Location: Corleone, Palermo, Italy
Surnames/tags: Cascio Castro Lo Cascio
This is an overview of my genealogical research into a select group of people who lived in Corleone, Sicily, or have a strong family connection to Corleone.
These are notes related to my research into my ancestors in Corleone, in the province of Palermo, island of Sicily, in what is today Italy. My paternal grandfather's parents both immigrated from Corleone to New York as teenagers, around 1900.
The surnames I have concentrated on in my research, of people in my family tree who lived in Corleone, include Cascio (and variants Castro, Di Castro, and Lo Cascio), Soldano (and variant Giordano), Grizzaffi, Cinquemani (and Cinquemano), Paparcuri (and variants Parpacuri and Paparcusi), Quaglino, Ligotino, Canali, and Oliveri. If you are looking for an individual who lived in Corleone, Sicily, in the 19th century, and had one of these surnames, their profile is probably here on WikiTree.
In addition to these family names, I am researching my direct ancestry. You can see the names of my paternal grandfather's direct ancestors on this page.
I write about Mafia history from a genealogical perspective at Mafia Genealogy.
This document updated 14 July 2018.
Most of the documentation I've used in my research has come from the scanned microfilms available online at FamilySearch.org, a website maintained by the Mormon church. This community's dedication to preserving genealogical records is well known, and I am grateful for the resource.
The particular records I am using are those available for Corleone, originally created either by the civil government of Italy, or before the 1870s, the Catholic Church. Corleone is in the San Martino parish, in the diocese of Monreale. In some records, Corleone is rendered in Latin as Corileonis, and the diocese as Monte Regalis.
The main categories of Corleonesi documents on which I've relied are:
- Civil marriage records, which include civil birth record extracts, death records, family court proceedings, and extracts of church records of baptism and death. These are in Italian, not Sicilian, and so Google Translate can help you get started. Much of it is handwritten, but some of the later documents (from the 1880s on) are on printed forms. Those documents that are kept on forms, or which follow a formula, are not very difficult to learn to read.
- Baptism, matrimonial, and death records maintained by the Catholic Church. These are in Latin and are handwritten, but follow simple formulae and are easy to learn to read.
- Tax records, called "riveli," which are available on microfilm from FamilySearch, describe the locations of property owned in relation to neighboring property owners, and give accounts of what is grown: whether vines or trees, or pasturage for cattle.
Letters, contracts, court proceedings of the archdiocese or the Italian government, can be long and handwritten, and are the most challenging to read. They can yield a rich network of family relations and are worth digging into. The marriages of Elisabetta Grizzaffi and Paolo Nieli, and of Salvatrice D’Anna and Andrea Coniglio, both involved the civil family court, and name many of their family members. From these cases and those of foundlings, I have concluded that godparents did not have an active role in the secular lives of their charges: they do not take them into their homes or stand up for them at their marriages. Instead, aunts and uncles, and sometimes stepparents and older siblings, take on these responsibilities.
Another court case I've found is held by the office of the Archbishop, into the paternity of a prospective bride. The story of this inquiry is on its own page, here.
One Name Studies
I've created separate One Name Study pages for Cascio/Lo Cascio (and sometimes Castro), Paparcuri/Paparcusi and Soldano/Sordano/Giordano, for each of which I've found permutations among the records of Corleone in the 1800s.
Immigrants from Sicily to the United States
I'm also particularly interested in the relationships among those Corleonesi who immigrated to New York City, and settled in Spanish Harlem, the same neighborhood as my family, around the turn of the twentieth century.
Another destination of interest for Corleonesi immigrants to the US is New Orleans, LA.
Naming Conventions in 19th Century Sicily
Because most of the people I've researched were peasants, they do not have titles. Titles that appear regularly in these records include maestro, which means "master." I have found maestri of shoemaking, brickmasonry, and carpentry. Although I've found a few records of women with professions, including merchants and midwives, none of them has been called Maestra.
The other kind of title is seen on both men's and women's records. It is Don (for men) or Donna (for women). Use of this prefix spread to Sicily during Spanish rule in the 16th century. Officially, it was the style to address a noble, and their children and agnatic descendants. In practice, especially in the countryside, Don was also used as an honorific title for untitled noblemen, such as knights, notaries, lawyers, teachers, and "men of respect." (See: Category:Rural_Entrepreneurs)
In Church records, both of these titles are usually abbreviated, with Maestro appearing as "Mro" and Don/Donna designated by a small "d." before the person's name.
