Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Italians

So I've been doing a little work here and there on my husband's Italian side of the family. A while back I posted about the feisty Italian grandma which you can read about here. There is a lot of confusion over the spelling of the surname DeCiutiis. Apparently when James DeCiutiis came to this country from Italy he changed the spelling of his last name. This in itself is really not that unusual. The problem is that the family isn't really sure what the name was before he changed it. This makes searching immigration records a challenge.

Then my mother-in-law (MIL) found out from her mother that the gravestone where he is buried in  Newburgh, New York has the correct spelling. Great! This was exciting news. As it happens my husband was making a trip to New York and would visit with some relatives who would show him  Calvary Cemetery. They told my husband and MIL that James is buried in the Rocco plot along with James' mother Rose, and his sister Lucy who married Giacomo Rocco. This was getting better and better! I was about to hit pay dirt with all sorts of information.

Before my husband went to the cemetery I gave him all sorts of instructions about what to photograph.

  1. Make sure to photograph the entrance.
  2. Get lots of photos of the gravestones.
  3. Get photos of the surrounding gravestones.... they might be related.
  4. If a name seems familiar.... take a photo of the gravestone.
  5. If a name doesn't seem familiar but looks like there is somehow a connection.... take a photo of the gravestone.
  6. When in doubt... take a photo.
With this list in hand he was ready, and I was confident in his abilities. After all, he has been to cemeteries with me before so he knows the drill. So the day comes to go to the cemetery, of course it is bitterly cold in New York with the threat of snow later in the day. Classic. The entire time he is there I'm checking my phone constantly for updates, photos, anything. I get more anxious. My fingers are ready to start flying over my keyboard in search of these elusive Italians. Finally, I get an email with photos and here is what I got:

This is the Rocca plot. Notice the surname for Giacomo is not Rocco but Rocca. There are five people buried in this plot. The only one with an individual headstone is:

Are you kidding me!!???!! Where is James? Where is Rose? Where is Lucy? Where is MIL's baby sister? ARGH! I feel like Charlie Brown in The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. So not only was the oral telling of Giacomo's last name incorrect, but the belief that the correct spelling of James' surname supposedly located on the gravestone was incorrect too. At this point my hair hurts.

The silver lining..... my husband got in touch with the cemetery office, and a couple days later they faxed him the information they have on file. It includes James' last name spelled..... DeCuitus. He died about 6 July 1953. I now have a lead and my fingers are flying over the keyboard.


  1. Oh Cinamon, your hair hurts! ROFL!!! We have all been there, for sure!!! But your husband took great photos, so that is a bonus. And you did get some good info out of the whole thing!

    The large stone with the statue is beautiful, and nice shot with some of the cemetery in it, too.

    PS--Happy Blogiversary, girl!!!

    1. Yes Jenny, my husband did a great job photographing the cemetery. He took more photos than what I posted, and we were able to get burial dates on everybody. So it was not a lost trip by any means. I agree it is a beautiful statue.