52 Ancestor Challenge – Week 6: So Far Away – Ciro, Adriano, Pasquale and Romeo Giorgio

Over the course of several years, from the mid-1890s to the early 1900s, four sons of Nicola Giorgio and Filomena Pace (the only four who survived to adulthood) left their home town of San Vito Chietino, Chieti, d’Abruzzi on the eastern coast of Italy and made their way to western Pennsylvania. All but one of them (Adriano) lived in New Castle for the rest of their lives. Like most Italian immigrants of their time, they made several trips back and forth between the US and Italy. I am writing about these ancestors for Week 6 of the 52 Ancestor challenge – “So Far Away.”

A lot of the information I use comes from Pennsylvania Death Certificates, which are digitized for most of the relevant period. That’s how I know that Ciro, Pasquale and Romeo died in Pennsylvania. That’s also how I’ve determined the birth dates for each of these men (even though they are not a primary source) since the age listed on census reports only gets you within a year or two. Obviously in both cases you have to assume the person providing the information is being truthful. Their birth order and the order in which they arrived in America is: Ciro (1865), Adriano (1872), Pasquale (1878) and Romualdo, who went by Romeo (1879).

Adriano Giorgio (my husband’s great grandfather) became Andrew or Andy George and was identified as a laborer in the 1910 census for Dunbar, PA. In various ships’ logs his occupation was listed as laborer but we know from other secondary sources such as court records that he ran a grocery store with his wife Custode for several years in the early 1900s. He might also have been a brick maker – the occupation listed on his son Nick George’s application to join the Sons of Italy lodge in 1937. From a lawsuit filed by Custode in July 1912, we know that Adriano was last seen in Dunbar near the end of May. From Italian family history records we believe he married Maria Flamminio (his third wife) in Castel di Sangro on June 1, 1913. I guess he thought his wife and eight children in Dunbar didn’t get in the way of a new life, with a new wife, back in Italy. Interestingly, Castel di Sangro in the province of L’Aquila is where his first wife Marianne Frattura was from and where Adriano’s first son was born in 1896.

Ciro, Adriano’s older brother, spelled his name Giorgio or Georgio. His death certificate uses the later spelling while the first spelling was used on his declaration of intention to become a citizen, which was filed on September 21, 1923. My guess is that the variations in spelling depended on who was filing out the form. Ciro married Rosario Lance(?) in Lanciano, another town in the province of Chieti, in February 1892 and came to America without her soon after the wedding. According to her declaration of intent, Rosario arrived in New York for the first time in February 1901. Ciro and Rosario had four children – Josephine George (1896-1974) whose married name was Gianni (her first husband died before 1920 and left her with 4 children) and later Bucci (second husband); Pasquale (Patsy) George (1903-1993); Anna (1905-1973?) and Vito (1909-1968?). Ciro died at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh on January 13, 1926 after surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Pasquale, Adriano’s next younger brother’s last name was sometimes spelled Georgia, which is how it is spelled on his death certificate. It is also the spelling in the criminal court proceedings in Lawrence County, PA in 1937 when Pasquale was committed to the state mental hospital for the criminally insane where he spent the next 21 years, 8 months, 11 days of his life. He was sent to Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane http://www.wayneindependent.com/article/20130805/News/130809942 instead of jail after a court appointed Commission of three experts determined he was insane and had criminal tendencies. I have not been able to determine the crime he committed but I think it was an assault. The Commissioners’ report found that Pasquale was having hallucinations, talking incessantly, thought that people were trying to hurt his family and saying bad things about him and his family. As an interesting aside, Custode’s testimony in 1912 indicated that Adriano left Dunbar because he thought people were trying to hurt him. Hmmm… could there be some truth to their paranoia?

Pasquale’s children with his first wife – Concetta (Iavicoli) were Maria Elisabetta (Colaluca) (1906-1993); Cristina Maria (Panella)(1908-1985) and Vida Maria (Sforza) (1910-2000). With his second wife, Filomena Ranierri (1891-1920) whom he married in 1914, he had Vittorio (1915-2004); Nicolino (1916-1992); Luigi (1917-1994) and Concetta (1919-1920) and possibly one other child.

