Oct 112013

Serradifalco (Serradifarcu)
Giuseppe Testa

I was able to obtain a copy of a book on the history of Serradifalco, the home town in Sicily of my great-grandparents, and now the home town of me and my boys. The book is currently out of print and I could not obtain it from any booksellers in the US or Italy. I even asked people in Serradifalco if they could locate a copy, and they could not. If someone else from Serradifalco would like a copy, click here for the PDF files.

There is also a partial translation available from Angelo Coniglio's web site: http://www.conigliofamily.com/SerradifalcoGiuseppeTesta.htm

Jun 152012

Yesterday, my family visited my great-grandfather's home comune – and now our home comune – of Serradifalco, Sicily.

I had sent a letter to the municipal office – the same office I wrote to ask for birth certificates – telling them that we would be visiting and included a copy of our recognition letter from the Detroit consulate.

We walked into the "municipio" and I asked "parla Inglese" to which, not surprisingly, the answer was "no". So I said "mi chiamo" and told them my name. Well, the person obviously recognized it immediately – "oh, oh, oh" – and then there was a whole team of people happily greeting us. My Italian is very limited but I could catch a bit here and there. They had received my letter. And apparently, the fairly extensive paperwork from the Detroit consulate had only just arrived so the chief clerk had not yet reviewed it. As she was looking it over (and it was quite a lot), she was asking me if my father or grandfather was registered in the A.I.R.E. and I told them no and tried to say that my father and grandfather did not ever know that they were Italian citizens. The office was aware "conoscere" of the concept of "jure sanguinis" but it seemed like they had not had anyone get recognized that way in Serradifalco. They said it would probably be about a month before they would mail me a copy of our birth certificates and marriage certificate.

While we were there they gave me copies of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother's birth certificate – I had them already of course and did not ask for them but they kindly gave them to me anyway. I did ask if they had my great-grandfather's home address. They pulled the old book out and I got to see his actual birth record from 1886 – I had seem it on microfilm but it was cool seeing it in person.

I had told them that I had no cousins in Serradifalco. My great-grandfather and all of his brother's had emigrated to America (well, one stayed back, but he apparently had no children). Well, when they deciphered the address they told me that there was another "Palmeri" living in that same home now. Perhaps my great-grandfather and his brothers – or their parents – had given the house to a cousin since no one was living in Serradifalco anymore to take it?

While they could not get in touch with the people who were living there, they did find their son (?) who happened to live right next to the municipal building. Not only did these distant cousins (?) give us an amazing lunch of antipasto, pasta, and rabbit, but we met other cousins (?), saw the home my great-grandfather was born in, and we got to see the main church and some of the town.

It seemed like my cousins (?) were intrigued to find out if we really were cousins. They said that no one from the Palmeri family who emigrated to America ever kept in touch with Palmeris still in Serradifalco. That probably means trying to find out if we share a great-great-great-grandparent who was born around 1800. Or perhaps a great-great-great-great-grandparent who was born in the 1700s. Maybe. There are lots of Palmeris around Serradifalco. But the fact that one was living in my great-grandfather's home was intriguing.

Serradifalco, Sicily

the book that contains my great-grandfather's birth record in Serradifalco

Oct 272011

This evening, I searched microfilm of birth records (Atti di Nascita) from Serradifalco and found my great-grandparents, Angelo Palmeri and Maria Giambrone.

Not only is this an interesting tidbit, but I needed to make sure that these records could be found in order to apply for dual citizenship. This at least proves that these records existed when the LDS church microfilmed the Serradifalco records.

Angelo Palmeri, born 27 Jan 1886 in Serradifalco, Sicily

Maria Giambrone, born 12 Apr 1890 in Serradifalco, Sicily

Oct 152011

One of the first suggestions you get when you start doing genealogy is to talk to your relatives. Well, sometimes it takes a little work to figure out who your relatives are.

Last spring, I used a brute force approach, sending letters to about a dozen Palmeris listed in the Buffalo phone book. I included a bit of the Palmeri family tree, asking if any of them were related to Charles and Barbara Palmeri, brother and sister to my great-grandparents. One of the letters apparently went to the son of a second cousin of my father. He passed it on to his father who gave me a call. We met over the summer and he gave me a lot of information on the Palmeri family that I talk about in another post.

He also gave me some contacts on the Giambrone side. I talked to one Giambrone cousin who put me in touch with another Giambrone cousin.