Additionally, lawyers, doctors, professors, clergy, and nobility have prefixed titles:
- Monks and nuns are called "sister" (Soror) and "brother (Frater).
- A titled noble will be called don/donna, and also have a prefixed title like Baro for "Baron," Marchio for "Marquis."
- What would today be called "J.D.," or juris doctor, a doctor of law, is recognized with an abbreviation "I.U.D." or "V.I.D." before their name and honorific. Either of these abbreviations signify an expert in both Church and civil law: "utriusque iuris doctor" means a doctor of each kind of law.
- Canonicus, a term that designates a priest in these records, is abbreviated to Canc. (See Canon law on Wikipedia)
- Medical doctors are usually called "Dre)", Dottore, with the small letters after the "D" making it distinct from the "D" for "Don." The abbreviation "A.M.D." also indicates a medical doctor.
- The abbreviation Cls before a name is short for Clarissimus, and signifies a professor. In Palermo today, the title is still used to indicate a university professor: Chiarissimo Professor, abbreviated as "Ch.mo Prof." The words root indicates that this is a person who makes things clear, or is brilliant.
A few naming conventions that are particular to Sicilians of the 19th century may be unfamiliar to Americans of the 21st. One of these is that women retain their maiden names in many records. Expect to find women by their birth names (taking their fathers' surnames) in most baptismal, marriage, and immigration records of the 19th century.
On ship manifests, in the Church census called the stato delle anime, and in death records before around 1837, and particularly when being named together with her husband, married women and widows are typically recorded using their married names.
In marriage records of the 18th century, widows and widowers may only be identified with the first name of their last spouse. You will need to find the record of the previous marriage, and possibly chain back more than one marriage, before finding the parents' names. Widows are often called by their married names when they remarry, and at their deaths, though death records will usually provide a widow's father's surname.
Names that Indicate Descent
Often, people are named in documents in a form that gives their father's first name, as well. Calogero Grizzaffi di Antonino is an example: Grizzaffi is his surname, but it's a common one, so the additional information that he is the son of Antonino Grizzaffi helps differentiate him. There are clearly some surnames that originated in this patronymic formulation, names like de Luca, di Carlo, and d'Antoni. There are also some double surnames, which are much less common among the Corleonesi I've studied, but include names like Frisella Vella. To my knowledge, a surname like this evolves when a family is so numerous in a community that disambiguation among the branches becomes necessary.
In both Italian civil records and Latin church records, names may be written last name first (e.g. Paparcuri Giuseppe), individually or as a couple (e.g. "Paparcuri e Colletto, Giuseppe e Calogera" for Giuseppe Paparcuri and Calogera Colletto). In 1838 baptismal records, all of the parents' names are recorded in this format. If you follow this link and look at the record on the top right, you can see the parents being named, beginning near the end of the second line: "ex Blasio et Maria di Miceli, et Manicchia, jugbus L.C." which means, "of Blasio (Biagio) di Miceli and Maria Manicchia, a married couple from this town." The only way to know whether the names are in first/last order or the reverse, is to be familiar with the pool of given names in use in your community (see "The Naming of Children," below), and to note the conventions being used in the records surrounding the one you're reviewing.
In many documents, the parties will be named in a way that allows you to distinguish the living from the deceased. "Furono" or "el fui" before a person's name is "was", past tense, in Italian. In English we would say, "the late." In baptismal records, when a parent dies they are “defuncto” and their widow is “once married” “olim jugales” instead of just “jugales.” Paparcuri Giuseppe fu Paolo is Giuseppe Paparcuri, son of the late Paolo. You can see an 1880 civil marriage document with both parties' names written in this format here. In older Latin records, "quondam" or its abbreviation "qdm" before a name mean the person has died.
The Naming of Children
Sicilian Baptismal Names
Catholics baptize their children with names honoring saints and dogmatic concepts. In church records, Italian names are converted to their Latin variants, so for example Giuseppe is almost always called Josepho, Joseph, or Josephus, and a child called Giuseppe will be baptized Josephum (see note). Feminine versions of many common given names are very close to the masculine version.
