So About those Properties in Dunbar

First, let me say that it’s February 6th and I’ve only missed one day of writing in the Family History Writing Challenge. More importantly, I have truly written for the 30 minutes each day devoted to the task. I have not let myself get distracted by doing research or chasing bright shiny objects (two of my favorite distractions.)

But there are 55 hours in a weekend. Even if you take away 30 for doing things like sleeping, eating and cleaning house, you still have 25 hours for research and writing. I spent about four hours on Sunday pouring over enumeration district maps from the National Archives that are on line through Family Search. It’s a bit of a tedious process and frustrating when I learned at the end of the process that the maps for Dunbar – the town not the Township – were not there.

But instead of what I DIDN’T find – let’s focus on the positive. I spent a good amount of time reviewing the deeds and anything I could find about the lawsuits involving the properties. First let me give a huge shout out to Dominic Renzi – our oldest living relative who remembers life with Custode! There is nothing like first-hand information to corroborate your theories. Dominic provided important information to help me focus in on the location of the various properties I was researching.

So despite a lot of wheeling and dealing that made it look like many properties were changing hands, the real estate holdings of “Andy George” and Custode George essentially boiled down to three properties in Dunbar. The property Custode lived in – located at 128 Connellsville Avenue, the house that Philomena and Anthony Galand and their three sons lived in that was up the hill behind Custode’s house, and the property that I believe was the store that Andy and Custode ran from 1904 to 1912, which was located across Connellsville Avenue from Custode’s house. (Maybe — see comments below this post.)

On the map below, the red dot is Custode’s house, the blue dot is Aunt Phil’s house and the yellow triangle marks the spot that I believe was the location of the store.  (Aunt Phil’s might actually be on the other side of Hayes Street which may not have been a street in 1912.) This theory only holds water if “back in the day” (circa 1910) what is now known as Highland Avenue was known as 4th Street.


I won’t bore you with the dates of the various transactions but from about 1907, when Custode and Adriano bought their first property, which I call the Fourth Street Property, until February 1912 when Andy “made” Custode sign all the properties over to him (and paid her $3,500 for them) the various transfers between the two of them only involved three properties: the Fourth Street property – aka the store (yellow); Custode’s house, at the corner of Connellsville Street and Highland Avenue (red), and Aunt Phil’s house (blue).

My theory is that what is now known as Highland Street used to be 4th Street – okay actually that is Rick’s discovery from studying the maps (thanks Rick!) and that property was probably the store. It was also the only property of the three that Custode did not end up with at the end of the lawsuits.

This theory fits with Dominic’s recollection which I’ve copied below:

One day talking to William (Bill ) Galand sitting on the wall facing Connellsville Street, Bill said,  “Do you see that building,” which was across Connellsville Street from where we were sitting, “it used to belong to our grandmother.”

Only half of the building was left and I think it was brick, but a mixed color brick, not red or brown. It looked like there might have been a fire, or maybe it was being torn down, but it was facing Connellsville Street on the left corner across from Grandma George’s house. It might still be there.

Sadly – it is not still there. But it makes sense that the properties that Andy and Custode George owned were close together. I’ve yet to find a map of Dunbar that identifies a 4th Street (even though there is more than one 1st, 2nd, and 3rd street in different locations) so I like Rick’s idea that Highland Avenue used to be 4th Street.

So now for the surprise ending – at least for the properties. After all was said and done with the lawsuits, which included:

  1. Pasquale’s case to collect on a $3,000 debt from Andy George (his brother) decided by a court in New Castle in May 1912.
  2. Custode’s case that Pasquale’s claim was bogus and that Andy did not owe Pasquale anything, filed in Uniontown in June 1912.
  3. Andy George’s bankruptcy case, in which William L. Gans was appointed as a bankruptcy trustee on January 31, 1913 ….

. . . Custode got to keep the properties shown with the red and blue dots on the map above and the bankruptcy trustee got to sell the store – aka the Fourth Street property, which is shown in yellow on the map above – at a public auction, which took place on March 27, 1915.

The winning bid, at a price of $720 was none other than (drumroll please . . . )


What the heck??!!! Clearly Pasquale was invested enough in the process to go to Dunbar (a good 2 hour drive from New Castle today but I’m sure he took the train) to bid on the property that his brother used to own. I might also add, that Pasquale made a trip to Italy in the summer of 1914 to get his second wife, and Rick and I assume, to see his brother “Andy” and fill him in on all that was going on in PA. Of course by the time of Pasquale’s visit in 1914, Andy had already married his third wife and probably had no intention of returning to the US.  (or did he????)

Sooo . .. were they all in cahoots to defraud Andy’s creditors or were Custode and Pasquale at odds with each other (my assumption.) If so, what a burr in her side to have Pasquale owning the property that used to be her livelihood and source of income – the store – ACROSS THE STREET from her. (And we wonder why she was bitter.)

Which is why Rick and I need another trip – SOON – to the courthouse in Uniontown, PA to see how long Pasquale owned that property and who he sold it to.

Oh yes, and there’s that small matter of the lot in New Haven that Custode bought in her own name March 1912. It wasn’t mentioned in the lawsuits and it wasn’t mentioned in her will, so presumably she sold it at some point before she died. Probably, she rented it out as a source of income. It may not have even had a house on it because she only paid $150 for it and the other lots in Dunbar that she and Andy bought ranged in price from $900 to $1,300.

Of course, I like to think that Custode kept it as her “love shack” where she and Jimmy Versace went when she wanted to get away from her nine children and have a little fun- but that’s the fictional version of this tale – colored by a bit too much romanticism – but maybe …

Come on – can’t the girl have a little fun?!?

