approachingthehill

Focusing on Italian Genealogy and uncovering the testa duras in my family tree

Archive for the tag “family”

Salvatore Cuba – Caltanissetta, Sicily

A few years ago, I wrote a post about my great-uncle Salvatore Cuba. This year, I connected with Salvatore’s descendants so I thought it only fitting to update the post with new information.

Salvatore Cuba was born September 24, 1878 in Terranova di Sicilia (Gela), Sicily. It is likely that the Cuba’s followed the traditional naming patterns common among Italians. The first born son was named after the father’s father. The second son was named after the mother’s father. The first born daughter was named after the father’s mother and the second daughter was named after the mother’s mother.  Rosaria’s father’s name was Salvatore, so it could be that an older son was born before Salvatore, or that Luigi’s father’s name was also Salvatore.

Salvatore married Vincenza Giordano on January 4, 1902 in Caltanissetta. It should be noted that on the marriage record, Salvatore’s last name is spelled Cubba. Salvatore worked as a sulfur miner in Caltanissetta. They had eight children, five who died as infants: Rosaria (1902 -1903), Rosaria (1907 -1910), Nicolo ( 1911-1912), Nicolo ( 1913-1914) and Giovanni (1916-1917). Their three surviving sons were Luigi, Michele and Giovanni. Michele had two children: Salvatore and Vincenza. Michele’s son Salvatore immigrated to Belgium and his daughter Vincenza immigrated to France. After World War II, coal companies in Belgium and France recruited miners from Italy to work for them. That is how Salvatore ended up in Belgium in the 1940s and Vincenza and her husband emigrated to France.

Salvatore never immigrated to America. When his brother John died in Detroit in 1955, Salvatore was distraught and asked how John could have died in a modern hospital in America. Perhaps lack of good medical care was the cause of Salvatore’s children dying? Salvatore died on March 10, 1960 in Caltanissetta, Sicily.

Using Facebook as a Genealogy Tool

Jeanne Rollberg recently wrote a post called Harness Social Media to Connect to your Ancestors World. http://blog.ancestorcloud.com/2017/03/23/harness-social-media-to-connect-to-your-ancestors-world/

I can personally attest to the power of Social Media in genealogy.

In 2010, I started a Facebook Group for Cubba and Fiantaco genealogy. I was hoping to connect with my relatives across the United States. I purposefully set up the group with my family’s American names (instead of Cuba and Fiandaca) to make it easier for people to find it. Initially, the group’s members were just my children, siblings and a few local cousins. In 2011, a 2nd cousin in Minnesota discovered the group and soon more members of his family joined. Other cousins trickled in over the years and we started sharing photos and family stories.

On Christmas Eve, 2016, I got a request from a man in Belgium with the last name Cubba to join the group. Curious, I added him to the group and asked how he was related to us. To my astonishment, I discovered that he was my 2nd cousin, once removed! I learned that after the Second World War, the Belgian and French governments recruited Italians to work in the mines. His brother and cousin, who lives in France, also joined the group. More importantly, this connection has allowed me to fill in a huge gap in my family tree because I had next to no information for that branch.

Salvatore Cuba family tree

If you are interested in using Facebook as a genealogy tool, I encourage you to look at Katherine Willson’s Genealogy on Facebook list https://socialmediagenealogy.com/genealogy-on-facebook-list/. Who knows? You may connect with long lost relative too! Buona fortuna!

Ellis Island Mystery Discovered

I have written about my great-grandmother Concetta Abbate Fiandaca before. Recently, while looking at her Ellis Island immigration record, I discovered something new when I searched the www.libertyellisfoundation.org website for her name.

In 1911, now a widow, Concetta came to America at age 53. She sailed from Naples aboard the Cedric, leaving on March 16 and arriving March 29. She is traveling to DuQuoin, IL with her 9 year old grand daughter, Maria Brunco. Concetta also traveled with Angelo Notarrigo and Giacomo Cianciana (or Cianciania) from her home town, Villarosa. Angelo and Giacomo’s final destination was also DuQuoin, IL.