Some compound baptismal names have special meanings of their own, such as the divine grace of Mary, mother of Jesus, ("Maria Grazia"), motherhood as personified by Anna, the mother of Mary ("Anna Maria"), and Francesco Paolo, after Francis of Paola, who was himself named after St. Francis of Assisi.
Here are most of the names I have found, given to people living in Corleone. Names of orphans can be more fanciful and include some one-offs, which I have not listed here.
Feast days are those celebrated in the 19th century, to the best of my knowledge. Called one's onomastico in Italian, the feast day of the saint after which one is named is a day of celebration for practicing Catholics.
|Italian Name (Sicilian equivalent, nicknames)||Gender||Baptismal Name||Other Latin Variants||Saint Venerated||Feast Day|
|Agata||Feminine||Agatha||Agatha of Sicily||5 February|
|Angela||Feminine||Angelam||"Angel", St. Angelo||October 2 if named after angels, Monday following Easter if honoring the saint|
|Angelo||Masculine||Angelum||Angelus||"Angel", St. Angelo||as above|
|Anna Maria||Feminine||Annam Mariam||Anna, mother of Mary||26 July|
|Antonina||Feminine||Antoninam||Antoninus of Florence||10 May|
|Arcangela (Angela)||Feminine||Arcangelam||Archangela||"Archangel"||October 2|
|Arcangelo (Angelo)||Masculine||Arcangelum||Archangelo||"Archangel"; "Michaele Arcangelo" is a local church and confraternity||as above|
|Benedetta||Feminine||Benedictam||Benedicta||Benedict of Nursia (means "good word")||21 March|
|Benedetto||Masculine||Benedictum||Benedicto, Benedictus||as above|
|Bernardo (Nardu)||Masculine||Bernardum||Bernardus||Bernard, there is also a saint from Corleone beatified in 1767 and canonized in 2001||20 August|
|Biagio||Masculine||Blasium||Blasio, Blasius||Blaise (means "stuttering")||3 February|
|Carmela||Feminine||Carmelam||Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel||16 July|
|Castrenze||Masculine||Castrensem||Castrense, Castrensis||Castrensis||11 February|
|Caterina||Feminine||Catherinam||Catherina||Catherine of Siena, patron saint of Italy (with Francis of Assisi)||30 April|
|Cosimo||Masculine||Cosmam||Cosmus||St. Cosmas, a patron saint of pharmacists, twin of Damiano||26 September|
|Diego||Masculine||Didacus||Didaco||Didacus of Alcala|
|Dorotea||Feminine||Doroteam||Dorothea of Alexandria||6 February|
|Elena||Feminine||Elenam||St. Helena, patron of a local church and confraternity|
|Felicia||Feminine||Felicem||Felice, Felix||Felix of Nola (means "happy")|
|Felice||Masculine||Felicem||Felice, Felix||as above|
|Felicita||Feminine||Felicitam||St. Felicita, invoked by those wishing to have male offspring.||23 November|
|Filippa||Feminine||Philippam||Philippa||St. Philip||3 May|
|Filippo||Masculine||Philippum||Philippus||St. Philip||3 May|
|Francesca||Feminine||Franciscam||Francisca||Francis of Assisi, patron saint of Italy|
|Francesco||Masculine||Franciscum||Francisci, Francisco, Franciscus||Francis of Assisi, patron saint of Italy|
|Francesca Paola||Feminine||Franciscam Paulam||Francisca Paula||Francis of Paola|
|Francesco Paolo||Masculine||Franciscum Paulum||Franciscus Paulus||Francis of Paola|
|Gaetano||Masculine||Cajetanum||Cajetano, Cajetanus||Cajetan||7 August|
|Giacinta||Feminine||Hyacintha||Hyacinth the Martyr||11 September|
|Giovanna (Vanna)||Feminine||Joannam||Joanna||Joanna||24 May|
|Giovanni (Gianni, Vannu)||Masculine||Joannem||Joanne, Joanno, Joannus||John|
|Giovanni Battista (Giovann'Battista, Abattista)||Masculine||Joannes Baptista||John the Baptist|
|Giuseppe (Piddu)||Masculine||Josephum||Joseph, Josepho, Josephus||Joseph||19 March|
|Leoluca||Masculine||Leonemlucam||Leoluca, patron saint of Corleone|
|Leoluchina||Feminine||Leoluchinam||Leoluca, patron saint of Corleone|
|Lucia||Feminine||Luciam||Lucia of Syracuse||13 December|