From her, I learned that my great-great-grandfather, Giuseppe Giambrone, and my great-great-grandmother, Giuseppa (Josephine) (Amico) Giambrone, both came to the United States. He died around 1941. She died before him and is buried in Mount Calvery Cemetery in Buffalo. Now I know where to turn to get their death records, which should be filled with information. I'm also sending a letter to the cemetery asking them for whatever information they have on file. She also sent me a detailed genealogy of the Giambrone cousins.

In addition to the useful written information, I got a photograph of my great-great-grandfather!

Giuseppe Giambrone, probably abt 1920

And a photo of my great-grandfather, Angelo Palmeri, my grandfather, Joseph Palmeri, and my great-grandmother, Maria (Giambrone) Palmeri.

Angelo, Joseph, and Maria Palmeri abt 1918

Oct 082011

Until now,this is what I know:

Based on the Social Security Death Index, found by searching on ancestry.com, I know that my great-grandfather, Angelo Palmeri, was born 27 Jan 1886 and died in Sep 1969. Based on census records, I know that my great-grandmother, Maria (Giambrone) Palmeri, was born abt 1891. I know from talking with with my dad that she probably died somewhere between 1970 and 1975.

I try calling Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Buffalo, where I know my grandfather is buried. Maybe his parents, my great-grandparents, are buried there as well. No, they're not. But the cemetery suggests calling Mount Calvary, which is right across the street.

I call Mount Calvary. Sure enough, they're buried there. Awesome!

They can tell me that my great-grandfather died 29 Sep 1969 at the age of 83 and that my great-grandmother died 11 Jul 1972 age the age of 82.

Unfortunately, they have no record in the office about their birth date. But they give me the location of the grave site.

My sister takes on my mission to find their grave. With some calls back and forth, including some searches of google maps by me while on the phone with her, she locates the grave marker and sends me a picture:

gravemarker for my great-grandparents, Maria and Angelo Palmeri

Maria (Giambrone) Palmeri was born in 1890. I don't know the day or month, but this narrows things down a lot from where I was only yesterday.

Oct 012011

While I'm aiming to gain dual citizenship through my grandfather and his father, I need copies of my grandmother's and great-grandmother's birth certificates as well. Unlike the paternal birth certificates, these apparently don't need to be official long-form birth certificates, so I'm trying to obtain them on my own rather than pay $50 a piece to go through a place like myitalianfamily.com. We'll see how this goes.

The first step was to figure out where to ask for them. I found several places online that suggested sending requests to the Ufficio dello Stato Civile in the town that the ancestros were born. I was able to find the mailing address in Montemaggiore Belsito for my grandmother and in Serradifalco for my great-grandmother.

The next step was to figure out how to make the request in Italian. Io capisco un po l'italiano. So I needed help. I tried google translate (http://translate.google.com/). To check the quality of the translation, after I translated a sentence from English to Italian, I back-translated the result from Italian to English.

This is what I produced. It says that I need a birth certificate for Rosaria (Sarina) Millonzi, who was born in Montemaggiore Belsito. It gives her birth date and names her parents, Rosario Millonzi and Carmela Parisi. It does ask for them in long form, "formato internazionale" or "estratto per riassunto", just to be safe. It says I will be willing to pay for the processing and shipping. I included a 5 Euro note because we had some Euros in the house from my last trip to Europe. Maybe that'll pay for the shipping. Or it will be a tip for the clerk. If it works and I get the birth certificates, it will be money well spent.

Hopefully this will all work.

Ufficio dello Stato Civile
Comunie di Montemaggiore Belsito
Piazza Roma
PA 90020 Montemaggiore Belsito

Egregi Signori,

Mi chiamo Thomas Palmeri, ed abito negli Stati Uniti all'indirizzo sopradetto. Cerco informazioni sulla mia nonna, Rosarina (Sarina) Millonzi. Nata nel comune di Montemaggiore Belsito. Cerco questi dati per conoscere meglio la mia famiglia, e per trovare i miei parenti rimasti in Italia.

Vi sarei molto grato se poteste spedirmi l'estratto dell'atto di nascita di Rosarina (Sarina) Millonzi. Nata nel 14 Ottobre, 1915. I suoi genitori erano Rosario Millonzi e Carmela Parisi.

Ho allegato copia del certificato di nascita di mio padre e mio certificato di nascita. Si prega di inviare come "formato internazionale" o "estratto per riassunto" con il nome della madre e del padre.

Vi ringrazio in anticipo per la vostra gentilezza e premura, e vi prego di addebitarmi tutte le spese postali e dei certificati.