Concetta, Maria and Giacomo can also be found on a Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry page after they arrived at Ellis Island.

Concetta Abbate Record of Aliens held for special inquiry

The three were held together and questioned together. The Primary Immigrant Inspector in the Great Hall held the immigrant for Secondary Inspection. Immigrant Inspectors usually annotated the manifest to show that the immigrant was referred for a hearing. The trio’s annotation was LPC. The most common exclusion was LPC or Likely Public Charge, taken from the section of law which excludes anyone who might become a burden on the public. In general, women and minors were not permitted to travel alone unless someone was expecting them. Women and children were detained until their safety after they left Ellis Island was assured. A telegram, letter, or prepaid ticket from waiting relatives was usually required before the detained women and children could be sent on their way. At the initial hearing, most immigrants were admitted after explaining their situation or producing a recent letter from a friend or relative at their destination. Others might not have the proof with them, so they would wait until someone came to testify in their behalf or sent a telegram. Under the left columns for Actions for the Boards of Inquiry, the trio has a notation as an immigrant found excludable and deportable. The date listed is April 2, which means Concetta, Maria and Giacomo had to stay at Ellis Island while their fate was decided. In the right columns are notations for immigrants admitted to the country by the Board. Three Inspectors sitting on a Board of Special Inquiry would question the immigrant further and decide whether to admit the immigrant or not. Later, the annotation might be “stamped” to show the outcome of the hearing.

Ellis Island’s numerous dormitories were filled to capacity nearly every night with immigrants who were being temporarily detained. Many immigrants stayed in large dormitory rooms located along the balconies. The dormitories consisted of two long, narrow rooms, one on either side of the balcony. Each room accommodated about 300 detainees, who slept in triple-tiered bunk beds that could be raised, thus converting the dormitory into a daytime waiting area. At night, immigrants received blankets to spread over their canvas or wire-mesh mattresses.

Ellis Island dorm

I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been for Concetta and little Maria to be stuck at Ellis Island awaiting their fate.

Concetta, Maria and Giacomo were finally allowed to enter the country on April 8 and were not deported. Columns at the far right of the BSI list are entitled Meals, and show the number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners served to detainees during their stay. After holding the trio for ten days in detention, the BSI list record shows the Government would be charging the steamship line for 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners.

More and more Ellis Island records have been indexed. It may be worthwhile to search for ancestors again to see if you can find any additional immigration records. Buona fortuna!

 

 

Family Search Updates for Italian Research

Beginning 1809, areas of Italy controlled by Napoleon, including Sicily, required civil registrars to keep vital records. Usually these records included more information than the church records that were kept during the same time. This is extremely fortunate for those of us with Italian ancestors!

The Family Search website recently updated the Italy Indexed Historical Records of Italy, Enna, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1866-1944. When you enter an ancestor’s name, you get a message that “These images are viewable: at Il Portale Antenati.” The Il Portale Antenati (The Ancestors Portal) website is fairly easy to use, and only a cursory understanding of Italian is required. If you right mouse click on the page, you can get the website navigation translated into English. The records are also available when using the Family Search site at a Family History Center.

http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/

Il Portale Antenati websiteThe Family Search website also updated the indexing the Italia, Caltanissetta, Stato Civile (Archivio Di Stato), 1820-1935. The original images are only available for viewing at the Family History Centers, but the indexed information still gives a wealth of information.

Concetta Abbate Fiandaca (Ernestine Fiantaco) – 52 Ancestors

Concetta Abbate 2Concetta Abbate was born May 2, 1858 in Villarosa, Sicily, Italy to Ignazio Abbate and Rose Vitale. She married Angelo Fiandaca on September 8, 1881 when she was 23 years old. Angelo was 33 and a widower with at least two children. Concetta and Angelo had three children – Ignacio born in 1888, Guiseppe born in 1890 and Rose born in 1893. Angelo died on April 17, 1910 in Villarosa.

