Did you know there’s a Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana?

What a rookie mistake I made with last week’s post about Gerald George! It’s tempting to delete it but just in case someone who is learning how to “do genealogy” is reading this blog – I want to use my mistake as an example of why you can never be too careful when following those “shaking leaf hints” on Ancestry.com. (And for all my George relatives who haven’t responded to my question about which person in the photo looks like “Gerald George” because none of them do – right you are!)

It can be frustrating when your search for a relative doesn’t generate anything beyond an indexed birth record and a few newspaper articles that indicate a family relationship. It can be tempting to grasp for whatever “hint” appears without following the most important rule of analyzing all sources.

So even though Ancestry.com generates a “hint” that a picture of Gerald George is in the Lincoln High School Yearbook in 1951, and even though the relative you’re searching for was in high school in 1951, and even though Ancestry.com identifies a yearbook as being from Lincoln High School in Midland PA – don’t accept that information as true until you’ve carefully analyzed your sources.

You’d be surprised at the number of indexing mistakes I’ve found on Ancestry.com so I should have examined things more closely before making my post last week.  There are indexing mistakes in the way newspapers are referenced (the New Castle News is off by a month), indexing mistakes that put the wrong header at the top of record and indexing mistakes that result in a yearbook from Vincennes, Indiana being identified as a yearbook from Midland, Pennsylvania.oops.yearbook mistakeSo imagine my surprise today when I decided to examine the yearbook more closely to see if I could find another picture of Gerald George. I started scrolling from page 1 of the document and look what I found at page 4.

Yearbooktitle page.1951







So it’s back to the drawing board of methodically sifting through what we know and don’t know about Frank George and his son Gerald George. But first I need to delete this information from the George family tree on Ancestry.com so that others don’t repeat the same mistake I made.  And then I need to “report” the mistake to Ancestry so they can index the record properly. Just think how happy all the people searching for relatives from Vincennes, Indiana will be when they get a shaking leaf hint on Ancestry.com!

So be sure to check your sources and don’t get taken in by the “shaking leaf.” Of course, if you do have  relative named Gerald George who lived in Vincennes Indiana in 1951 – you might want to take a look at my earlier post because I may have found a picture of your relative!


Where’d She Go Wednesday? Searching for Aunt Rosie

Most of Custode’s grandchildren remember the happy smiling face of their parents’ Aunt Rosie in stark contrast to their memories of their grandmother. Rosie is described as sweet, happy and always smiling even though she only had a few teeth – Grandma George, as she was known, not so much. She was stern and serious. They also recall that Aunt Rosie didn’t speak English but Grandma George did.

I based my initial assumption that Rose was Custode’s sister on the information in the 1910 Census for Dunbar, PA, which listed Andy George as the Head of Household living with his wife Christine, their children and Rose Botsella, his sister-in-law. Rose was 35 and her marital status was blank. If she was Adriano’s sister-in-law her last name would have been George or Giorgio. If she was Custode’s unmarried sister, she would have been Iacobucci. This is why I deduced that she was a widow and had been married to someone named Buzzelli. But the column for marital status is left blank so we don’t know that she was a widow.  As for her name, it would be a common mistake for a census taker to spell her name with a “t” since that is probably how the “ZZ” sounded.

If Adriano and Custode were running a grocery store during the first ten years of the 1900s – there may have been someone helping take care of their children. That someone was probably Rose. If Rose was recently widowed (whether in Italy or the US we don’t know) it would be a convenient arrangement for her as well. The fact that the two sisters didn’t get along, so I’ve heard from some of Custode’s grandchildren, would explain why we don’t find Rose living with Custode in any of the census reports after 1910.

So where did Rosie go? Another bit of information from the 1910 census gives us a clue. Her occupation is listed as “servant” and her employer is listed as “private family.” In the 1930 census for Chartiers, PA in Washington County – not too far from Dunbar, we find a “Rosy Buzzelli” living with William and Mary Warne (ages 67 and 57) on a farm.  Her occupation is listed as “servant.” The census report indicates she is able to read, write and speak English and that she immigrated from Italy in 1897. Even though I haven’t found her immigration records, that is the year in which I think Custode arrived. Maybe I should look for them traveling together – Custode Iacobucci and Rose Buzzelli.   Interestingly,  in the 1930 census, the column for marital status indicates that Rosy is married.  Hmmm…. a mistake or were she and her husband separated for a long period of time and if so  – why? Or maybe she told her employers she was married. There’s really no way to know how that information was included. It’s also possible that the Rosy Buzzelli is Chartiers is another woman and not our Rosie. So many possibilities.

