Thursday Tidbit – Our Family Poet – Nicholas Vitus George

poem-wakeningmoon-29mar1969

In a recent email I mentioned to Irene George Veri that I wish I could have met her father. I usually form an idea of what a person is like (rightly or wrongly) from what I read in the old newspaper accounts about that person. Everything I’ve read about Nick George reveals a kind and loving man whose family and community were of primary importance to him.

Irene mentioned that her father used to dictate song lyrics to her and she would write them down and mail them back to him. This was a way of documenting the date the song was written for copyright purposes. I wonder if Irene still has any of those lyrics?

When I came across this poem, published in the New Castle News on March 29, 1969, I could hardly wait until March to post it.

Based on last night’s torrential rains and thunderstorms here in Greensboro, NC and the predicted dip to low temps in the 20s this weekend (after a ‘wacky’ month of early spring) I’d say Nick captured the vagaries of March weather perfectly.

A New Mother for Dominic and Eugene

img023Dominic and Eugene sat side by side on the piano bench in the front room of the strange lady’s house. Their father, Nick Renzi, had come into town to find a new mother for them. The woman who met them at the door was old and her stern expression frightened them. Surely this woman wasn’t going to be their new mother.

A woman with dark hair and round glasses came down the stairs. She gave them only a fleeting glance then looked at their father. She never smiled at him as she shook his hand. Would this woman would be their new mother?

They sat as still as two rambunctious boys of 6 and 10 could sit, crowded together on the narrow piano bench, their dangling legs swinging back and forth, not touching the floor. The tight collars of their dress shirts made their necks itch and they pulled and tugged at their sleeves. From across the room their father gave them a stern look and motioned for them to be still. He pulled his shoulders back to show them how they should sit.

Soon the adults went into the kitchen and continued talking in Italian. The woman with dark hair and round glasses never said a word. Did she even have a voice? They only heard the voices of their father and the older woman. It seemed to take forever before their father came back in the room and said it was time to go.

As they left the house, their father turned to the woman with dark hair and round glasses and said – “Boys, this is Lena George, she will be your new mother.” They looked at Lena and didn’t know what to say or do. She stared back at them with a blank expression. “Say good-bye to your new mother,” their father prompted.

“Good bye mother,” Dominic said, not sure whether he was supposed to hug her or shake her hand so he did neither. The woman stared at them as if she were in a trance – she was looking at them but didn’t see them. She didn’t look very happy about being their mother. Dom and Eugene crowded close to their father, one on either side, as they went down the front porch steps out into the bright September sun.

The next week one of their uncles brought Lena’s suitcases and trunks to the farm and carried them up to their father’s bedroom. Two of their mother’s sisters came to the farm and packed up all of her jewelry, dresses and shoes that had been in the wardrobe and carried everything away.

“Aunt Jennie and Aunt Amanda will take good care of you while I’m away, their father said that night as he was packing his suitcase.

“But Papa, we want to go with you – where are you going.”

“Lena and I are going on a trip to Washington, DC, New York and Canada. That’s what people do when they get married.”

“Can’t we go with you?” they pleaded.

“No, you’re not old enough. It will just be Lena, her nephew Harold and me.”

“Why does he get to go with you on your wedding trip – that’s not fair!” shouted Dominic. He’s only 13 and I’m 10 – that’s not fair!”

Nick sighed and shook his head. He didn’t know why he agreed to let Harold go on their honeymoon. Of all the things Custode demanded when she agreed to let Nick marry her only remaining daughter, this was the most unreasonable. A 13-year old boy going on their honeymoon! He would never hear the end of it from the guys he worked with on the railroad.

But his boys needed a mother and Alverda thought Lena would be a good match. At 33 it was unlikely Lena would ever find a husband on her own. Maybe if they had time alone together she would warm up to him. But that was unlikely to happen on their honeymoon with Harold in tow. Everything Nick had heard about Custode was true – she called the shots. Whether out of love, respect or fear, her grown children did whatever she demanded. And now she was controlling what would happen on his honeymoon. How humiliating!

