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.


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.


Thursday Tidbit – Marriage Records

MarriageLicense.22Nov1921From online records, I knew that Frederick William George, first son of Adriano and Custode George, married each of his wives in West Virginia. Wellsburg, West Virginia to be precise. I suppose there was something that made it easier, faster or cheaper to get married in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.

Knowing something because you see it neatly indexed on-line vs. seeing a copy of the document (or big heavy record book) evokes a completely different feeling in me. Seeing the original document in the courthouse where the event occurred, sometimes with the actual signatures of the persons involved, puts me “over the moon.”  It is such a thrill to see a document created at the time an historic event occurred. (I fully accept the fact that to most people this classifies me as a complete genealogical geek, but I’m fine with that!)

It isn’t always possible to visit the local courthouse, library or historical society so I am thankful for digitized versions of records. Especially because I’m still early enough in my genealogical journey to find significant documents when I spend a random evening relaxing at home. Like the Marriage Record shown above from Wellsburg, West Virginia, documenting the marriage of Frederick William George and Evelyn Clark, which took place on November 22, 1921. Proof of their marriage appears at the bottom of the right-hand page.

Or the one below (bottom left page) when Fred married Betty Collins on November 2, 1932:

Marriage License.2Nov1932

One of the main reasons my husband grew up without knowing his Giorgio relatives (other than the fact that his father was happy to abandon snowy Pennsylvania for sunny California) was that his father was only 7 when Fred and Evelyn divorced. In fact he was younger than that when the two separated because the 1930 Census shows Evelyn living in California with her sister with her sons, Fred and Richard, while Fred was living in Midland with his brothers Hubert and Victor.

The fact that Fred’s children with Betty did not know about their half siblings while growing up, suggests there was very little, if any, contact between Fred and the sons he had with Evelyn. The fact that my father-in-law changed his name from Frederick William George, Jr. to Frederick William George, III, suggests an effort on his part to distance himself from his father.

So when Rick finally meets his half-aunt, Lynnette George Burnett the youngest child of Fred and Betty later this summer, it will be quite a cause for celebration. Yes – it really is true that time heals all wounds.

Bootsadle – I Found It!

No, I’m not losing my mind. True – I did spend all day yesterday at genealogy class on DNA and since my brain is not science/math oriented, I felt like I was losing my mind. But when I got home we celebrated Mother’s Day and I was completely pampered and spoiled with a delicious dinner that Will prepared (I swear he and Harold Galand share some genes) with Sarah and Rick’s help, so I quickly recovered from the brain drain of the class. I was happy to spend most of today applying what I learned yesterday and trying to trace possible ancestors that are recommended based on DNA results. Tedious and frustrating, but I haven’t gone crazy yet.

About an hour ago I decided to work on what I need to know for the genealogy class I’m taking in Pittsburgh in July. I decided to create a detailed list of what I know and what I still need proof for – and of course, I started with Adriano.

One thing that always puzzled me was why I couldn’t find Adrian, Adriano, Andy or Andrew with his wife Christine, Custode or Christiana in the 1900 census. We know they were married in February 1899 in Pittsburgh and that their son Frederick William George was born in November of that year so they should show up in the census for 1900. But in several years of searching, the only census I’ve found them in was 1910 when they were living in Dunbar.

The thing about genealogy research is that you just have to keep at it. And you have to keep searching for things you already searched for and couldn’t find. So when I narrowed my “search” to the census reports with EXACTLY the last name George with Nationality of EXACTLY Italian and narrowed it to the counties surrounding Pittsburgh – I got 17 hits.

I wasn’t too excited and at first glance none of the names seemed to be Adriano and Custode. But I was interested in the entry for Derry in Westmoreland County because I knew that is where one of Custode’s brothers lived.

And look what I found

Henry George, who was born in December 1873 in Italy and is working as a day laborer is living with his wife “Christola” who was born in Italy in May 1881 and they have one child who is indexed in the search function as Foredena. Sounds like Foredena would be a girl, but he is clearly identified as their son.

At first glance you wouldn’t think that is our ancestor but look again. Foredena is born in November 1899 in Pennsylvania and Henry and Christola have been married for one year – hmmm… seems to match the circumstances we know to be true for Adriano and Custode with their son Frederick. And in case you’re wondering, December and May also line up with Adriano’s and Custode’s birth months.

I was surprised that I didn’t find any Iacobuccis in Derry because I thought maybe Custode was living near her brother. But after I scanned several pages of the Census and only found four Italians, I looked a little closer at the names next to Henry and his wife. It seems that one Peter Bootsadle immigrated from Italy in 1897 with his wife Roseanna – also from Italy. Interestingly, they’ve been married 5 years but only immigrated 3 years earlier and they don’t have any children.