If we assume that when Italians came to America they tended to live with other families they knew from their home town in Italy, we would expect to find the following family names in Castel di Sangro – Giorgio, Iacobucci and Buzzelli and living together in America. And we do. Particularly interesting is that in the 1930 census for Dunbar, we find Alphonse Buzzelli and his wife Viola living at 120 Connellsville Street – just three houses down from Custode George who lives at 128 Connellsville Street. 1930 Census.Dunbar.Connellsville St.marked
Alphonse is 35 in 1930, he was born in Italy, and his immigration year is listed as 1901, which means he came over when he was six. But more interesting than that is his occupation – he is a clerk in a grocery store. Could it be the same store that Custode and Adriano once ran?

It is pure speculation on my part but I think there is a connection between the Iacobucci’s and Buzzelli’s based on more than the marriage between Rose Iacobucci and the yet unidentified Buzzelli who was her husband at some point before 1910.
I’ve been doing some research on Iacobucci’s and Buzzelli’s and looking at the other trees on Ancestry.com that have those names.  The real question I want to answer is about the relationship between Guiseppe Iacobucci of New Castle, PA and his brother Vincenzo Iacobucci, of Derry, PA and the two Iacobucci sisters – Custode and Rose. Were they all siblings or were they related some other way?  Perhaps other family trees on Ancestry.com will provide some answers.

The Iacobucci siblings (I think) are listed here by birth order with their birth and death dates following their names. As far as I can determine, they were all born in Italy.

Vincenzo (1861-1943) Remember – a Vincenzo Iacobucci was identified as Custode’s guardian when she married Adriano in Pittsburgh in 1899.
Guiseppe (1866 -1942) He died on his birthday – June 5th
Rose (1877 – 1968)
Custode (1880-1967)

If these four Iacobucci’s are siblings, Custode was 19 years younger than Vincenzo. That is certainly possible given the early start that most Italian women in the mid- 1800s got on having children and the number of children they had. It is also possible that Vincenzo was a cousin or uncle to Custode.

There is no easy answer but it is helpful to know that Rick’s DNA matches some of the owners of Ancestry.com trees that have Buzellas and Iacobuccis. They don’t include Custode or Rose but they may not have extended their tree that far since they are focused on their direct line. The DNA connection strongly suggests that some of the Iacobuccis and Buzzellis in those trees are connected to our family. My task is to find out how!

Custode Iacobucci George – One Tough Lady: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks and Blogging 101

I wasn’t planning to write about my husband’s great grandmother for this post since I wrote about her in my very first 52 ancestor post last April. https://wordpress.com/post/66239798/137/
But sometimes there’s a mysterious quality to an ancestor that draws you in and makes you want to know more. In that sense, my genealogy is often a creative pursuit because I like to build stories around the skeleton of the person that is created by the few facts available.

Uh oh – I heard the collective gasp from the “real” genealogists out there – but I do try to differentiate between fact and fiction. I just want to know these people and without family stories passed down from one generation to the next, I’m forced to create my own.

Custode Iacobucci George was one tough lady and continues to be tough to research. She was born in Italy on May 27, 1880 and died in Connellsville, PA on December 27, 1967 at age 87.

Rick beside Custode's Grave

Rick beside Custode’s Grave

She arrived in Pittsburgh PA sometime around 1896 or 1897, though I’ve yet to find her immigration record. She married Adriano Giorgio (aka Andrew George) in Pittsburgh on February 13, 1899 and their first son, my husband’s grandfather, Frederick William George, was born on November 19, 1899. The consent to her marriage was given by her “guardian” – Vincenzo Iacobucci. The fact that he identified her as his ward makes me think her parents stayed in Italy or were dead. Perhaps she came with an older brother or uncle or other relatives. But Vincenzo Iacobucci isn’t too easy to find either.

By December 18, 1901, the birthday of their second son – Luigino Anthony George (Gene) -Custode and Andrew had moved to Dunbar PA. We found Gene’s birth listed in the parish records of St. Aloyious Church at the Dunbar Historical Society, but none of the other children’s births were recorded there. We also know that one of their daughters – Lucia Lydia – died from scarlet fever in 1916 at age 7 and is buried in the St. Aloyious cemetery. So as with any mother who has to bury a child, life gave Custode her fair share of heartache and pain.