As their father drove down the hill, his car vanishing into a cloud of dust, Dominic realized this was the first time since their mother died in May that their father had been away for more than a few days. Their aunts had taken turns staying with them at the farm over the summer so why did they even need a new mother? Couldn’t things just stay the way they were?

When Nick came home three weeks later, Lena was with him. They ran to hug their father and he kneeled down and hugged them both –one on each side – his blue eyes twinkling with joy at the sight of his sons.

“Give your new mother a hug,” he said, pushing them toward Lena who stood there with the same blank stare she had when they met her at Custode’s house in Dunbar.

Eugene being the youngest and eager to please his father ran over to Lena and reached up to hug her around her waist. Lena stiffened and pulled away but Eugene clung to her, looking up with his trusting brown eyes, his wide happy smile beaming up at her. He was glad to have a new mother, he didn’t care what Dom said.

Lena looked down at Eugene, and with what Dominic would later describe as her other expression –  eyes squinted and nose wrinkled up as if a most horrible smell had suddenly filled the room – Lena firmly grabbed each of Eugene’s tiny wrists and pushed his arms away, twisting out of his embrace.

Dom ran over and grabbed his younger brother’s arm, “Come ‘on Gene – let’s go outside and play.” He glared back at Lena – trying to match her cold, icy stare. He didn’t care what his father said, this woman was nothing like their mother. Their mother was pretty and always smiling – even near the end when the goiter made her neck bulge out. Dom could still remember his mother’s soft hands as she stroked his forehead when she tucked them into bed at night.

Dom never want Lena to touch him or his brother Eugene. He was too old to be tucked-in anyway. He didn’t want this new mother and no matter what his father might think, he could tell that she didn’t want them either.

 

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November 8, 1928 Wedding of Nick Renzi and Julia Giordano

 

 

The Sad Story of Frank Bell

The 1910 census for Dunbar is the only one that has Adriano (Andrew) and Custode (Christine) living together in Dunbar, PA. The other census from their time together in America was in 1900 in Blairsville, PA. They moved to Dunbar at least by December 1901 because Gene was born there in December 1901 based on St. Aloyius parish records on file at the Dunbar Historical Society.

We know from Lena’s birth certificate in November 1906 that Andy’s job was listed as a merchant. And from Custode’s testimony in 1912, she said they had been in business for 8 years, so I assume they started the store in 1904, which was before they bought any properties in Dunbar.

Okay – so what’s that got to do with Frank Bell? In the 1910 census, Andrew and Christina George are in Enumeration District 18, which includes the whole town of Dunbar. The houses were not numbered with addresses but rather by house number in the order in which the census taker visited each house. They were house #208 and appear on page 20 out of 40 from the online Census Report on Ancestry.com. You wouldn’t know from this census report that they ran a grocery store because Andrew’s job is listed as a laborer at the furnace.

At the top of page 20, in order of the census taker’s visit, house number 201 is Dr. William Warner (who delivered Lena and signed her birth certificate) and house number 204 is Dr. David McKinney and house number 207 (either across the street or next door to Andrew and Christine) is Harry McGibbons, who runs a drugstore. Perhaps what planted the seed in Custode’s mind that her boys should be pharmacists.

But what’s that got to do with Frank Bell?  Okay – I’ll get to the point. On page 14 of 40, at the 140th house visited by the Census taker, Frank Bell and his wife Santina, live with their 16 year old daughter Angeline. Frank is a naturalized citizen who immigrated in 1882 and he is listed as a merchant in a fruit store.

I wanted to develop a back story for some of the people that Custode and Andy may have interacted with in 1910 so I picked Frank Bell. When I searched the Connellsville Courier for articles about Frank Bell, I found this one from July 25, 1914, which is printed below in three sections. It is such a sad ending to what seems to have been another example of a successful Italian immigrant making a new life in America.

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PART 1

frankbell-dies-july1914-part2

PART 2

P

frankbell-dies-july1914-end

PART 3

 

 

Thursday Tidbit – Pennsylvania Marriage Records

Today’s tidbit comes from a genealogy site that I follow by email – Genea-Musings.com 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. 

pasqualegiorgioand-filomena-ranieri-marriagecert-1922

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 Ancestry.com 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.

abbateggio-to-castel-di-sangro-1-19-17

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.