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 – Circa 1906

Thanks to Lainie who sent me this picture that she found yesterday. The notation on the back indicates that it is a picture of her father’s brother – Fred’s school picture from Dunbar, PA but it doesn’t indicate where Fred is in the picture. Would anyone like to guess where he is in the line up?  I think we might get several different opinions but I’d love to hear what you think.

This might be one of the earliest pictures of Fred unless someone has a baby picture

Please answer by using right and left in relation to how you are seeing the picture. For example, “the first boy from the left on the first row is wearing a bow tie and the second boy from the right on the first row is not facing the camera.”


Happy hunting!

Thursday Tidbit – Marriage Records

MarriageLicense.22Nov1921From online records, I knew that Frederick William George, first son of Adriano and Custode George, married each of his wives in West Virginia. Wellsburg, West Virginia to be precise. I suppose there was something that made it easier, faster or cheaper to get married in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.

Knowing something because you see it neatly indexed on-line vs. seeing a copy of the document (or big heavy record book) evokes a completely different feeling in me. Seeing the original document in the courthouse where the event occurred, sometimes with the actual signatures of the persons involved, puts me “over the moon.”  It is such a thrill to see a document created at the time an historic event occurred. (I fully accept the fact that to most people this classifies me as a complete genealogical geek, but I’m fine with that!)

It isn’t always possible to visit the local courthouse, library or historical society so I am thankful for digitized versions of records. Especially because I’m still early enough in my genealogical journey to find significant documents when I spend a random evening relaxing at home. Like the Marriage Record shown above from Wellsburg, West Virginia, documenting the marriage of Frederick William George and Evelyn Clark, which took place on November 22, 1921. Proof of their marriage appears at the bottom of the right-hand page.

Or the one below (bottom left page) when Fred married Betty Collins on November 2, 1932:

Marriage License.2Nov1932

One of the main reasons my husband grew up without knowing his Giorgio relatives (other than the fact that his father was happy to abandon snowy Pennsylvania for sunny California) was that his father was only 7 when Fred and Evelyn divorced. In fact he was younger than that when the two separated because the 1930 Census shows Evelyn living in California with her sister with her sons, Fred and Richard, while Fred was living in Midland with his brothers Hubert and Victor.

The fact that Fred’s children with Betty did not know about their half siblings while growing up, suggests there was very little, if any, contact between Fred and the sons he had with Evelyn. The fact that my father-in-law changed his name from Frederick William George, Jr. to Frederick William George, III, suggests an effort on his part to distance himself from his father.

So when Rick finally meets his half-aunt, Lynnette George Burnett the youngest child of Fred and Betty later this summer, it will be quite a cause for celebration. Yes – it really is true that time heals all wounds.

Friday Foto Feature – Frederick William George

I am so thankful for those of you who have shared your stories and photos of the Giorgio family. If anyone reading this has more to share please get in touch with me. There seems to be a strong history of George family members joining the Navy. I’d love to create a photo montage of all of George men (and women – like our niece who joined the Marines) in uniform.

So I’ll start with these two – the first FWG (not in uniform) on the left, and my father-in-law Frederick William George, Jr. (who went by Frederick William George, III) on the right.  I think these pictures capture father and son at about the same age.

Frederick William George (born 1899)

Frederick William George (born 1899)

Frederick William George (born 1923)

Frederick William George (born 1923)

WOW – when I look at these two photos side by side, I see remarkable similarities between the two. What do you think?


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