Sunday, March 28, 2010

My family

Today I will be writing a little bit about my family and where their roots began. My father's father was Giuseppe Napolitano who was born in the Parantoro section of Montalto Uffugo in 1892. The family of Joe in Chicago was very small. He only had 4 cousins here that we knew of. His wife, my grandmother, Caterina Maiuolo had a lot of family in Chicago.
Caterina Maiuolo Napolitano

The family called her Kate. She was born in Cortale, Italy, located in Catanzaro Province in Calabria. Her father was Giuseppe Maiuolo who was an official of some sort with the town of Cortale. The family story says he was a tax collector. He died some time before his family came to America. Kate's mother was Natalina Scrugli who was born in Tropea around 1866. Giuseppe and Natalina lived in "Donnafiore" also referred to as "Upper Cortale".
My grandmother arrived in this country on Thanksgiving Day in 1905 on the ship Sicilia with her mother, Natalina Scrugli, her brother, Domenico Francesco and her sister Maria. She was 8 years old. You can see her ship manifest here . The family came to the home of Natalina's brother Gaetano. Soon after Natalina purchased an apartment building located on Loomis Street in the heart of Chicago's "Little Italy" neighborhood. Since a large portion of the family from Cortale and a huge portion of the population of Cortale came to Chicago, my grandmother was always surrounded by familiar family and friends from Italy. Her family was very close.
Natalina's apartment building provided the family with a steady income and all of the residents were from Italy. Natalina sponsored many Italians which enabled them to come to this country. Among the tenants in her apartment building was Rocco Napolitano the cousin of my grandfather, who recommended a flat there to my grandfather. That is how my grandfather and grandmother met. In the lower level of the apartment building Natalina had a butcher shop. A very different life than the life she had in Cortale! In Cortale they owned properties and employed servants and dress makers to clothe them. In Chicago they had to do the work themselves or purchase their clothes. When my grandmother was a teenager she began a nut shelling business and employed her nieces and nephews to help shell the nuts. She sold the shelled nuts to local bakeries and candy companies.
Giueseppe Napolitano
I am not sure when my grandfather came to this country. A ship manifest has never been found for him. He was living in Paola, Italy in 1912 when he took, and passed his physical for the Italian Army. My best guess is he came here shortly after that. The family story was he followed his cousin Concetta Garrafa here. After Giuseppe's mother died in 1907, he was taken in by Concetta's father and step mother to live with them. Concetta and my grandfather were very close. She was the closest family he had in this country. In 1917 Giuseppe joined the United States Army and served in Camp Gordon near Atlanta, Georgia. During his stay there the base suffered an outbreak of influenza that was plaguing the world that year. He was honorably discharged in late December, 1918. The following April he married my grandmother in Chicago.

In my childhood we were surrounded by so much family it was unclear to me exactly who all these people were and how they fit in to our family. I would ask my dad, my aunts and uncles and no one knew. A cousin would always be the response but no one know who or how they were related to. My grandfather's family on the other side was small and mostly unknown to us. We knew so much about my grandmother's family and where they came from. But my grandfather's family was a complete mystery. A little orphan boy whose parents died when he was young, a cousin (we knew) named Concetta whose father took him in and a sister he left his farm to when he came to this country. That is all we knew. I always thought that was so sad. And it left a big hole in my family. It also left my father with regret. So many questions with no answers. That is why my heart has always been in Montalto with the family of my grandfather. A family I now know so much about!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What I have planned for this blog

I began this blog as a way of sharing information. I have some pretty interesting ancestors. I will write about them here. I have found saints and sinners, artists and musicians, farmers and nobility. And that is just the Italian side!
I will also talk about recent or upcoming projects, give updates to my websites and talk about genealogy in general. I am beginning this blog with my Italian roots but this blog will also include my early American settlers of my mother's family. If there is something you would like to see here let me know.
Current Projects

Right now, I am too busy with Cosenza Exchange to do much with my other websites so I will be focusing on that for the next month or more. Right now I am working on completing the extractions of the Baptism records of Santa Maria La Castagna. Once that is finished, I will begin the Catasto of Montalto. I have already begun work on the templates, layout and presentation for the Catasto. Perhaps I will have enough to share on my next blog entry.

Featured Relative of the day

Giuseppe Naso was born in Tropea, Italy in 1836. His mother was a Scrugli and he was a cousin of my Great grandmother Natalina Scrugli's father Antonino. He was a great artist who died tragically young.
Giuseppe was born a deaf mute, but despite this, he left the comfort of his home in Tropea at the age of 15 to study art in Naples in 1851. During this time, Naples was teeming with struggling artists. Giuseppe's maternal uncle, Napoleone Scrugli supported the young artist and probably brought him to Naples. Due to Napoleone's military post as Admiral in the Southern Italian Army he had a home in Naples.
Young Giuseppe began his studies as an artist with an unknown instructor and showed great promise immediately. This instructor introduced him to another instructor and artist named Cavalier DeVivo. By 1852 he gained an apprenticeship under Cavalier De Vivo who had a relationship with King Ferdinand II of the house of Bourbon. From the King, DeVivo and Giuseppe Naso received many commissions of their artwork, many of which were from the Vatican. DeVivo was given the auspicious title of Inspector General of all the art galleries of Southern Italy.
At the age of 18 in 1855 Giuseppe painted a magnificent painting of Saint Francis and even carved a beautiful frame for it intending it as a gift to the Crown Prince.
This began the brief career of this wonderful artist whose magnificent works of art are still displayed today in art galleries and churches throughout Italy. His career was cut short by his premature death in 1862 at the age of 26.
His artwork lives on almost 150 years after his untimely death.