Apr 172012

I had emailed some churches looking for my grandparents' marriage certificate. Someone at one of the churches I wrote actually did some research for me – finding a bunch of things out I already knew, but it was really generous of them to do the searches. One things they found that I didn't have was my great-grandparents' obituaries from one of the Buffalo newspapers.

The one thing these list is names (including married names) of siblings. I had them for my great-grandmother's siblings, but I didn't have them all for my great-grandfather's siblings, and I wasn't sure how many siblings he even had. Turns out a couple I thought were his sisters must have been cousins. They immigrated with my great-grandparents, listing right before them on the Ellis Island manifest, but they were either his cousins or nieces or something.

Sep 052011

My great-grandmother, Carmela Parisi Millonzi, was born in Montemaggiore Belsito, Province of Palermo, Sicily on 2 Sep 1892. Her parents were Angelo Parisi and Agata Maria Sciolino.

Here is her birth certificate, which I found on a microfilm I ordered through a local Family Research Center at an LDS church in Madison, TN, just north of Nashville. Thankfully, the LDS church records and their microfilm readers are open to anyone. The FRC in Madison is open only a few hours a week, which requires a bit of flexibility to find a time that works for me. Ordering is easy. You pay $6 per microfilm and it arrives in about 2 weeks. You can keep it for about 3 weeks, but they often let them linger for a week or two longer. From what I understand, they are moving the ordering process online (new.familysearch.org) which should make things even easier.

Atti di Nasciti for Carmela Parisi, my great-grandmother

Transcribing these is the tricky part.

First, they're in Italian. I can read only a tiny tiny bit of Italian (but I'm learning). So Google translate is my tool of choice.

Second, they are written in a fairly stylized cursive handwriting. It does take a bit of calibrating to read the text. For example, in "Parisi" the central "s" almost looks like a cursive "f". I've found that after reading them for a while, I can start to pick up on the style. One nice thing is that all the records in a volume are written by the same hand in a very consistent style. Some of those styles are easier than others, to be sure.

Here is my loose translation of the Atti di Nasciti. I haven't been able to figure it all out. But I've been able to pull out what seems to be the most salient information. After I used Google translate I also found some places online where others had translated similar Italian documents (including this http://www.conigliofamily.com/Pa.htm). Unfortunately, google translate doesn't suggest words when there are misspellings.

In the top left corner it gives the birth number for that year and notes Parisi Carmela. I can't read the writing underneath.

I put XXX on the words I just couldn't read and translate.

L'anno milleottocento   novantadue    addi   otto   di   Settembre   a ore   XXX   meridiane XXX e minuti             , nella Casa comunale.
The year eighteen hundred   ninety-two   on the day  eighth   of September at   XX   o'clock   am or pm   and minutes               in the Town Hall.

Avanti di me   XX Pietro XXX delegato XXX XXX XXX Stato Civile  .
Before me   <name and title of the official in the Town Hall>  .

Uffiziale dello Stato Civile del Comune di   Montemaggiore Belsito  
Official of Public Records of the Town of   Montemaggiore Belsito  

è comparso   Parisi Angelo  , di anni  trenta     XXX   domiciliato   quella?   il quale mi ha dichiarato che alle ore   XXX   meridiane   sei   e minuti           del di   cinque   del   corrente   mese, nella casa posta in   Via Giardino   al numero   seidici  , da Sciolino Agata di anni trentacinque sua legittima moglie XXX convivente
appeared   Angelo Parisi  , age   thirty  ,   <job description>   living in   <somewhere>   who has declared to me that at   six 'clock   on day   five   of the   current   month, in the house located at   Via Giardino   number   sixteen  , by Agata Sciolino age thirty-five his wife living with him.    

e nato un bambino di sesso   femminile   che   egli   mi presenta e a cui da il nome di   Carmela  .
is born a baby   girl   who was presented for me to see, and who was given the name   Carmela  .

A quanto sopra e a questo atto sono presenti quali testimoni   Nafia Rosalia  , di anni   venticinque  ,   casalinga  , e   Peri Rosalia   di anni   ventiotto   casalinga  , entrambi reidente in questo Comune.   
To the above, and to this record, are present the witnesses   Rosalia Nafia  , age   twenty-five  ,   a housewife  , and   Rosalia Peri  , age   twenty-eight    a housewife  , both residents of this community. 

Jul 212011

World War I was fought between 28 Jul 1914 to 11 Nov 1918, with the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) on one side and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire) on the other. The United States joined on the side of Britain, France, and Russia late in the war.

Before the war, Italy had been allies with Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire as part of the Triple Alliance. After sitting out the war, they chose to join sides with Britain, France, and Russia against their old allies.

