Happy Birthday Irene!

I woke up this morning with this song running through my head but with slightly different lyrics. Not the sad blues version first recorded in 1933 by Louisiana bluesman Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter

and popularized by the Weavers  in the late 1940s –

but a happy birthday version for cousin Irene Rose George Veri. Happy Birthday Irene!

When I met her I asked Irene if she knew where her name came from. I think she said she didn’t (I always hesitate to recount what Irene told me about things because her memory is better than mine, but I’m pretty sure she said she didn’t know who she was named for other than her middle name Rose.)  Her middle name might be from her father’s Italian family – specifically Custode’s sister Rosallia. Rosaria is another form of that name and was the name of Nick George’s aunt, Rosaria who was married to Ciro Giorgio, Adriano Giorgio’s older brother. Ciro died in 1926, but Rosaria Giorgio and her children, including Josephine Bucci, lived in New Castle, PA near Irene’s family. Several girls in the George family have Rose in their name, usually as a middle name, so I think there is a family connection for Irene’s middle name.

What Irene did tell me is that her father often wrote songs and she was his secretary. They preserved the copyright for the songs Nick wrote by mailing them back to themselves so they’d have an “official” date (the postmark) of when they first created the lyrics.

My hunch about Irene’s name is that it came from the song Leadbelly Ledbetter sang at every show he performed. It became his “signature” song and you can read more about it here . His music was discovered in the early 1930s when John Lomax from the Library of Congress was sent to record American folk/blues music, specifically “Negro” songs of the South. He visited Southern prisons because he reasoned that the folk music he was after was going to be in songs by people who’d had a hard life. He recorded Huddie Ledbetter’s music in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1933.

Nick and Mary George followed the Italian naming convention for their children – first son after the paternal grandfather, first daughter after the paternal grandmother, but by the time Irene, their last child came along, I think they chose a name just because they liked it. I realize it’s probably more likely they knew someone with that name but I like to make up fun theories to explain family history, and given Nick’s love of music (and my love of this song, which I can remember my grandmother singing to me) I’m sticking with my theory that Nick’s love of music influenced Irene’s name.

Be sure to check out this version by Ry Cooder, which has all the gruesome lyrics of love gone wrong. I linked it because of the accordion – when was the last time you heard an accordion in a band?

Whatever the reason for your name, I’m sure glad you were born and wish you many happy returns of the day!

Irene George and Andrew (Butch) Veri

Irene George and her brother Anthony

Irene and Eleanor

Irene George on left, cousin Eleanor George (daughter of Fred and Betty) on right.


Our Family Tree Roots are Getting Deeper!

Rick and I are always excited to hear from our Giorgio famiglia but especially last week when Irene George Veri wrote that she’d found another relative. Not just any relative mind you, but one who’s been doing genealogy research since the 1990s! No surprise – it didn’t take long for me to call our new “cousin” Wilberta Illig DiVincenzo.

In light of what follows, it’s funny that Irene began her email to me almost apologetically by saying that she’d found a relative on her mother’s side . . .  “but don’t despair . . . this may bring us a lot of information about Custode” (understatement of the year!)

Irene’s mother, Mary Giampaolo was about 16 – 18 years younger than her older sisters Marianne (1880 – 1945) and Amelia/Emilia (1882-1955). Both of her older sisters were born in Castel di Sangro, Italy and emigrated to Pennsylvania in the late 1880s with their parents.  Wilberta’s mother Angeline (born in 1920) was the youngest daughter of Amelia, whose married name was Mariani.

The reason Wilberta would have information about the Iacobuccis is because her grandmother’s older sister Marianne Giampaolo married Joseph Iacobucci. Joseph is Custode’s older brother and he lived in New Castle so perhaps in some of her research Wilberta may have accumulated some information about the Iacobucci family.  Just maybe – if we’re lucky – it’s possible – you never know.  Just maybe she’ll be able to provide new information about our family. Just maybe . . . she might.

Ummm. . .  boy howdy did she!

Thanks to our phone call last night and Wilberta’s willingness to share her records,  I now have a copy of the Italian marriage record of Custode’s parents – Agostino Iacobucci and Filomena Petrarca. They married in 1857 in the church of Santa Maria in Castel di Sangro – a church that is miraculously still standing! (Most of Castel di Sangro was destroyed when the Nazi’s skedaddled at the end of World War II.)

So other than being incredibly excited that Rick and I might one day be able to see the church where his great great grandparents were married, I was equally excited to see that our grandmother Custode was named after her father’s mother – Custode Carlone Iacobucci – who worked as a spinner in Castel di Sangro, Italy in 1857. I have always loved the name Custode so of course I think it is cool that our Custode was named after her grandmother. I’m also excited to have a new name to research – Carlone.

Italian marriage records have a lot of information about the families of the bride and groom. In addition to listing the groom, Agostino’s profession – a shepherd, and age (25) we learn that his father Guiseppe Iacobucci was also a shepherd.  We don’t learn as much about the bride’s family because both of Filomena Petrarca’s parents were dead when she married (at age 19) which in and of itself adds a bit of sadness to the story.  We do learn their names – Nicasio Petrarca (her father) and Barbara Buzzelli (her mother).  Aha – didn’t have to go too far back to find the Buzzelli connection. This might explain why Rosallia Iacobucci’s first husband was Peter Buzzelli.  It was not unusual for second cousins to marry.

So I’m beyond excited to extend our family tree a generation further back.  When I mentioned to Wilberta that Adriano’s first wife was from Castel di Sangro and was named Marianna Frattura – she recognized the name and said she had some Fratturas in her family tree.

Rick has commented on this before but isn’t it interesting that all three of Adriano’s wives were from Castel di Sangro, a small mountain community mid-way between his town of San Vito Chietino on the Adriatic and Naples, on the Mediterranean. I’m curious if there was some family connection between the two towns or if he was just passing through when he met his first wife. The mountain scenery must have agreed with him because it seems to be the last place he called home. Alas – he still holds so many secrets but I’m not giving up.

Yes Irene – you were quite right to suggest that Wilberta DiVincenzo might be able to provide some information about the Iacobuccis. Quite right indeed!

Many, many, thanks to both of you.

The brides parents names are on the last two lines. You know they are deceased by the “fa” and “fu” that precede their names. The letter in Nicasio that looks like a cursive “f” is actually a lower case “s” back then.


Thursday Tidbit – Our Family Poet – Nicholas Vitus George


In a recent email I mentioned to Irene George Veri that I wish I could have met her father. I usually form an idea of what a person is like (rightly or wrongly) from what I read in the old newspaper accounts about that person. Everything I’ve read about Nick George reveals a kind and loving man whose family and community were of primary importance to him.

Irene mentioned that her father used to dictate song lyrics to her and she would write them down and mail them back to him. This was a way of documenting the date the song was written for copyright purposes. I wonder if Irene still has any of those lyrics?

When I came across this poem, published in the New Castle News on March 29, 1969, I could hardly wait until March to post it.

Based on last night’s torrential rains and thunderstorms here in Greensboro, NC and the predicted dip to low temps in the 20s this weekend (after a ‘wacky’ month of early spring) I’d say Nick captured the vagaries of March weather perfectly.

Happy Birthday Irene George Veri

Today is Irene George Veri’s birthday!!! Happy birthday Irene. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do on this blog without your fantastic memory and family stories that offer so much background on the George family. And did I mention pictures?

Here are just a few to highlight your special day! Maybe you can add some comments to tell us all a bit more about them. Is this one with the piano in the background at your parents’ house in New Castle?


And here are a couple more in honor of our birthday girl.



Where are you going all dressed up?




Is this your front porch in New Castle?