Good Night Irene (Irene Rose George Veri: 1935-2018)

Conventional wisdom in genealogical circles is to start with your oldest living relative. Ask questions, draw charts, see what they remember about their grandparents.

What conventional wisdom doesn’t tell you is that you might be lucky enough to find a relative like Irene Veri. Irene was my portal to the past and I was her grateful padawan.

Irene Rose George Veri passed on June 17, 2018. She was 83. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Irene for almost 5 years. Soon after my husband took a DNA test to learn more about his Italian ancestors who he never knew, a match led us to Irene. Her father, Nick George (born Nicola Vitus Giorgio in 1896 in Castel di Sangro, Italy) was the first-born son of my husband’s grandfather – Adriano Giorgio. Technically this makes her my husband’s cousin once-removed – but in reality she was the living memory that only a few genealogists are lucky enough to find. Most of all – she was my friend – and I will miss her.

I keep a notebook of all my emails with relatives as I try to reconstruct my husband’s family tree that his father abandoned at an early age when his parents divorced. No surprise that the tab behind Irene’s page is the largest – by far.

People say that timing is everything. Very true. I met Irene at a time when it was convenient for her to share what she knew about her family and I was the grateful recipient of her vast stores of knowledge. The timing was right.

For anyone without Italian relatives let me just say that without a living relative who knew “la famiglia” you will have a very hard time determining which Nick is the son of your direct line of the family. If four Italian sons all name their first-born son after their father, as is the Italian naming convention, you will find four Nick’s about the same age, living in the same location and you will have a hard time knowing which Nick goes with which father. But if you are lucky enough to have someone like Irene to help you sort it out, you will know that the Nick on Hazen Street was the son of Romualdo and Dorinda and the Nick on Mill Street was the son of Pasquale and Filomena. And if you’ve done any genealogy at all, you will appreciate how much this stuff matters.

So yes, timing is everything, but now, the timing is all wrong. Because the cancer that consumed Irene’s body took her away much too soon and all I am left with are the volumes of information she shared and a big empty hole in my heart.

Here is what I am most grateful for about Irene.

1. Top of the list, without a doubt, is her razor sharp mind. Irene had a memory beyond compare. She grew up with the people I’m researching. Names on a page to me became the living people she knew. This one was “good looking,” that one was probably demented, this one never married because the girl from Italy brought over for him in an arranged marriage found out that New Castle, Pennsylvania was a far cry from New York, New York – so she went home and he remained single for the rest of his life. I could go on and on with the personal details that Irene shared with me. Thank you Irene.

2. She loved her family. She was without a doubt a “Daddy’s girl” and it will always make me happy to think that the reunion with her father in heaven occurred on Father’s Day. She loved her father and knew so many details about his life. She was glad to have someone interested in hearing those details and she would always correct me if I got it wrong, for which I am grateful. She also loved to tell me about her daughters and her grandchildren. I think Irene was one of those people, like my own mother, who may not have always done the best job of letting the people who mattered most to her know how much they mattered – but I can honestly say that she cherished her children and grandchildren beyond measure.

3. She was a straight shooter. She was honest, open and opinionated. You have to understand that she was telling things from her perspective, but as far as she was concerned it was the only perspective that mattered. And as far as I was concerned, it was the best way for me to learn about people I never knew and never would have known, without her willingness to share her memories. So what if there were minor discrepancies between the “official” records and Irene’s memory of things. It doesn’t really matter whether her parents were married in October or November of 1915. It matters so much more that her father loved to sing, that he wrote lyrics for songs and tried to get them published and that she was his secretary who mailed the post cards with the lyrics so that there would be a postmark to establish a copyright, that he made wine in his basement, that he took her downtown every Thursday night when she was in junior high school and bought her a milk shake at the soda shop while he went next door to the bar. Yes –those are the memories and stories that will always mean so much more than anything I can find on any official genealogical records.

There will be many, many reasons why I will miss Irene. But there will so many more where I will be thankful for the many gifts she shared with me over the past five years.

Good Night Irene, Good Night Irene

obituaries.ncnewsonline.com/obituary/irene-veri-1935-2018-106470782

Irene and Butch Veri

Irene and Brother Anthony George

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Irene George – At home in New Castle PA

Irene and Eleanor

Irene George on left – cousin Eleanor George on right

Irene Rose George

Irene Rose George

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Happy Birthday Irene!

