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.




Snow Day – Let’s Dig out Info from the 1900 Census for Derry, Pennsylvania

It’s about 4:30 pm on Saturday January 7th – which also means it’s the first Saturday of 2017. It started snowing in Greensboro, NC last night around 11 pm and didn’t stop until 1 this afternoon. There’s nothing better than a snow day on a weekend when you don’t have to feel the least bit guilty about not going anywhere or doing anything (or even getting out of your pajamas for that matter).

It’s also a perfect time to get back to blogging. I sometimes worry that I don’t really have anything new to say but since I’ve spent a good part of today reviewing facts that I’ve accumulated on Custode Iacobucci – I might as well share them.

I wanted to review the various sources that give her age because there’s been some confusion as to whether she was born in 1880 or 1881. It’s not unusual for dates to be off by a year or so and there are lots of ways discrepancies can arise. It’s a good idea to look at each record and consider who provided the information. Did the informant really know the birth year of everyone in the household when the census taker came calling?

The good news for Custode is that her age is consistent in four of the five census reports that are available for her (1900 – 1940). Beginning with the first report in Dunbar in 1910, she aged by 10 years in each census report and the age given in each of them calculates to a birth year of 1880. The discrepancy occurs in the very first census report (1900) where she and Adriano appear as husband and wife, along with their first son, Frederick William George, who was born in November 1899.

The 1900 Census is a great find because it is the only one that lists the birth month and year for each person. Later census reports only list the person’s age, which can create errors when calculating the person’s year of birth. People were supposed to answer the census question stating their age “as of” a set date, but there was often confusion in how well the census taker understood his instructions and in how well the respondent understood the census taker’s questions.

For the longest time I couldn’t find the 1900 census for Adrian and Custode and now I don’t remember how I found it. I think reading someone else’s account of how they found their Italian ancestors may have led me to it but it was somewhat of a fluke. One reason it was hard to find is that Adriano Giorgio is listed as Henry George. But take a look at the screen shot of that page and I think you will agree these are definitely Adrian and Custode and their first born son Frederic (spelled in this case without the “k”) even if they are listed as “Henry and Christola.” (And Aunt Rosie appears underneath them with her husband “Peter Bootsaddle” but no child yet. The two columns to the right of her name are for for # of children born/#of children living and they both have “0.”


One of the most interesting things about this census is that “Henry” reports his immigration year as 1893 and his citizenship status as “NA” which means he had become a naturalized citizen by 1900. This means that there should be some naturalization records I’ve yet to find and they might provide more information about him. It would also explain how Custode gained her citizenship status and why I haven’t found any naturalization records for her.

So it’s great to know that Adriano became a US citizen because that would be how all of our more immediate ancestors (the children of Adriano and Custode) gained their citizenship. Back then, it wasn’t enough just to be born here. During this time frame, if a woman who had been born in America to American parents married an alien, she actually lost her US citizenship! Up until sometime in the 1920s women could not file for their own citizenship status – it had to come through their father or their husband. (That’s a simplified version of a very complex set of immigration rules.)

Here’s a link to an article with more than you probably want to know about women’s citizenship status but I find it fascinating.

But take a look at the date listed for his immigration year – 1893! That definitely throws a wrench in my guess work as to when he arrived. And of course I’ve still never found his immigration records. But if he first immigrated to the US in 1893, it means he went back to Italy to marry his first wife Marianne Frattura and consummate their marriage leading to the birth of Nicola Vitus Giorgio in Castel di Sangro in 1896.

And we know that Uncle Nick (aka Irene’s father) was born in Italy. And we have a record of him immigrating to the US with Adrian in 1904. I had always assumed Adriano came to the US shortly after Marianne died, but this new information creates another possibility.

And while we’re on the topic of marriages – take a look at the number of years Aunt Rosie and her husband Peter have been married – 5. So if that is correct, she was married to Peter Buzzelli BEFORE she immigrated to the US in 1897. And we do know that is her immigration year because I found that record this summer.

There are several trees on with lots of information about the Buzzelli family from Castel di Sangro but the only connection it shows to our family is the marriage of Adriano and Marianne Frattura. I sent a message to the owner of that tree awhile ago to get more information but he didn’t respond. Here’s a link to his tree in case IRENE and DOMINIC might take a look and see some familiar names. He has some interesting pictures and he has actually visited relatives in Castel di Sangro recently.

So now I have a few new mysteries to run down but I thought I’d get this on the blog so that other folks can weigh in with their ideas about this. I love hearing from my extended Giorgio family and posting on Trovando seems to be the best way to keep in touch.

Hope the New Year is good to you and I will try to get back to a more regular posting schedule.




GRIP – Day 2

img083Let’s start with another picture from Irene’s basement. It is identified on the back as “Phil, Mother and Lena” and we know from others we’ve seen that this is a picture of Custode Iacobucci Giorgio and her daughters, Philomena George Galland and Lena George Renzi. There’s no date on the back but I would guess it was taken in the early to mid 1930s.

Now for an update on how my class is going. We’ve finished the language lessons for the course and I’ve learned just enough Italian and Latin to know some of the words I’m likely to encounter in genealogical documents. One of the most important words I learned was fu. When you see fu at the beginning of someone’s name in a record, it means that person is dead. I like fu – it’s easy to recognize, even in crazy 18th century Italian script, and it demonstrates a great economy of words.