From the 1910 census report, we know that Andy and Christine (a name she tended to use more than Custode) were living in Dunbar with Nick (Andy’s son from his first marriage to Marianne Frattura, who died in childbirth in Italy in 1896), Fred, Gene, Victor, Philomena, Lena, Hubert and Lydia and Custode’s sister Rosa Botsella (probably Buzzella) a widow. From the court records of a 1912 lawsuit we know that the last time Custode saw Andy in Dunbar was May 1912. By June 1913 he had remarried a woman in Italy named Maria Flamminio and from what we can tell, they lived in Castel di Sangro and he never returned to PA. Family stories place his estimated date of death in the early 1950s but I’ve yet to verify the exact date.

From the Italian genealogy records we have on the Giorgio family, which were compiled by someone in Italy, the record of Adriano’s life in the US (including his wife and their eight children) is not mentioned. It’s as if it never happened – but my husband and our children are proof that it did – as are several other descendants of Fred George with his second wife Elizabeth Collins as well as the children and grandchildren of Adrian’s and Custode’s other children, most of whom were born in Dunbar between 1900 and 1911. So as far as mysteries go, Custode and Adriano were quite a pair, but surely someone out there has something to share. To clear up some confusion Adriano, Adrian, Andrew and Andy all refer to Custode’s husband, it just depends on which record you’re looking at.

As if the English version of Italian names isn’t confusing enough, there are often multiple cousins with the same first and last name (following the Italian convention to name the first born son after the father’s father) so it becomes important to differentiate between them. It also gets confusing when there are multiple generations with the same name so let me introduce the characters who all share the name – Frederick William George. The first one – we’ll call Fred George, is the first-born son of Custode and Adriano.

Frederick William George Circa 1919

Frederick William George Circa 1919

His son, my father-in-law, is Dad and my husband is Rick. That is the wonderful thing about a name like Frederick – you can get a lot of different names without resorting to Junior or little Freddy. As an interesting aside, Dad’s given name (although again – I haven’t found his birth certificate) was probably Frederick William George, Jr. but somewhere along the way it was changed to Frederick William George, III.

Dad never talked about his own father’s family because his parents divorced when he was young. He was in his teens when his mother Evelyn Clark married Ben Williams. When Rick was growing up, he never even knew he was ¼ Italian. Dad finally confirmed that fact when Rick was 22 – the occasion was Dad’s second marriage to a woman whose maiden name was Sartoretto. She says she knew Dad was Italian the first time she met him.

Dad passed away in 2000 without providing too much information. Rick spent many evenings visiting Dad with the specific purpose of finding out more about his Italian roots, but for some reason Dad was reluctant to share much information so the mystery grew. Whether it was from lack of knowledge or reticence to speak of his Italian heritage, the only things Dad told Rick were that his father had brothers named Gene,Victor and Hubert and that he remembers visiting his Italian grandmother where there were lots of people gathered round the table enjoying her delicious gnocchi. He went on in great detail about the wonderful texture of the gnocchi – so clearly food-linked memories have staying power.

In 2011 Rick started using Ancestry.com to fill in the gaps. From the WWI draft registration for Fred George he found the name Custode George at 128 Connellsville Road, Dunbar PA listed as Fred’s mother. This is the same address that Custode has in all of the census reports, from 1910 through 1940 but her first name in those Census reports was always Christine or Christina so she was not showing up in our searches for Custode George in the census reports.

Custode's House in July 2013

Custode’s House in July 2013

A Google search of “Custode George” revealed a 1912 court case in which the sheriff of Fayette County (where Dunbar is located) was trying to evict Custode and her eight children from their home. The order to sell the home came from a court in Lawrence County (where New Castle is located) and was issued to satisfy a judgment note for $3,000 that Andy gave his brother Pasquale George.

RED FLAG – you “OWE” your brother $3,000 and he goes to the trouble of a court proceeding to get a judgment that is used to evict your wife and children from their home and within a year you leave for Italy where you remarry and never return to PA again – whoa there has GOT to be a story there! (Spoiler alert – Custode fought back and got to keep the home.)

Thus began our search for the illusive Custode Iacobucci George. Of course, we didn’t know her maiden name until we made a trip to New Castle and Dunbar in the summer of 2013. All of the census records listed her as Christine George. When we met relatives who knew her as their grandmother they didn’t know her maiden name and had never heard the name Custode – as far as they knew her first name was Christine or Christina and she had always lived on the main street in Dunbar. Her daughter Philomena lived in a house behind hers.