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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.

Christmas is Family Time

Here’s a Thursday Tidbit about some of the descendants of the original four Giorgio brothers who came to western Pennsylvania from San Vito Chietino – a town on the eastern coast of Italy. It’s almost due east of Rome, just slightly to the north.

As I’ve been working on this “tidbit” for the last four hours, I understand why it has been so long since I’ve posted on this blog. In an effort to verify the facts that I have about each person, I get pulled in so many directions that I end up saving the draft and not coming back to it for awhile. I started this post well before Thanksgiving but hope to get it posted in time for Christmas.

It started as a laundry list of the descendants of the original four Giorgio brothers who arrived in western PA in the late 1800s to early 1900s. But as I worked my way through their 30 known children, it became apparent that this post was turning into more of a tome than a tidbit . So in the interest of getting something posted, with the supporting facts, and keeping it interesting (I hope) I’m going to focus on the children of Pasquale Giorgio. Born in Italy on May 20, 1877, Pasquale was the third youngest of the four brothers who came to PA. He seems to have outlived the other three brothers since his death certificate indicates he died in 1958. Although I still haven’t found the death certificate for Adriano who returned to Italy family stories suggest he died some time around 1951.

Between the four Giorgio brothers I can document 30 children but there could be more who died between the census years. From what I’ve discovered in searching the New Castle News and Pennsylvania death records, among those 30 offspring, there were seven children who did not survive to adulthood. Five of those seven children were Pasquale’s – four with his first wife, Maria Concetta Iavicola, who seems to have been known as Concetta,  and one with his second wife Filomena Ranieri. Both women died either during or shortly after childbirth.

Pasquale and Concetta were married on November 20, 1902 in San Vito Chietino Italy. This date is noted in the margin of the Italian birth records for Pasquale, which are online.

From the Pennsylvania birth certificate for their daughter Maria Dominica, who was born on June 1, 1906 in New Castle PA, we know that they’d had two children prior to her birth and one was living at the time. This is the basis for determining that one of their children was born and died, in the period from 1902 (marriage date) and 1906 (birth date of their third child.)

I found the death certificate of their son Vito, who was born in 1904 and died in 1907.  He would have been the child still living when Mary was born. Based on census records that indicate Concetta immigrated in 1904 and an indexed birth record for a Vito Giorgio born in New York, I’d speculate that Concetta was very pregnant on her journey to America.

 

 

There’s not enough information from this index to verify that this Vito Giorgio, born in Manhattan in April 1904 was in fact the son of Pasquale and Concetta, but the birth date fits the age of their son who died in New Castle in 1907 at the age of 3. It also fits with a census record that indicates Maria Concetta immigrated in 1904. Next research I need to do is to find her immigration records to see what they reveal.

Three healthy girls are born to Pasquale and Concetta in 1906, 1908 and 1910 before tragedy strikes again in 1913.

This death certificate for a stillborn child of Pasquale and Concetta born on April 13, 1913 is evidence of the third of their children to die. The child’s sex is not indicated on the death certificate.

And here’s the sad evidence of the death of the last child born to Pasquale and  Concetta – a death certificate for a premature daughter stillborn on January 12, 1914, almost nine months to the day of the stillborn child in April 1913.

Last child born to Pasquale and Concetta

But the more tragic even on that cold January day in 1914 (the newspaper reported a high of 12 degrees that day) was the death of Pasquale’s first wife, Concetta of complications related to childbirth.

Pasquale remarried in 1914 and immigration records show his return through Philadelphia PA with wife, Filomena Ranieri.  Pasquale and Filomena had four sons and one daughter named Concetta who was born in 1918. (As an aside, does anyone else find it interesting that the only daughter he had with his second wife, was given the name of his first wife?)

In January 1920, Filomena died of pneumonia, six days after giving birth to a son. That son survived, but their daughter Concetta, who was only two, died a month later on February 27, 1920. Family history as related by Terry Colaluca, granddaughter of Mary Giorgio Colaluca, indicates that the infant son born in January 1920 was given up for adoption (most likely a private adoption) because Pasquale could not take care of so many children without a wife. This child grew up as Louis Thomas Perfi and lived in Abingdon, Illinois for most of his life. In the 1930 census, he is the only child in the home of Angelo and Georgia Perfi living in Abingdon, Illinois a town 50  miles west of Peoria.  His father Angelo was born in Italy and his mother Georgia, who was 54 years old in 1930 was born in Nebraska.


