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.


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.

And so begins the past …

Adriano Giorgio was born in San Vito Chietino, Chieti, Abruzzo Italy on 27 November 1871. He first came to Western PA in sometime around 1897, leaving behind a young son – Nicola – born to him and his first wife Marianna Frattura. Marianna Frattura was from Castel di Sangro, L’Aquilo, Abruzzo Italy. Marianna died a week after Nicola Giorgio was born in the fall of 1896. Baby Nick stayed in Italy while Adriano sought his new life in America. Adriano later brought Nick to the US in 1904. Passenger logs show the two of them arriving in New York on the ship named the “Roma” on 19 December 1904. The 1910 Census shows Nick, age 14, living in Dunbar with Custode and Adriano.

Soon after arriving in Western PA, Adriano met Custode Iacobucci who was born in Italy on 27 May 1880. We’re still searching for exactly where in Italy she was born (we suspect Castel di Sangro) or whether she and Adriano knew each other in Italy or met once they were both in western PA. We do know they married on 13 February 1899 in Pittsburgh.

A word about names. Accept the fact that it is going to get confusing. Italian convention is for the first-born son to be named after his father’s father. Adriano and Marianna followed this convention in naming Nicola after Adriano’s father – Nicola Nunziato Sabio Giorgio. Adding to the confusion for finding someone in a later generation is the fact that if four brothers all name their first son after their father, you’ve got four cousins with the same first and last name.

As if that didn’t make things complicated enough, we’re also dealing with the Americanized version of Italian names. So Adriano becomes Adrian or sometimes even Andy. Custode (which is a name I’ve loved ever since I came across it because it means someone who takes care of others) was never known by that name to her own grandchildren who thought her name was Christine. Just accept that it’s going to get confusing.

Many thanks to Lynnette George Burnett, who has graciously shared her grandparents’ wedding photo. Lynnette is the half sister of Rick’s father Fred. So in finding our past it looks like we’ve found part of our future – an aunt we never knew we had. We think aunts are awesome!