If you pronounce Bootsadle and try to make it sound Italian – it comes pretty close to Buzzelli – which we know to be Aunt Rosie’s married name. And it would make sense that Custode and her sister lived near each other even though in later years they had their differences.

So I’m pretty sure I’ve found Adriano and Custode in the 1900 census and as a bonus, Rosie and her husband, Peter Buzzelli. This record suggests that Rosie and her husband have been married for five years but immigrated to America three years earlier in 1897. This means I need to search in Italian marriage records to find them but it also means I have year to search for their arrival. Based on family lore, Custode may have come to America with her sister Rosie.

Even more telling about this record is the notation in the column heading “Citizenship.” Here are the instructions from the 1900 census for how to code Column 18 – Naturalization.

If the person is a native of the United States, leave the column blank. If he was born abroad, and has taken no steps toward becoming an American citizen, write “Al” (for alien). If he has declared his intention to become an American citizen and taken out his “first” papers, write “Pa” (for papers). If he has become a full citizen by taking out second or final papers of Naturalization, write “Na” (for naturalized).

The status of a married woman followed that of her husband so that is why nothing is indicated in the columns for Custode and Rosie. But I must admit I was surprised that Adriano was a naturalized citizen in 1900. I was also surprised that he listed his immigration year as 1893. If this date is correct, it means Adriano came to America before he married Marianne Frattura in Castel di Sangro on August 31, 1895. It was not uncommon for Italian immigrants to make several trips between Italy and America, but it is also possible that the date is in error.

As with most genealogical “finds” the information from the 1900 census raises more questions than it answers but I’m happy to have one more step along the timeline from when Adriano and Custode married in February 1899 to when they appeared in the 1910 Census in Dunbar.

These are the kind of days I LOVE!!!!











Tuesday Tidbit

It’s hard to believe that a week ago Rick and I were at breakfast with Dominic Renzi and his friend Diana. After breakfast we went back to his apartment and he shared enough stories to inspire Tuesday and Thursday tidbits for a long, long time.


Grandmother Renzi in front of the farmhouse on Limestone Hill

As a “self-taught” genealogist, one thing I’ve read over and over, is that you should  start with your oldest living relative and get his or her stories before it’s too late. Yes Dominic, by my calculation, you are the oldest living relative but thankfully I don’t think you’re going anywhere too soon. I hope that I will have half the energy (physical and mental) that you do when I’m your age.

Just to update anyone who isn’t familiar with the family tree, Dominic is part of the George family because Lena George was his step-mother. His mother Julia Giordano  died in May 1939 after what should have been a simple operation to remove a goiter. Apparently the surgeon did not properly suture the incision and she bled to death the night before she was supposed to come home. According to Dominic, the doctor responsible was never seen again, perhaps hurrying out of town because of the reputation of the Giordano brothers who were none too happy with the tragic death of their sister.

The Renzi family lived on a farm on Limestone Hill but Nick Renzi had a full time job on the railroad. Although his sisters took care of the boys immediately after Julia died, Nick needed a wife to be with the boys since he was often gone for days at a time. Dominic remembers that his father visited a few other ladies before he chose Lena as his wife. Although he didn’t come right out and say it,  I think one of the earlier candidates would have been Dominic’s choice (he even remembered her name!) Thankfully for us, we get the benefit of Dominic’s memory because, for whatever reason, his father chose Lena.

Carole Ann has mentioned the story of Dominic and his younger brother Gene sitting in the parlor while his father and Custode negotiated the terms of Nick’s marriage to Lena – in Italian. When the negotiations were over, Nick and the boys left and on the way home, he told them, “I think you just met your new mother.” This was only three months after Julia died.

A few things stand out from what Dominic told me about his father’s marriage to Lena. First of all, Lena did not participate in the negotiations. She was in the room but never said a word. She sat in silence and never expressed any affection or warmth when Nick and the boys left.

Secondly, even though Lena was an accomplished pianist, Custode refused to let her take the piano to the farm. Apparently this was out of spite because from what Dominic remembers, Custode did not play the piano, she just didn’t want Lena to have it. In her view, such a refined item had no place in a farm house.

Finally, and perhaps most shocking of all, (although at this point, nothing I hear about Custode surprises me) Custode insisted that  Nick and Lena take her grandson, Harold Galand on their honeymoon. Harold was 12 (just two years older than Dominic) when he got to visit Canada and the New York World’s Fair.  A great opportunity for Harold, but what a damper on any chance for romance between Lena and Nick.

Even though Lena was not a good mother to Dominic and Eugene, the combination of her brother Gene and Aunt Rosie made up for it. According to Dominic, Lena was mean to Aunt Rosie and often made her cry but Rosie did her best to shield the boys from Lena’s fury. Many times during our visit last week, Dominic shared a story of Uncle Gene’s kindness and generosity. Uncle Gene loved the farm and would often stop by to visit Aunt Rosie and to soak in the fresh smell of newly plowed earth. On leaving he would always admonish his sister to be good to the boys.