Apparently Louis maintained his relationship with his biological brothers because his name appears in the newspaper report of a Giorgio family reunion held at Willow Lake in 1967.

New Castle News – Page 9 July 11,1967

 

I’ll close for now with a list of the children of Pasquale Giorgio who survived into adulthood. I’ll also add the names of their spouses and marriage dates if I know them. Of the seven children born to Pasquale and his first wife Concetta in the years from 1902 to 1914, three girls survived to adulthood. We do not know the sex of two of the children who died but we know that one was a son named Vito who died when he was three years old in 1907 and the other was a premature stillborn daughter born who died in January  1914 on the same day as her mother. The three surviving children, who lost their mother when the oldest, Mary, was only 7 years old were:

Mary George (1906 – 1993) who married Romeo Colaluca (1903-1965) in 1928.

Christine Marie George (1908-1985) who married Nicholas Benedict Panella (1906-1997), probably in 1929.

Vida Marie George (1910-2000) who married Egidio Sforza in 1939, based on the date of their marriage license.

The children born to Pasquale and his second wife, Filomena Ranieri who survived to adulthood were four boys

 

:

Victor George (1915-2004) who married Mary Cestrone (1916-1992)

Nick George (1916-1992) who never married

Louis Amedio George ( 1917-1994) who married Jean Camp of Mystic Connecticut some time before 1943 – more work to do but here’s the New Castle News article that provides the evidence of their marriage and the link to Pasquale.

And Louis Thomas Perfi (1920-2006) who was raised as the son of Angelo and Georgia Perfi, although I believe he was the last child born to Pasquale and Filomena Ranieri.

Stay tuned for a similar “tidbit” on the descendants of the other Giorgio brothers. If you happen to be the descendant of any of the people named in this post and have stories to share, please leave a comment.

Victor Americus George – Where’d He Go Wednesday?

VictorAGeorge.obit.1960.NCNIn genealogy you learn to research people by learning about their “FANs” which stands for friends, associates and neighbors. You also learn to search for details about a particular person’s life by the things you find in his obituary.

It also turns out that newspaper articles are a big boost to learning about your ancestors and the digitized version of the New Castle News is one of the best sources for information about the Giorgio boys who lived in New Castle and their descendants.

When Adriano left Dunbar in 1912, he may have spent some time in New Castle with his brothers before leaving the country for good. We know that his oldest son Nick George was living in New Castle by 1915 and probably sooner, because that was the year he married Mary Giampaolo.

This article is from the New Castle News – July 11, 1960 and even though I found it while searching “Nick George” it offers a lot of detail about his younger brother Victor. Victor died at the early age of 49 – another victim of the heart conditions that plagued so many of the men in the George family.

This article provides a wonderful summary of Victor’s many accomplishments. Another example of one of the George boys leading a very civic minded life. How sad that he died on the night he would have been installed as President of the Midland Rotary club.

It’s also interesting that he graduated from Midland High School. I do remember that in the 1930 census, Victor was living in Midland with his brother’s Fred and Joseph. He must have been helping in George’s Pharmacy before he had even finished high school – a pattern that Frank, the youngest son, also followed.

Of the original Giorgio boys who came from Italy: Ciro, Adriano, Pasquale and Romualdo, all of them, except for Ciro, had a son named Nick. Other popular names for their sons were Pasquale or Pat, Louis and Victor. Filomena – or the Americanized version – Phyllis, Josephine and Mary seemed to be the most popular girls’ names.

Thursday Tidbit – Photos of Italian Immigrants

Most of the pictures I use on this blog are ones that different family members have sent me. I have asked if it is okay to use them on the blog and everyone seems happy to share. I think my use of other pictures would be considered “fair use” under Section 107 of the US Copyright Act but I’m still learning the details of that. Check out this collection.

Lewis Wickes Hine was a photographer who used photographs to promote social change – changes in child labor laws and other working conditions for poor immigrant Americans. Most of his pictures are from New York but they still give you a feel for what things may have looked like when Nick George arrived in New York with his father in 1904.

It’s hard to imagine what this strange new world must have seemed like to our ancestors.

If the link above doesn’t allow you to search other pictures in the collection, just Google “Lewis Wickes Hine” and the second link should take you to the New York Public Library’s photography collection of his works which are available on line.