In 1911, now a widow, Concetta came to America at age 53. She sailed from Naples aboard the Cedric, leaving on March 16 and arriving March 29. Concetta indicated that she left a daughter, Rosina behind in Villarosa and is traveling to DuQuoin, IL with her 9 year old grand daughter, Maria Brunco. Maria was traveling to her mother Barbara Fiandaca in DuQuoin. Concetta’s passage was paid by her son Pietro.

In the 1920 census, Concetta can be found living with her son Sam Fiantaco in DuQuoin, IL. She was now known as Ernestine. In 1930, she was living with John and Rose Cubba in Detroit and was present when twins Michael and Rosalie were born.

Ernestine died on February 23, 1951 in Detroit, MI at the age of 83. She may not be considered beautiful by today’s standards, but she loved and raised her step children and children in Italy. Then traveled to America to help her children and grandchildren here. The grandchildren referred to her as little grandma because she was only 5 feet tall.

Concetta Abbate 1

Rosaria Cuba (or Sarah Cubba) – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 2’s theme is King.  January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do you have a connection to royalty?

With my Italian ancestry completely filled with peasants, I can’t claim any connection to royalty. However, I have an aunt that shares a birthday with Elvis.

sarah cubba

Rosaria Cuba, was born on January 8, 1914 in DuQuoin, Perry, IL. She was the second child of Giovanni and Rosa Cuba and the first born in America. Rosaria, or Sarah as she was called, was listed in the 1920 census as Rosie Jr! Sarah married Piotr (Peter) Kuzdal on July 25, 1936 in Detroit, MI. Peter was 31 at the time and Sarah was 22. Peter Kuzdal worked on the Detroit to Cleveland boat and lived in Dunkirk, NY. Family legend says his boat caught fire in the Detroit River and he swam to shore and there after he lived in Detroit. Peter met Sarah when she worked in a restaurant at the foot of Woodward Ave called Eagle Cafe. Tragically, Sarah died on July 29, 1950 at the age of 36 during surgery leaving behind her husband of 14 years and 4 children. Sarah is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, Wayne, MI.

Just as I mentioned in my previous blog, sometime between the 1920 census and the 1930 census, the entire Cuba family changed their last name to Cubba! The confusing thing is that Sarah’s father, John registered for the World War I draft in 1917 as John CUBBA, but is listed on the 1920 census as John CUBA. Giovanni (John), Giuseppe (Joe) and Michele (Mike) all appear in the 1930 census and everything there after as Cubba. The brothers were all illiterate and signed their draft cards with an X. I haven’t been able to find out why the second B was added. I think perhaps because of prejudice and discrimination against Italians at this time. Or maybe because of trouble with the country of Cuba? Years ago, I asked my Uncle Angelo and he said he was told that it was changed at Ellis Island, which documents show, is not true. If I meet anyone with the last name of Cubba, I know I’m related to them. But like the Fiandacas, I have lost my Cuba paisans.

Picture from 1916.

Meatball Cookies

It seems everyone is anxious for the Christmas season to begin, and with good reason. People are often nostalgic for the Christmases of their youth and I’m no exception. Seeing a box of glass Christmas ornaments made me think of all the Christmas Eve dinners we had at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house when I was growing up during the 1960’s.

My mother’s parents, lived in Detroit, just south of Eight Mile Road. Every Christmas Eve, we would dress in our finest clothes and make the trek, often through the snow, to their house. My grandparents lived in a very small two bedroom bungalow. Every Christmas it was filled to bursting with their five children, spouses and a whopping eighteen grandchildren. Luckily, Grandma and Grandpa had a basement where the Christmas Eve feast was held.

The basement on Eastburn Street was a wonderful place, full of exotic smells. Grandma had a full second kitchen down there. I’ve heard that they are now called Italian kitchens, but back then, I just assumed everyone had a kitchen in their basement. The smell of the homemade wine still hung in the air from that year’s bottling. A big vat of tomato sauce simmered on the stove. Grandpa and my uncles smoked cigars and cigarettes in the corner while the women prepared the meal.