Nick Renzi died in 1949, ten years after he married Lena. Although he left the farm to Lena and the two boys in equal shares, Lena refused to leave and also refused to let the boys live there (not that they wanted to.) Eventually, Gene arranged for the boys to “buy out” Lena. He got Lena a job at the hospital in Connellsville and convinced her to move to an apartment there.

Dominic lived on the farm and was making repairs to the house which had fallen into disrepair while Lena lived there. On one visit when Gene saw that Dominic had converted the back seat of his car to carry loads of materials needed for the repairs, he commented that Dominic needed a pick-up truck.  A few days later, Gene called and asked Dominic to meet him in town.  When he got there Gene was parked near a truck and as the two men talked, Gene asked what Dominic thought about the truck. Dominic thought it was nice and Gene said – “Good – because it is yours.”When he asked what he owed him, Gene said nothing – it was a gift. Dominic needed a truck and Gene got it for him.

Just one example of Uncle Gene’s many acts of kindness, which are perhaps a big part of  why Dominic is not unhappy about his father’s choice of his replacement mother.


Nick Renzi on a visit to Canada (probably before his honeymoon)



Tuesday Tidbit

March 8, 2016

You would think with the descendants from the original four Giorgio boys who came from Italy in the late 1800s – that I’d never run out of “tidbits.” So there’s really no excuse for leaving this blog unattended for so long. I would gladly welcome any family stories or tidbits that any of you want to share – so let me know if you’re interested.

Truth is, I’ve been immersed in my own family history for the past few weeks, specifically the Powell family from Albemarle County, Virginia. Next week I’m travelling with my book club friends to Charlottesville, Virginia (about a 3 hour drive from Greensboro). In addition to being the home of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, Albemarle County is where Caspar Powell (or “Gaspar Powel” as his name might have been spelled in German) settled with his wife Anna Catherine Drumheller, when they migrated down the Shenandoah Valley by wagon train from Berks County, Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s. At least that is what one of my  “” cousins remembers hearing from her father who heard it from his grandmother whose great grandmother was Anna Catherine (or something like that.)

Today’s tidbit is just to remark on the similarities between the Giorgio family from Italy and the Powell family from Virginia. And maybe it is a broader truth about families in the 1800s – THEY HAD A LOT OF CHILDREN!!!

My great grandfather – Thomas Greenwood Powell – was born in 1885 when his father was 60 years old. He was the youngest of nine children. His own father, James Albert Powell, was the 8th of 13 children. James’ mother Elizabeth had her first child in 1809 when she was 17 and her last child in 1834, when she was 41. That’s 25 years of childbearing! By comparison, Custode had her first child in 1899 when she was 19 and her last child in 1912 when she was 32 – for 13 years of childbearing.

Yes – lots of children. Lots and lots of children named William, Samuel, Benjamin, Thomas, Sarah, Elizabeth, Catherine and Eliza. Two of those 13 Powell children died young and only had one child each. But the other 11 produced a total of 78 children! That’s a grand total of 80 first cousins – and maybe more because some family trees suggest that Elizabeth and Samuel Powell actually had 14 children – part of what I’m trying to figure out when I go to Charlottesville next week.

The problem before birth and death records were kept by the county or state is that it is often difficult to document the actual number of children in a family. Census records are the best source, but children can easily be born and die between census years so you have to find other records to prove they existed. When children are given the same names as their cousins and siblings stay in the same area, even the census records can be confusing.

While it’s true that only one of those 13 children born to Elizabeth and Samuel Powell is my direct ancestor, I have the best chance of learning more about the family if I broaden my search to include as many siblings and cousins as possible. But think about it – 80 cousins plus 13 sets of parents, plus Samuel and Elizabeth,  would have me searching for information on 108 people!

Thankfully, four of the Powell boys left Virginia in the 1840s – 1850s and moved to Missouri. So for next week I’ll be searching the ones who stayed put in the area around Charlottesville. If I get lucky, I might find some graves – that’s the one thing that has been hard to find so far, perhaps because they were buried in small unmarked family plots.  All but one of the nine boys were farmers. Benjamin, the fourth son, was a tailor. Of the four Powell daughters, all but one married a farmer. Mary’s husband, Benjamin Woodson, was a blacksmith.

So that’s why you haven’t heard a lot from me on Trovando for the past few weeks and may not for a couple more. But you can be sure that before my July trip to Pittsburgh (I got into the course on Italian Genealogy!!!) I’ll be fully immersed in the Giorgio family again.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to take me up on the offer to share your Giorgio family memories just let me know.