Friday, June 22, 2012

Surname Saturday - Cefali/Cefaly of Cortale, Italia

I have written in the past about discovering a cousin who was an artist in Tropea named Giuseppe Naso. Years ago when I was researching Cortale in Calabria, the town my grandmother was born in, I read about an artist who was born there named Andrea Cefaly. Pictured here is a statue he made that rests outside the church Santa Maria Cattolica Maggiore in Cortale. Andrea Cefaly (1827-1907) is known more for his paintings than his sculptures and created one painting that hangs in the Louvre in Paris. But this sculpture is really quite interesting because it is a political statement that holds a key to the identity of this family as well as an interesting period in Italian history - the unification. He sculpted it around 1870 and named it "Italia". The statue of a woman represents Italy and you will notice her back is to the church. This was a political statement representing the separation of politics from faith. It was a strong and popular sentiment around the time of the unification of Italy. The family of Andrea Cefaly supported this movement with all their hearts and the father of Andrea, Domenico was also a supporter of a unified Italy, with the separation of church and state. The grandson of Andrea, also named Andrea (referred to as Andrea Jr.) was also an artist.

Years after first reading about the famous Cefaly family, I found the 1811 marriage act of my third great grandparents Antonio Frontera and Domenica Schinnea. This document listed Domenica Schinnea's mother as Vittoria Cefali. I wondered if there was any relationship to the more famous Cefaly family but I assumed I would never know since Vittoria was born about 1754, long before civil records were kept. I also assumed there was probably no connection since the names were spelled differently.

This week while extracting the early marriages that occurred in Cortale I made 2 discoveries. The most exciting discovery was the marriage record of Vittoria Cefali to a second husband named Giuseppe Cefali. This document provided me with the names and dates of death of Vittoria's parents. Vittoria's father was Giuseppe Cefali who died in Cortale on 7 October 1773. Her mother was Giulia Pellegrino and she died 8 September 1766. I will probably never know their parent's names. The second discovery was while reading each marriage record that occurred between 1809 and 1819 there were many Cefali marriages but not a single marriage that contained the spelling Cefaly. It is currently my belief that the spelling of the surname changed. That is not unusual and I found many changes to surnames in my grandfather's town. A review of more records is needed to be certain. I will also need to examine the early allegati records and will need a lot of luck to obtain enough information on the Cefali families if the 18th century. For now, I am happy I have the names and dates of death of Vittoria Cefali's parents. Still, I cannot wait until I can read more records on Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Those Places Thursday - Chicago's Little Italy

Today, people who don't know any better think Chicago's Little Italy has the largest concentrations of Italian Americans in Chicago. This was once true, however, every time I return to the "old neighborhood" I see less and less of what was once Little Italy. It is getting harder to imagine what my grandmother saw over 100 years ago. Few Italians remain there now. Pricey Italian restaurants line Taylor Street now along with many chain restaurants. Even the iconic Mario's Italian lemonade stand is no longer owned by Italians (or at least it wasn't in the late 1990's when my daughter's school friend's family owned it). My best friend and I used to hang out there back when we were in high school until we were 21 or so. A group of neighborhood boys we knew rented a storefront on Taylor Street and called it "the club". They built a bar out of plywood and had parties there. Today the club is a Subway! 35 years ago as I would walk down Taylor Street, I could still imagine my grandmother walking down the same street trying to sell her shelled peanuts to the bakeries and restaurants. You could still see the Italian faces, hear Italian being spoken on the street, smell the food cooking and the heavenly smells from the bakeries permeated the neighborhood. Today, I see another commercialized neighborhood of Chicago and the amazing smells are long gone. Many of the old houses, apartments and tenements that helped give this area it's identity have been torn down and replaced by new buildings, a skyscraper and housing and school buildings for the University of Illinois which has largely taken over "Little Italy". The area lost most of it's ethnic identity. However, much is left and there are many places you can still walk and imagine. You just have to imagine harder.

I had never heard the term "Little Italy" until the 1990's. Those of us with roots there have always called it the "old neighborhood". Although constantly changing, one constant has been the church of my family, Our Lady of Pompeii. Our Lady of Pompeii originally was started in 1910 to relieve the Guardian Angel Church which was having a difficult time keeping up with the burgeoning influx of Italian immigrants to the neighborhood. A permanent church and school was built in 1923 and finished in 1924. The church has maintained it's Italian background and has huge celebrations for many of the Italian Saints. After many of these feast day celebrations a luncheon is served in the basement of the adjacent school. The food served is to die for! The Guardian Angel Church is long gone and has been replaced by University of Illinois buildings. Our Lady of Pompeii has always been the heart and soul of the neighborhood. This church is now a national shrine and has changed much during my lifetime. The old doors in the front of the building were replaced in 1993 with beautiful brass doors with figures hand carved in Corleone, Sicily. The alter which was surrounded by gold tile for many years has been stripped away to reveal the old walls. A new statue of Padre Pio has been added as well as many other adornments. But many of the old statues hold a place of prominence throughout the church and the ceilings and columns still hold the original painted work. I can still feel family here surrounding me despite the changes. The church itself has maintained the most important traditions of it's Italian roots. It is a place of the Catholic faith but more importantly, it's Italian Catholic faith. There is a difference. For most of my life, I attended church here with my parents. It became important to my father to attend this church on occasion. Although my father was never a big church goer, attending church here was his way of connecting with a family that was long since passed. The last time we gathered as a family here was Santa Lucia day several years ago. Their church service and following festa meal in the basement of the school made it a memorable day. The meal after the church service made me smile. All the women got in line to get plates of food for their husbands and children before their final trip to the food line to get their own food, in true Italian fashion. Family first, always. I had seen this ritual at every family gathering as I grew up. A small gesture that made me feel so loved and protected.

Since I cannot possibly cover everything I want to in one post, I have decided to make this the first in a series about the old neighborhood. Look for my future posts about Arrigo Park, Columbus Park, Loomis Street and posts and pictures about the original buildings and architecture that remain in the neighborhood and life as it was there 100 years ago.

Wordless Wednesday - Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine, Chicago

Our Lady Of Pompeii Shrine, Little Italy, Chicago

Left side of Alter and the back of the Church

Ceiling art and statue of San Francesco di Paola, Patron Saint of the Calabrese people