|Luciano||Masculine||Lucianus||Lucian of Antioch||7 January|
|Luigi||Masculine||Aloysium||Aloysius||Saint Aloysius of Castiglione, Italy, patron saint of the young (var. of Louis)||21 June|
|Martino||Masculine||Martinus||St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of the diocese for Corleone|
|Matteo||Masculine||Mattheus||Matthew the Apostle, has a major shrine in Salerno||21 September|
|Michaelangelo||Masculine||Michaelangelum||Michaelangelus||"Michaele Arcangelo" is a local church and confraternity|
|Ninfa||Feminine||Nympham||Nympha||Nympha (no longer venerated)||10 November|
|Orsola||Feminine||Ursulam||Ursula||Ursula the martyr|
|Paola||Feminine||Paulam||Paula||St. Paula, patron of widows||16 January|
|Paolino, Paolo||Masculine||Paulum||Paulus||Paul the Apostle||multiple feast days: see link|
|Rocco||Masculine||Rochum||Rocho, Rochus||Saint Rocco, patron saint of the sick|
|Rosalia||Feminine||Rosaliam||Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo|
|Rosaria||Feminine||Rosariam||Mary, our lady of the Rosary|
|Rosario||Masculine||Rosarium||Rosarius||Mary, our lady of the Rosary|
|Serafina||Feminine||Seraphinam||Seraphina||Seraphim (a class of angels)|
|Serafino||Masculine||Seraphinum||Seraphin, Seraphino||Seraphim (a class of angels)|
|Sigismonda||Feminine||Sigismundam||Sigismunda||Sigismund of Burgundy|
|Sigismondo||Masculine||Sigismundas||Sigismundo||Sigismund of Burgundy|
|Spiridione||Masculine||Spyridon (no longer venerated)|
|Tommasa, Tommasina||Feminine||Thomasam||Thomasa||Thomas Aquinas, of Sicily|
|Tommaso||Masculine||Thomasum||Thomas||Thomas Aquinas, of Sicily|
November 1 is La Festa d'Ognissanti (All Saint's Day), the day in which all saints not represented on the calendar are remembered. (Source: Top 20 Italian Baby Names on About.com)
A note on the name Salvatrice: This name is popular in Corleone in the 19th century. Another Italian given name, Salvatora, has the same Latin form, Salvatrix. Source: Italiangenealogy.com
- Roman Church Wiki List of saints by Italian name
- Italian Naming Convenions includes lists of Italian given names and their Latin equivalents
- List of Sicilian and Italian Given Names compiled by Ange Coniglio, includes English equivalents and phonetic pronunciations of the Italian names.
In Church documents, people are referred to by their baptismal names. In civil records, the same people are referred to by the Italian versions, or occasionally, the Sicilian version, of their names.
It is most common for the first male child to be named for his paternal grandfather, the first female child to be named for her paternal grandmother, the second male child after his maternal grandfather, and the second female child after her maternal grandmother. Source: Italiangenealogy.com
An example of this naming convention is the family of Francesco Cascio and Maria Antonia Gennaro. Their parents and the names of four of their children are known from the records. The children, two boys and two girls, are named after their grandparents in the order dictated by this custom.
Because of this custom, it is common to find first cousins with the exact same name. If their fathers are brothers, they share a surname, and are naming their first boy and girl after the same parents.
I have found that many infants who are born dead, or die soon after birth, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Corleone are named outside this convention. Some are baptized "Placido," or with their father's name. One child (who died at three weeks of age) may have been named Biagio to invoke the protection of the patron saint of infants and throat maladies.
I've also found several cases where the first born child in a second or third marriage is named after one parent's late spouse.