Uniontown PA Fayette County Courthouse

Uniontown PA
Fayette County Courthouse

After a week of visiting the county courthouses surrounding Pittsburgh and meeting cousins Rick found through his DNA test, we were getting a bit frustrated that nobody knew more about Custode. We finally hit pay dirt when we got to the lovely old courthouse in Uniontown PA and found the marriage license applications for Custode’s two daughters – Philomena and Lena.

Rick hot on the trail of Custode's maiden name

Rick hot on the trail of Custode’s maiden name

The July 1923 license for Philomena George’s marriage to Antonio Galand, lists her mother as Custode Yacibucci, living in Dunbar and her father as Andrew George, living in Italy. Lena’s application to marry Nick Renzi (several years later) also lists Custode’s maiden name as Iacobucci (spelled differently) but indicates that her father Andrew is dead.

It was a happy day when we finally discovered Custode’s maiden name. We also found her 1966 will which listed her living children and revealed a new mystery about her youngest son Francis, but that will be a story for another day. But despite the thrill at finally knowing her maiden name and the discovery since then of many family trees with the surname Iacobucci – Custode is keeping her secrets. Her name – Custode or Christine – doesn’t show up on any of the trees we’ve found, but we have to believe she is related to some of the Iacobuccis in those trees. Maybe the branches just don’t stretch far enough to include her. Or perhaps she is just as hard for others to research as she has been for us.

Indeed – Custode Iacobucci George – is a tough nut to crack.

Finding Family – The Search Begins

Rick’s father – Frederick William George, III (Freddy) – was born in 1923 and grew up in western PA. Once he finished medical school at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1940s, he joined the Navy, moved away and lost touch with his father’s side of the family. George, is the Americanized version of Giorgio.

Freddy was the first child born to Frederick William George (1899-1951) and Evelyn E. Clark (1901-1981). We know from the 1930 Census that Evelyn and her two sons (Freddy and Richard) lived in Santa Monica, California with Evelyn’s younger sister Grace Clark. At this same time, Freddy’s father (Fred) lived in Midland, PA in Beaver County, with his brothers Victor and Hubert. So there were early signs of trouble in Fred and Evelyn’s marriage that were significant enough for them to be separated – by more than 2,400 miles.

Fred and Evelyn may have reconciled briefly at some point after their separation in 1930 because a third son, Jerry John, was born to Evelyn on December 8, 1931 in PA. By the 1940 Census, Evelyn had remarried Ben Williams and they were living in Hanover, Washington County, PA. The 1940 Census lists Ben Williams and his wife Evelyn living with Ben’s son Gordon (19) and his stepsons, Freddy (17), Richard (16), and Jerry (8). The 1940 Census has a feature that identifies where someone lived in 1935. Evelyn and her sons were living in Burgettstown, but Ben Williams was in Bridgeville, PA. This would suggest they married sometime after 1935.

The 1940 Census also shows that Fred was married to Elizabeth and they were living in East Liverpool, Ohio with their three children James (6), Eleanor (4) and Lynnette (2). As far as we know, Freddy did not know about his half siblings, although it seems hard to believe that he didn’t since in 1935 when he was in Burgettstown, PA, he was living about 30 miles away from his father. Apparently the split between Evelyn and Fred was acrimonious enough that Evelyn cut off any contact between her sons and their father.

Fast forward to 2013 when wanted a DNA test for his birthday present. He was always interested in knowing more about his father’s side of the family. He researched the options and chose 23 and Me rather than the test available on Ancestry.com. In early May 2013 he spit into a test tube, mailed off the sample and anxiously awaited the results. In 2013, 23 and Me was still able to provide health information so those results were interesting, but the thing Rick really wanted, and the thing that took the longest to get, was the information showing possible relatives. This is based on other people who’ve had a DNA test and are willing to share their results. We were lucky enough to find someone living in western PA who was likely to be Rick’s third cousin.

This was encouraging – although not necessarily the link to our Italian ancestors. The match could have been on Rick’s mother’s side (her family was also from Western PA) or from Evelyn Clark’s family. When we learned that the match was with someone named Terry Colaluca – we had a pretty good idea that we were in the Italian branch of our family tree. We were even luckier when Rick and Terry began corresponding and she turned out to be a friendly, open, caring person who was happy to share what she knew about our common ancestors. The connection between Rick and Terry is that their great grandfathers – Adriano Giorgio and Pasquale Giorgio – were brothers.

The story of meeting Terry and other relatives on our trip to PA in the summer of 2013 will have to wait for another post. If someone reading this has any information about this cast of characters, please leave a comment.