According to Terry Colaluca (whose grandmother was Maria Elisabetta but went by Mary), the family story is that Pasquale’s emotional turmoil began when his wife died (presumably his second wife Filomena) and he had eight young children to care for. He gave his youngest child up for adoption because with so many young children and no wife, he simply couldn’t take care of them all. As the story goes, the family who adopted that child named him Luigi, which was also the name of the youngest son that Pasquale kept. According to Terry, Pasquale was never the same after that. He was haunted by the choices he made, but when you look at the facts, it certainly seems he made the right decision.

The 1920 census for New Castle, PA, dated January 5, 1920, shows Pasquale and Filomena Giorgio living at 728 South Mill Street. The children in the home were Maria (14), Cristina (12), Vida (10), Vittorio (4 and 5/12), Nicolina (3 and 11/12), Luigi (2 and 2/12) and Concetta (1). I found the death certificate for FIlomena who died of “lobar pneumonia” on January 23, 1920. I also found baby Concetta’s death certificate. She died on February 27, 1920 (at the age of 1 year and 2 months) of “marasmus following pneumonia.” I had to look it up – “marasmus – a form of severe malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency; a child with marasmus looks emaciated.”

Since we know from Concetta’s death certificate that she was born on December 27, 1918, it is possible that FIlomena had another child before she died in January 1920. Perhaps she gave birth between the date of the census and her death on January 23rd. That would certainly explain why Pasquale had to give up the infant and might also explain why Filomena had trouble recovering from pneumonia. And poor little Concetta – it sounds as if she starved to death. I cannot imagine the sorrow at 728 South Mill Street during the winter of 1920.

I have to admit that it is very hard for me to stop researching Pasquale’s branch of the tree once I get started. I feel a special connection to Pasquale because it was his great granddaughter Terry Colaluca (Rick’s third cousin) whose DNA match allowed Rick to find his George cousins. So without Pasquale and Terry, it is unlikely that I’d be spending all my spare time on this blog. Exactly why I think that is a good thing I haven’t quite figured out.

Pasquale lived the longest of the Giorgio brothers, dying at age 81 at Farview State Hospital. His cause of death was arteriosclerotic heart disease.

The youngest and last Giorgio brother to make his way to Pennsylvania was Romualdo, who went by the name Romeo. Interestingly, the records that Terry got from her research into the family history in Italy, indicate that the Romualdo born on December 7, 1879 in San Vito Chietino, Italy, was the third Romualdo born to Nicola and Filomena Giorgio. The other two died before reaching the age of 4. I have found that it was fairly common for a child to be given the same name as a previously deceased sibling. I guess the third time really was the charm for the Giorgios.

Romeo married Dorinda di Francescantonio in Italy in January 1904 and left for America on March 10, 1904. Dorinda joined him in 1907 and they also settled in New Castle. They had five children: Nick (1907); Concetta (1909); Louis (1911); John (1913) and Phyllis (1923). Romeo died of a stroke in 1941.

Just a quick glance at the number of children that each of these Giorgio boys had who stayed in America and had children of their own, leads me to believe there are quite a few George cousins out there we’ve yet to discover. If you’re one of them, drop me a line.

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.

About the Bloggers

We created this blog to provide a forum for sharing the ancestry work we’ve done to discover our Giorgio Italian ancestors who came from Abruzzo, Italy to western Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. Up until mid-2013 we knew very little about them. Now thanks to Ancestry.com and 23 and Me – we’re getting to know a family we never knew we had!

Frederick William George, IV (Rick) is a high school biology teacher at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC. Kathleen Ann Kingsbury (Kalen) is the Associate Director and General Counsel for Piedmont Land Conservancy, a local nonprofit that helps preserve open space and family farms in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. We’ve been married since 1983 and have two wonderful children, Sarah Elizabeth George and Frederick William George, V (Will.)

We’d recommend this blog for anyone who is embarking on a similar search for distant relatives. We hope it will become a forum for sharing tips and tricks for doing ancestry work and for anyone who wants to share stories of their immigrant ancestors.

We also hope to discover other descendants of the four Giorgio brothers Ciro, Adriano, Pasquale and Romualdo, who came to western Pennsylvania between 1895 and 1905.