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.


Tuesday Tidbits – All About March

I’m enjoying a quiet week at the beginning of what will be a busy month. I’m trying to organize the research I need to do when I go to Charlottesville VA on March 18th. My book club buddies and I will be attending the Virginia Festival of the Book from March 18- 20th. Three days of author talks and programs and for me, a full day of research at the courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, where my maternal grandmother’s ancestors lived from the late 1700s through the 1800s.

The line I descend from moved to Richmond VA during the Civil War. I’m pretty sure my great great grandfather James Albert Powell married the nurse who took care of him after he was wounded at the battle of Drewrey’s Bluff during the Civil War. In any event, there are almost as many Powells with the names of Samuel, Elizabeth, Henry,and Benjamin as there are Giorgios named Pasquale, Nick, Louis, and Mary.  Add to that confusion that women were often still giving birth to children at the time their first children were having their own – so grandchildren can sometimes be mistaken as children and vice versa.The only way to be sure is to find original documents at the local sources.

After I get back from Charlottesville, I have one week before Easter and on Easter Monday Rick and I drive to New Jersey to meet Dominick Renzi. Get ready Dominick – we can’t wait to meet you! It will be fun to learn more about the Giorgios and Renzis of Dunbar, PA and see pictures of the family – especially the Renzi farm on Limestone Hill, PA.

After visiting Dominick, Rick and I head in to NYC for a four day visit. Our adult children, Sarah and Will, will fly up on Thursday (3/31) and join us for their first trip to New York. One of their friends, Bennett Sullivan, a very talented musician,  is on Broadway in Steve Martin’s and Edie Brickell’s musical Bright Star. What better way to experience your first Broadway play than to see someone you grew up with on stage?!?

Tomorrow is a super big day. No -not because of Super Tuesday – thank goodness my genealogy habit distracts me from politics! Tomorrow is important because the “countdown” for the Genealogy Research Institute in Pittsburgh registration for July classes hits ZERO at Noon EST. The wait is over and I can register for a week long class on Researching Italian Ancestors.


I can’t wait to learn how to find the information buried in Italian vital records to help us take the Giorgio Iacobucci families further back. If I get in the course I’ll be in Pittsburgh for the week of July 18th and at the end of the week Rick will drive up and we’ll do some more research, meet some more cousins and repeat our visit of three years ago that started us down this incredible journey.

Yeah – pretty exciting for a quiet start to a busy month!

Thursday Tidbit – Nick & Lena’s Marriage License

Lena George Renzi presents and interesting example of the confusion that can arise with an ancestor’s name.  Here is Lena’s birth certificate:


I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned “Ida” as a part of her name. It is easy to see that Lena would come from Angelina but where did Ida come from?  Also interesting in this birth certificate is the name of her father “Andy Georgia.” We’ve certainly seen Adrian referred to as Andy but “Georgia” instead of Georgio or George is unusual.

Lena’s birth certificate gives us a clue that Adrian and Custode were operating their store in Dunbar by 1906. I’d love to pin down exactly when they began operating the store – my guess is some time between 1903 (when Joe was born in New Castle) and 1906.  Unfortunately, the birth certificates for the George children born before Lena are not available. Reporting births at the state level was not very common during this time so even though I might find a record at the county level, it is something I will have to search on my next trip to PA. There are also privacy laws restricting the release of birth records of anyone who might still be living so it will take awhile for me to assemble all of the birth records.

One final point about the birth certificate is the use of Custode as the first name of Grandma George and confirmation of her maiden name as Yacobucci. I suspect the variations between it spelled with an “Ia” or a “Y” depended on the person in the clerk’s office filling out the information.

Now take a look at Lena’s application for a marriage license which was signed in 1939.  “Angelina Ida” is now “Lena Agnes” and the full name Angelina is not used at all.


You might also notice that Lena refers to her mother as Christina instead of Custode and she indicates her father is deceased. Irene George Veri remembers her father Nick planning a trip to Italy to visit his father in the mid- 1950s and cancelling the trip because he got word that Adrian had died. So Lena’s mention of her father being dead,  may be more of “he’s dead to me” since he abandoned the family when she was only six years old than any sort of proof that he was physically dead.  I really look forward to the day I find out more about Adriano’s final years in Italy. (Mostly because I will probably have to go to Italy to do that!!!)

The other interesting thing about this license is the time frame.  Nick’s first wife Julia, died in May of 1939 and in less than four months he married Lena. Dominic Renzi, Nick’s oldest son, has pointed out that his father worked on the railroad and needed someone at home with his two young sons. Nick’s sisters helped out after Julia’s death, but Nick needed a more permanent solution. Dominic has also mentioned that he never saw much love expressed between his father and Lena but that she was a good step mother. I’ve heard from others that Lena was not a very nice person and was sometimes mean to the boys. Gene George, Lena’s older brother, was the peacemaker in the family and a great uncle to Dominic and Eugene Renzi. From what I’ve heard about the family dynamics, it seems that much like Rosie and Custode (who were different as night and day) Philomena and Lena also had very different personalities.

It is unclear how Custode felt about Lena leaving home. I have heard some stories that suggest Custode and Nick met to negotiate the arranged marriage but I’ve also heard that Custode was against the marriage and wouldn’t let Lena (who was an accomplished pianist) take her piano with her to the farm when she married Nick. Apparently this caused a riff in the  mother daughter relationship. Others have suggested that Custode did not think Nick was “good enough” for her daughter.

I would love to hear from any of you with an opinion about Lena’s marriage to Nick and what effect it may have had on the family dynamics.  It certainly sounds like time on the Renzi farm is a favorite memory that many George descendants share and none of that would have happened if Lena had not married Nick.

I can’t wait to meet Dominic in March and see some pictures of the farm. I would also love to have a picture of Nick Renzi if anyone has one.

Thursday Tidbit

Custode.1949One of my favorite genealogy  blogs is the Legal Genealogist. She covers a wide range of topics and often provides information on resources that are helpful to genealogists.

Earlier this week a reader posted a question about what information might they might find from their ancestor’s federal Form SS-5. Form SS-5 is the form that you fill out to get a social security card. It often contains relevant details(parents’ names, place of birth, occupation) and is usually first-hand information directly from your ancestor, which tends to make it more reliable than information from secondary sources.

Since I have Custode’s social security number from the Social Security Death Index, I decide it was worth $27 to see what information it contains. I’m  hoping it will have the exact town in Italy where she was born and her mother’s maiden name, but it might just say “Italy” for place of birth.

I’m curious why Custode ever got a social security card since from what I can tell, she never worked outside the home. The SSDI indicates it was issued in 1966-67 (she died in December 1967) so perhaps it was related to setting up her estate.

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 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 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 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!