If a child dies, the next child of that sex will often be given the name of the deceased sibling, particularly if the child was named for a grandparent. There are many examples of this in the records. For instance, Giuseppe Cascio and his wife, Caterina Orlando, have three daughters named Leoluchina. In cases such as this, only the last born with a given name is supposed to have survived. This is especially important to remember in making assumptions about relations. For example, if you are looking for the birth record of someone you know survived to adulthood, and you find a record that mostly fits, except for the birth year being too early, you may have found a sibling who does not survive.
In Bernardo Cutrone's family with Girolama Cascio, there are four daughters, of whom two are named Biagia, but between their births is another daughter, Maria Rosa. This tells me that the older Biagia probably survived until at least 1856, or Maria Rosa would have been named Biagia. Instead, the older sister survives until sometime before 1865, when the next Biagia is born.
Nearly always, the naming of a child after a sibling indicates the death of the older child. However, in one case I’ve documented, four daughters in one family are named Calogera: one who lives to adulthood, two who are given the same name in her lifetime, and one the year after her death. Calogera Mangiameli, born around 1822, is 15 when her parents name another girl Calogera, and 22 when the third girl with the same name is born. The third child is born the month before the oldest sister’s death in 1844. A fourth girl named Calogera is born the following year.
Compound given names are common, and are important for distinguishing some family members. For example, my ancestor Maria Grazia Bernarda Paparcuri has an older sister named Maria Grazia who also evidently survives to adulthood.
Most Common Given Names in Corleone
I began my genealogical search looking for my great-grandfather, Leoluca "Louis" Cascio, and discovered that Leoluca was a common name in Corleone when he lived here: Saint Leoluca is a patron saint of Corleone. According to Wikipedia, The apparition of Saint Leo Luke and Saint Anthony is credited with preventing a Bourbon invasion of Corleone on 27 May 1860.
I have found at least 19 Corleonesi with the name Leoluca Cascio, born between 1811 and 1898, for whom I could find enough family information to warrant entering them in WikiTree. Just looking at the four I've found who were born in the 1880s, there is the son of Francesco, who I had initially been led to believe was our ancestor. After a great deal of searching did not lead me to the expected siblings (who immigrated with my ancestor to New York around 1900), I eventually concluded, based on the research, that my grandfather was actually the son of Giuseppe, and that Giuseppe and Francesco are brothers, sons of another Leoluca. (The other two Leoluca Cascios born in the 1880s are a son of Stefano and a son of another Giuseppe, who are both my third cousins, three times removed. Stefano and his family immigrate to New York in 1901.)
Besides finding the siblings who immigrated with my great-grandfather, another clue was in his father's name. The great-uncle who told my sister about our immigrant ancestors was named Joseph, after his paternal grandfather (our great-great-grandfather), Giuseppe. I also have an uncle Louis who was named after Leoluca, who went by Louis when he came to the United States.
In an unscientific count of occurrences on my watchlist, as of 22 February 2015, these are the most popular boys' and girls' given names in Corleone in the nineteenth century:
Top 12 Boys' Names on My Watchlist
Top 12 Girls' Names on My Watchlist
- Maria (about a third in combination with another another name)
- Anna (about a quarter in combination with another name)
Children always take the last name of their father, if the father is known and acknowledges the birth, usually by marrying the child's mother. That this is the case is implicit in records where parents are named, such as the marriages of their children, and only the first name of the father is given, since his child's name, with their common surname, has just been reported.
Ex Ignoto Parenti
In the baptismal records of children born "ex ignoto parenti," or of unknown parents, a surname that easily identifies them as an orphan is bestowed. The civil birth records of children born of unknown parents will have the verb "nato" (born) crossed out and replaced with "ritrovato," which means "discovered." The most common such surname I have found is Projetti, which means "projectile." Another such name is Trovato, which means "found."
The last name may change. Even when there is no documentation of a marriage legitimizing birth, children initially baptized "Projetti" (for boys) or "Projetta" (for girls), may marry using a local family surname. Sometimes they use the name of the wetnurse named in their baptismal record. More often there is no documented link to the surname:
Children may be baptized "ex ignoto patre" or "ex ignoto matre," with the latter being most curious.
Children surrendered at or near birth are placed in a "wheel," the provision of which is required in all towns throughout Sicily by 1795. The Italian language page for Corleone on Wikipedia mentions a depiction of the "Wheel" of the former orphanage in that town, in a work of art on display in the museum there today.