Today’s class topics were:

8:30 – 10:00 – Latin for Genealogical Records

10:15 – 11:30 – Researching Catholic Ecclesiastical Records

1:00 – 2:30 – Marriage in the Catholic Church: The Council of Trent, Impediments and More

2:45 – 4:00 – Evaluating Evidence in Italian Genealogical Records

4:00 – 5:00 – Three Case Studies

Yup – long day!!! But I’m loving it!!! I don’t agree with some people I’ve met who say that these are the nicest dorms they’ve ever seen but I do agree that the cafeteria food is great. I had a wonderful dinner of salmon, brown rice and steamed vegetables. I’m not crazy about the breakfast options because the eggs are always cold and I HATE cold eggs, but everything else has been wonderful – even the coffee and unfortunately for my waistline – the desserts.

I’ve started talking to some of the people in my class including Jose who is 100% Italian but was born in Argentina. Both of his parents immigrated to Argentina from Italy in the early 1900’s. He gave me a website that might help determine whether or not Adriano immigrated to Argentina. He also offered to help if I don’t find anything. Jose lives in Chicago now but he was born in Buenos Aires.

I was a little stressed when I discovered I have a written homework assignment that has to be emailed to the instructor by noon on Thursday. It involves translating two Italian records and answering several questions about them. Melanie handed them out in class just before her lecture on how to apply the genealogical proof standard to Italian records and I breathed a sigh of relief when I got two documents that are on pre-printed forms. One is completely typed and the other has fairly legible handwriting (not the crazy hard to read script from the 1700’s that we’ve been looking at for the past two days). Whew!

After dinner I heard a lecture by Tom Jones entitled – “Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online?” It was an interesting analysis of Thomas Edison’s father using on-line records (he had three wives, possibly more than one at the same time) but I must admit I wasn’t giving it my complete attention and after about an hour of it (and he wasn’t finished yet) my eyes started to glaze over. Earlier in the day someone had given me the name of a book that every genealogist simply must have – it explains the way to write a proof statement and all the genealogical proof standards and how to apply them. Guess who wrote it? Yup – Tom Jones.

Back to the topic of this blog and today’s Tuesday Tidbit. The last hour of class provided a perfect one. Melanie Holtz, one of the instructors who currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, was originally from western Pennsylvania. Her great grandfather, Antonio Lo Schiavo, immigrated from Italy to western PA in the late 1800’s. It turns out that her great grandparents were married in Pittsburgh in the same church that Adriano and Custode were married in – in the SAME year – 1899 – by the same priest – Father Lagoria!

There were three Italian parishes in Pittsburgh at the turn of the 20th century and Father Lagoria served all three. After a couple got a marriage license from the County court, they were able to be  married by the priest. After performing the marriage ceremony, the priest was supposed to send a document known as a marriage return back to the county court courthouse. This is the only proof that the ceremony actually occurred. Getting a marriage license is not sufficient proof of marriage because a couple could get a license but not follow through on the marriage.

In our case, Father Lagoria did file the marriage return and the document I got from Allegheny County shows the date of the marriage as February 14, 1899. In Antonio Lo Schiavo’s case, Father Lagoria did not file the marriage return and the only proof of the marriage is found in the ecclesiastical records. I do need to find out how to request a copy of the ecclesiastical records of Adriano and Custode’s marriage because they might have additional information about both of them.

Okay – time to get back to my translation and analysis of Giovanni Bettini’s records from Marsciano.

Where’d They Go Wednesday – Pasquale George

For the past three years as I’ve searched the stories that accompany the four Giorgio brothers who came to western PA from San Vito Chietino, Italy, Pasquale George has captured my attention. So finding his picture was almost as exciting as when we discovered Custode Iacobucci’s maiden name.

I’ve wondered what Pasquale looked like and last night, thanks to a picture provided by Pasquale’s granddaughter – Phyllis Duffy – I found out. Here is his picture that hangs on her wall.


And here is a cropped close-up that I made from this picture of Pasquale, with one that of Adriano Giorgio his brother. Hmmm… the quality isn’t great so it’s not too easy to compare the two but what do you think – could the men in these pictures be brothers?




Where’d They Go Wednesday – The Buildings of Castel di Sangro

My knowledge of World War II history is abysmal. For that matter, so is my knowledge of the first half of the 1900s. That’s an added benefit of doing genealogy now – I’m filling in gaps in my general knowledge of history.

It turns out that Castel di Sangro – most likely the home of Custode Iacobucci before she came to America – was held by the Germans during WWII. If the Italian genealogy source is correct, it is also where Adriano Giorgio was living after he left Dunbar and  where he married his third wife – Maria Flamminio – in June 1913.

If our estimate of when he died is correct (early 1950s) he would have been in Castel di Sangro during WWII. Given his birth date of 1871, he would have been too old to fight for Italy during WWII but he would have lived there during the German occupation.

Which means he would have experienced this after the Germans were forced out by the Allied Forces Eighth Army. This picture appeared in Pittsburgh newspaper on January 2, 1944. The fighting around Castel di Sangro occurred in late November 1943.

Castel di Sangro.1945

I wonder how our ancestors who were from Italy felt when they saw their home town in ruins? There were plenty of Georges and Iacobuccis who joined the American Armed Forces and fought for the Allies so I know our ancestors were proud Americans willing to fight for their new country. Most of those young enough to fight during WWII had probably never been back to Italy, but for those older relatives who grew up there, I imagine this would have been a heartbreaking sight.