PS – I should probably stop with the Jimmy Versace stories – I actually don’t think there was anything going on between them. I think that Francis, her last child, was born sometime between September 1912 and June 1913 (I still haven’t found his birth date – he’s more of a mystery than Custode) and I think he was Andy’s child.






#FHWC – Day 3

I’m happy to report that I’ve met my writing goal for the first two days of the Family History Writing Challenge and I’ve been disciplined about writing during the entire time and not getting distracted by research. Next week will be more of a challenge since I have meetings after work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. My preferred time to write  is as soon as I get home from work.

Some of the things I’d like to know (hopefully some Giorgio cousins are reading this and will respond) have to do with the grocery store that Adriano and Custode had in Dunbar, PA. From what I can tell, they started it around 1904 and ended their shared operation of it when Adriano left town in 1912.

Does anyone remember hearing that Custode ran the store on her own after Adriano left? Did any of the children work in the store? From the lawsuits it seems that Adriano declared bankruptcy at about the same time he left Dunbar – May 1912 so I think that would have put them out of business. No doubt C was a shrewd business woman but would lenders at that time have made loans to a woman? Especially a woman who’s husband left town owing his creditors?

And finally – who can describe the house Custode lived in which is pictured below. I would love some detailed descriptions of what it was like. Lainie has mentioned being forced to drink lukewarm milk whenever she and her sisters visited Custode. Victor mentioned a room that was dark and full of clothes hanging (from the rafters?) that was somewhat spooky. Dominic and Carole Ann remember there was always a piano but don’t recall whether or not anyone ever played it.


I came across a few more articles of interest in the Connellsville Daily Courier. The first from October 1, 1909 indicating that Andy George bought the home of Frank Merchanti on Bryson Hill. Does anyone know if Bryson Hill is the name of the hill that was behind Custode’s house on Connellsville Avenue? If so, the house Andy bought in 1909 might have been the house that Philomena and her family lived in that was behind Custode’s house.

If so, this would be the view looking toward Custode’s house from that house. Look familiar to anyone? I’ve always imagined that Uncle Tony’s garden was in the grassy area shown in the picture.

from Aunt Phil's view.1real-estate-10-1-1909

Next an ad from February 1912 that indicates Andy George was taking orders for eggs and day old chicks. I’ve also added a few pictures of the breeds. As shown below they are: white orpington hens, light brahma chicks and a barred rock. From the descriptions I’ve found different breeds have different personalities, with light brahmas being very friendly.


And finally – though I can’t be sure this is all there is on the matter until I find more court records, this notice appeared in the Connellsville Daily Courier on May 25, 1912, which is just about the time Adriano made the great skedaddle. A debt of $131.76 doesn’t seem like a lot to me, even for those times. Hardly enough to cause him to leave town. So what else was going on?







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.




Friday Foto Feature – Dunbar Then and Now

The Dunbar Historical Society from WIkipedia

The Dunbar Historical Society from WIkipedia

Other than New Castle, Dunbar is the town in Pennsylvania where the George family has its roots in America. From Custode’s testimony in her 1912 lawsuit against “Andy George” for desertion, we learn that they moved to Dunbar in 1901. Their first son Frederick William George would have been turning two that November and Luiginio Anthony (“Gene”) George was born that December in Dunbar.

When Rick and I visited the Dunbar Historical Society in 2013, we found Gene’s baptism record in the copy of the St. Aloysius Church Register that was in the historical society’s office but we didn’t find records for any of the other children. This would fit with family recollections that Custode may have left (or been excommunicated from) the Catholic Church. Or it may be an indication that not all the church records were copied for the Dunbar Historical Society’s office.

We also learn from Custode’s testimony that she and Adriano began operating their grocery store in 1904. By 1912, the store was doing well. They owned three houses but at the time of the lawsuit the houses were rented and the family lived above the store. According to Custode’s testimony, she thinks Adrian left town because some people were trying to “do him harm.” She did not name anyone in particular but family lore suggests that Adrian refused to give the Black Hand a cut of the store’s profits.

There is no shortage of newspaper articles about the Black Hand’s terror tactics in the immigrant communities in the early 1900s. A search of the Connellsville paper for the key word “Black Hand” turned up 317 articles between 1904 and 1977, the last date for which digitized records are on file. The article in the first column gives an example of their terror tactics.


I’ll add a link on the Trovando Facebook page but since I know some readers are not on Facebook, here is a picture from the Friends of the Dunbar Historical Society’s FB Page of what Dunbar probably looked like when Custode and “Andy” moved there 114 years ago. It’s a little hard to tell but I think the house on Connellsville Avenue,  where Custode raised her children after getting it back through the lawsuit, would be just out of the picture to the right of what is shown here.Dunbar.historicimage

Where’d They Go Wednesday? August 26, 2015

Frederick William George Circa 1919

Frederick William George Circa 1919

The first son born to Adriano and Custode – Frederick William George – is our connection to the Giorgio family. His first son, Frederick William George, Jr. is Rick’s father, although he changed the “Jr.” to the “III” somewhere between high school and medical school.

I find several things very interesting about the first child born to Adriano and Custode (probably in Pittsburgh) in November 1899. First and most interesting, Adriano and Custode – or should I say Andy and Christine – seem to have dropped the Italian custom of naming their first son after the father’s father. True – Nick George (Adriano’s first son who was born to Marianna Frattura in Italy) does have his paternal grandfather’s name. But where in the world did Frederick William come from? It doesn’t sound the least bit Italian – was that intentional? Continue reading