The wheel house of Sicily was evidently the "Safe Baby Drop Station" of its time. In my American town today, there are large signs pointing to baby drops, at the hospital emergency room and at the fire station. They are two places staffed by professionals, 24/7. Anyone can theoretically leave their baby there, no questions asked, and know the infant will be cared for. Such a child will have no way of knowing who his natal parents were, unless they come forward in the future. He will be up for adoption, and his fate will rest largely on this placement.
The "wheel house" and the "lady of the wheel" (ruotoara, which I have translated as "wheel turner" elsewhere) are common fixtures of Sicilian towns of past centuries, I am told by Ange Coniglio, the author of a novel about a Sicilian foundling, "The Lady of the Wheel." His page on foundlings describes this ancient "Safe Baby Drop Station," why the Catholic Church instituted it, and the civic support it received.
Three children who are found in the "wheel house" (nella casa della ruota) in Corleone are Francesco Valenza (1829), Gaetana Labruzzo (1842), and Vincenzo Labruzzo (1846). (Labruzzo is a surname meaning "from the Abruzzo", in southern Italy.)
Sometimes infants are baptized as foundlings, and later acknowledged by their parents. Also, infants are at times surrendered to the wheel house, and then it's arranged by their mothers for them to nurse their own infants as paid wet nurses. Both appear to be the case with Francesco Crescimanni. According to the record of his birth (or discovery), Francesco is taken in by the wet nurse Maria Napoli, wife of Biagio Listi. His parents are later revealed to be Giovan Battista Crescimanni and Maria Carolina Napoli (very likely the same woman who is his official wet nurse.)
Reading Baptismal Records
How to read a baptismal record written in church Latin:
The example baptismal record on this page, (original is here) is from Corleone, in the province of Palermo, Sicily. Across the top of each page is the date, written out in Latin. This one says "Day 25 June 1876."
The first record says, "I, Father Giovanni Governali, under license of the Roman Catholic Church, baptize a male infant born yesterday in the second and one quarter hour, to Michaele Mancuso and Laurentia Mauro, a married couple from this parish. He is named Thomas. His godparents are Giovanni Basile and Gratia (Grazia) Carlino, a married couple from the comune of Musulmeri."
Musulmeli is the Sicilian name for Misilmeri, another comune in the same province. In most of the other records, the godparents are identified as "jugales L.C." The "jugales" part means they are a married couple. You will see most parents identified this way. The "L.C." is an abbreviation that means they are members of the home parish.
I've translated the name Joannes in the first record, because it's not as strong a cognate of the Italian and so not as recognizable. "Michaele" and "Thomas" are easier to spot, and less common names in Corleone than Giovanni/Joanne, Giuseppe/Joseph. See the table above for more examples of given names in Corleone at this time.
Continuing to the next record, the word "Eodem" (L. "same") appears above it: this means that the record was entered on the same date as the previous one. If you skip down a couple more records you'll see one headed "Die 26 ejusden," meaning, "Day 26 of the same [month]." This record is for the birth of a girl born to unknown parents. Note the abbreviation "fem." between "baptizavi infantem" and "natam heri" (born yesterday) in the second line. In the record above it, you can see the corresponding "marem" and the masculine verb "natum" (versus "natam", the feminine). These clues, as well as the infant's name, indicate whether this is the baptism of a boy or a girl. In the third line, after "hora 9 cum quatranta" (the hour of her birth), it says "ex ignotis parentibus," meaning "of unknown parents." She is given a baptismal name, and if you find her referred to elsewhere, the surname will be "Projetta" (for girls) or "Projetto" for boys. The only way this changes is if she is formally recognized by her father marrying her mother, or if she marries and uses her husband's name. If her mother is officially known, she may use her mother's last name.
Making Best Use of Death Records
Death records can offer a wealth of information, and introduce an equal number of errors into your research. Death records before around 1837 may exclude a woman's surname at birth, or fail to name former and even current spouses. The age at death may be inaccurate.
Because so many death records are for "infants" (who could be as old as ten or eleven), and there may be little information beyond the parents' first names, being well acquainted with the births of the dates preceding is a good strategy for identifying the children in these records.
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