Monday, April 15, 2013

The Italians...Again

My husband's Italian ancestors continue to be a strange subject for me to deal with. Why? They can't seem to decide how they wanted to spell any of their surnames, and the direct descendants (my husband's grandmother for one) can't seem to get their facts straight. Hhhmmm...perhaps this is a family trait. At any rate, the story is that when the family immigrated to the United States they changed their name after they got here. Is it true? I have no idea...yet.

Several months ago I sent away to New York State for the death certificate of James DeCiutis/DeCuitus/DeCuitiis. Last week I finally received it and I was excited. My main objective was not necessarily to see how the surname was spelled, that was secondary, I was more interested in the names of the parents, his birthdate, and the informant. This information would prove to be exciting, at least for me. Strangely, my husband and mother-in-law were so focused on the surname spelling that they virtually ignored the other goodies on the document, at least until I pointed them out. Their reaction was a bit underwhelming, but I was determined to be excited.

Firstly, the informant was Lucy Rocci. Lucy was James' sister, and incidentally would later spell her surname Rocca. This was a good informant to have, since she would know of her brother's birth information, and their parent's names. His birthday is listed as 3 April 1895 and James was born in Italy. I already knew he was born in Italy but confirmation is always a good thing.

Then, Lucy gave the name of James' wife as Mary Selvestor. This was curious. My mother-in-law has been told, and therefore told her son and me, that Mary's last name was Silvestri. They sound similar. So the question is; Is this a mere spelling error? Is this Mary's actual maiden name? Or, upon immigration did Mary's family change their name from Selvestor to Silvestri? I need to investigate this more.

Next, I had a theory that James' father was named Francesco. In a Newburgh, Orange County, New York directory, James' mother Rose was listed as a widow and in parentheses was the name Francesco. On the death certificate the father is listed as Frank DeCiutis and the mother's maiden name (drum roll please) Rose Manelli. I have to admit this caused a little bit of giddy happy dancing on my part. After a couple of minutes I did wonder if this was a true spelling of Manelli, but no matter, I had a lead! And the name Frank would be an English version of Francesco. Yay!

Finally, is this document a reliable answer to all of the above questions? No, of course not. They are leads though. I have some ideas of other records to access, for additional evidence or proof. Right now my goal is to eventually find an immigration record. My hope is that the immigration record will bring me to a place of origin in Italy for this family. Fingers crossed.

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