There’s an Italian word that she used but it equates to what we would call hillbilly or less refined speech.)

This offers another clue that Custode held herself and her upbringing in high regard and did not think so highly of other immigrant families – even the ones that married her daughters. This certainly fits with other grandchildren’s recollections that Custode was from a wealthy Italian family and/or schooled in a convent and was able to read and write English and Italian at a time when many other immigrants could not.

So enjoy today’s Friday Foto Feature and help me figure out who the people in the picture are. We know the bride is Philomena George and the groom is Antonio Galanti, parents of William, Harold and Richard Galland. Richard identified the girl on the front row, far right (as you face the picture) as Aunt Lena. She would have been 16 at the time this picture was taken on June 27, 1923. Is it possible that the man standing to the right of Philomena is her brother Gene? He seems to have blue eyes and we know that Gene had blue eyes. Gene would have been 21 at the time this picture was taken.

One of my favorite things about genealogy is looking for common dates and connections between the generations. For example, my German immigrant ancestor (on my mother’s side), George Samuel Broeske, who immigrated to western VA from Darmstadt, Hessen Germany in 1852, was born on November 22nd (somewhere between 1814 and 1818) and my mother (his great great granddaughter) was born on November 22, 1933. I also like finding relatives who were born or died on the birthday of living relatives. For example, Irene Veri’s brother Anthony’s birthday is April 24 and so is my husband’s Rick.

So what’s the relevance of June 27, 1923, the date of Philomena’s wedding? (Hint – it might explain why her older brother Fred George, did not attend her wedding in Dunbar that day.) Two days prior, on June 25, 1923, Fred’s first wife, Evelyn gave birth to their first son – Frederick William George, Jr. – Rick’s father and our connection to the Giorgio famiglia.

As to the identity of the other girls in the photo – if anyone knows the Galanti family structure, it would help to know if Antonio had younger sisters or nieces. Any ideas – please share your thoughts.