My sisters, cousins and I would sit on the steps leading down to the basement, in order to stay out of the way. I would try not to get my dress, usually a hand me down from my older sister, dirty and try not to tug at my scratchy tights. My brothers, would prowl around my uncle’s workshop. Uncle John was a life long bachelor who lived with Grandma and Grandpa. He had a corner of the basement where he invented all sorts of electronic gadgets.

Dinner always consisted of the same thing; mostaccioli with tomato sauce, Italian sausage and meatballs. I never cared for my Grandma’s homemade sausage. She put too much fennel in it for my taste, but her meatballs were divine, the kind that melt in your mouth. The children were always offered a sip of the homemade red wine, but I never acquired the taste for it. To me it tasted like grape juice that had gone bad. My children are shocked when I recount this story for them. They can not believe that an adult would willingly offer a child an alcoholic beverage. But Grandpa was born and raised in Italy and that was how things were done.

My favorite part of the meal was dessert, of course. Grandma loved to try out new recipes that she cut out of magazines and she always had a big plate of cookies ready. One of our favorites was a chocolate spice cookie covered in chocolate frosting. One of my cousins said the cookie looked like a meatball and the name stuck. Meatball Cookies were present every year.

After the Christmas Eve meal, the kids would sneak upstairs and sit in the living room. We would turn off all the lights in the house except for the lights on the Christmas tree. My Grandma always had an elaborate, multi-level Nativity scene staged under the tree complete with shepherds, angels and the three wise men. She used white felt covered with glitter as the base. When I asked her about it one year, she said it represented the snow on the ground. This made perfect sense to me until I grew up and realized that Bethlehem probably never saw an inch of snow. One of the older cousins would volunteer to be Santa and sit in Grandpa’s La-Z-Boy recliner. The younger cousins would take turns sitting on “Santa’s” lap and asking for funny or outrageous items. Then we would sing Christmas carols while the adults cleaned up the dishes. One year, while we were singing, Grandma came upstairs to put some leftover food into the refrigerator. We begged her to sing a song with us. She sang her favorite Christmas carol, which was Silent Night. Other than the occasional Happy Birthday, I think that was the only time I heard my Grandma sing.

With the dishes done and the food put away, the grown-ups would come upstairs. The adults would crowd onto the couch and chairs and the children would sit, cross legged on the floor. Then my mom and her brothers would pass out envelopes to each niece and nephew. Each envelope contained a dollar, except the envelope I received from my Uncle Frank. Uncle Frank was my godfather, so every year, he slipped a five dollar bill in my envelope. Grandma and Grandpa also gave us envelopes. By the end of the evening, I felt so rich!

Grandma and Grandpa are both gone, the house on Eastburn has been sold and my cousins have scattered to the four corners of the country. Now that I have children of my own, I try to recapture the warmth and strong sense of family I felt during those special occasions. These days, my Dad gathers with his children and grandchildren on Christmas day. We sit down to a meal of mostaccioli and meatballs. Meatball Cookies are still made by me, although my children are rather disgusted by the nickname and we have to be careful to call them chocolate spice cookies. My daughters and son talk with their cousins while the adults clean up the dishes. I am looking forward to this Christmas to build some new memories.

meatball cookies

It’s Too Late

I have been working on my family tree for over a decade now. I have always wanted to scan our family photos so that I have digital copies for archiving and sharing. However, my Mom would not let her precious photos out of her sight. If I did take a few, I had to return them promptly the next day or receive a reminder phone call every 12 hours until they were back in her loving care. These were obviously her most prized possessions and she guarded them intensely. She disdained technology and was loathe to share any private information with the world. She always promised to make copies for me, but never found the time to do so.

My Mom passed away last year. Recently, I was helping my Dad clean up the basement and found the old photo albums. “Can I borrow these for a few days? I promise I will bring them right back.” “Keep ’em,” was my Dad’s reply. He is not a pack rat like my mother and he saw no reason for them to sit neglected in the dark basement.

So I have been scanning, archiving and yes, sharing the old photos. Some have writing on the back so I know when they were taken and who the people in the photos are. The majority give me no clue as to why they were so precious to my mom, and their meaning is lost for all time.

To quote the Carole King song, “It’s too late baby, now it’s too late.”

1968 family

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