My great-grandfather, Rosario Millonzi, a tailor by trade in Montemaggiore Belsito, Sicily, was enrolled in the Italian Army on 2 May 1916 in the Military District of Cefalu, Sicily.

He was a member of the Bersagliere Ciclista 10m Regimento – the 10th Bersagliere (Light Infantry), Cyclist. According to Wikipedia, the Bersagliere were a highly mobile infantry unit recognized by the distinctive wide brimmed hat that they wore, decorated with black capercaillie feathers. Apparently, my great-grandfather was in a bicycle unit in the Bersagliere. During WWI, the 12 regiments of Bersaglieri fought with distinction. Of its 210,000 members, 32,000 were killed and 50,000 were wounded.

During the Italian Campaign against Austria-Hungary, Rosario was slightly wounded in the leg by shrapnel at Cortina D'Ampezzo. Before WWI, Cortina D'Ampezo was part of Austria, but became part of Italy following the war.

According to the documentation we have, it looks like he was on the front lines for about 19 months before being captured following the Battle of Caporetto.

The Battle of Caporetto took place 24 Oct to 19 Nov 1917. According to Wikipedia, a huge Austro-Hungarian force, possibly their entire army, reinforced by several German units, were able to break into the Italian front line and rout the Italian army, which had practically no mobile reserves. The battle was a demonstration of the effectiveness of the use of stormtroopers and infiltration tactics. The use of poison gas by the Germans also played a key role in the collapse of the Italian Army. 

The Italian losses were enormous: 11,000 were killed, 20,000 wounded and 265,000 were taken prisoner. Many were crippled for life.

Battle of Caporetto, in northeastern Italy

My great-grandfather was captured during the the retreat from the Battle of Caporetto. He was a prisoner of war for 14 months by Austro-Hungary. According to family stories, he was so hungry, he had to eat his shoes.

After hearing nothing from him for months and months, my great-grandmother, Carmela Parisi Millonzi, asked her brother, Monsignor Gaetano Parisi, to contact the Vatican for help. With the help of the church, the Germans found him in a prisoner of war camp. When they learned that he was a tailor, they took him off hard labor and put him to work distributing and repairing clothing for soldiers.

Rosario Millonzi was officially discharged from Royal Italian Army on 1 Aug 1919 in Palermo, Sicily.

He received the Croce al Merito di Guerra (War Merit Cross) on 16 Jun 1936, while he was living in America. According to Wikipedia, the Italian War Merit Cross (Croce al Meritodi Guerra) was instituted by King Victor Emanuel III on 19 Jan 1918. The Croce al Merito di Guerra was awarded to members of the armed forces with a minimum of one year's service in contact with an enemy who received the Medal of the Wounded, or to those who, when mentioned for war merit, received a promotion. Also, if an act of valour was deemed insufficient for the Medal of Military Valour, the War Merit Cross could be awarded instead. 

Attached below are copies of his military documents that I used to piece together parts of this story.

Jul 182008

My grandfather, Joseph Palmeri, married my grandmother, Sarina Millonzi.

I knew my grandmother’s birth date. I was fairly sure that she was born in Sicily and came to the US as a little girl. I did not know my great-grandfather’s first name. He died when I was 5 years old. I remember my great-grandmother very well. She died when I was 19. I knew she went by the name of “Mela” and I thought that her maiden name was Parisi. The Millonzis came from a town in Sicily called “Montemaggiore”. But I knew little else.

With my monthly membership to ancestry.com in hand, I do a search for the Millonzi family. 

Millonzi is not a common name, but a bunch of possibilities come up. After rejecting many, I find a New York Passenger List with my great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandmother, and my uncle.

I see that my great-grandfather’s name is Rosario. It was incorrectly transcribed as Rosaria, a female name. So I submit a correction. It lists his age as 34, born abt 1886.

My great-grandmother’s full name was Carmela. Born in 1892.

My grandmother’s birth name was Rosaria. The diminutive for a small girl would be Rosarina. So that’s where Sarina came from. It says she was born abt 1916. But I know she was born in 1915.

Now I learn that my great-uncle Iggy (Ignatius) was also born in Sicily. He was only 1 month old. With a crossing to the US by ship taking a couple of weeks, either my great-grandparents immigrated with a newborn or he was born on the ship coming over.

It’s humbling to imagine my own family coming through Ellis Island. My great-grandparents, speaking no English at all, with my 4 year old grandmother and my infant uncle. They’re heading to Buffalo to join my great-grandfather’s brothers who came to the US years before.

Carmela (Parisi) Millonzi, Ida (Millonzi) Russo (infant), Iggy Millonzi, and Sarina (Millonzi) Palmeri, abt 1923.