Ho incluso 5 euro per alcuni dei costi.

Distinti saluti,

Thomas Palmeri

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 202011

After I learned that my great-grandfather, Angelo Palmeri, had a brother, Charles, and that Charles and Angelo had married sisters, Maria and Barbara, I set about trying to find more information. 

Palmeri is not a very common name outside of Buffalo, NY. I think my wife and I are the only Palmeris in Nashville. I figure that at least some of the Palmeris living in Buffalo are related. So I send out about a dozen letters to various Palmeris listed in the phone book. A few weeks later, I get a call from someone who turns out to be my dad's second cousin. He knows my dad, not just as family, but because they both worked for the Buffalo Board of Education. His son, who is probably about my age, received one of my random letters and gave it to him.

Chuck was a treasure of information about the Palmeri family. I learned that Angelo and Charles had two brothers, Samuel and Peter, who also came to Buffalo, and that they may have left a sister, Maria, in Serradifalco. I also learn that Maria and Barbara Giambrone – I finally know their last name for sure – had three sisters and a brother who came to Buffalo and a sister who stayed in Sicily. I also learn that my great-great-grandparents, Giuseppe and Giuseppa Giambrone, parents to the Giambrone clan, also came to Buffalo. I recently learned that they are buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Buffalo.

They shared information about the Palmeri family. They knew by grandfather and grandmother well. They shared information about Serradifalco, including a video that showed the homes my great-grandparents had been born in and that showed a street named after the family in Serradifalco, Via Palmeri.

But maybe the coolest thing they shared was a story of my great-great-aunt and uncle, Charles and Barbara (Giambrone) Palmeri.

You can click here for the full story: Story of Charles and Barbara (Giambrone) Palmeri

There is a lot of really interesting information in their about life as a young immigrant family.

Every summer, the Palmeris and Giambrones would go to the Eden Valley to pick peas and beans. All of the adults and children would work and they would sleep in a barn. They were paid 1 cent a per pound for peas and 2 cents per pound for beans. As the boys got older, they would graduate from picking to hoeing and running machinery.

Apparently, my grandfather, Joseph Palmeri, used to go down every summer until he got married. My father remembers going down there occasionally as a child. But according to my dad, his mother had no interest in being anywhere near farm work. 

Barbara and Maria (Giambrone) Palmeri

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.

Jul 152008

My father thought that his grandfather died when I was little, so I figured that was probably the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. But I had nothing else to go on. I knew his name, I thought I knew where he was from, but I didn’t know his birth date, death date, or the name of my great-grandmother.

Having heard about ancestry.com, I thought I might give that a try. After creating a free membership, I did a search for “Angelo Palmeri” and “Buffalo” and some matches came up. With a free membership, ancestry lets you see the 1930 census but not much else. You need to pay to see more.

There he was. It’s cliché, I know, but I got chills seeing my grandfather and great-grandparents listed right there on a census record taken 80 years ago. Anyone who does genealogy knows that feeling. If for you these are just old lists of dead people, then you don’t do genealogy. For me, I had a new hobby.

It had his age (44). Given that it was the 1930 census, I figure he was born around 1885-1886. Cool. I also see that he was a naturalized US citizen. That would turn out to be important later.

Listed next to him was my 18 year old grandfather, Joseph Palmeri. I knew from my dad that he was an only child. Now I had a rough idea of my grandfather’s birth year. He was 18 years old in 1930, so that would mean he was born around 1911-1912. I also see that my grandfather was born in the United States.

And there was my great-grandmother. Mary. Now I had a first name. No last name. But that was something at least.

And oddly, right above them was a whole bunch of other Palmeris. Charles and Barbara and bunch of kids. Not only were they neighbors, but they were living in the same house. I knew there were a lot of other Palmeris in Buffalo and that we were somehow related to them, but I never knew how. So I call my dad. He says “Oh yeah, that’s uncle Chuck and Aunt Barbara. My grandparents lived in the same house with them. Don’t you remember going to their house when you were little? They had a big staircase with a really cool banister. You used to love it when I made you slide down it.” I had a vague memory of some house with a staircase and an old man giving me jelly beans, but nothing else. When my dad said that was probably when I was 2 or 3 years old, it made sense that my memory was so sparse. And I never heard of an uncle Chuck and Aunt Barbara until now. 

My dad told me that these Palmeris were more than just cousins. Charles (Calogero in Italian) and Angelo, two brothers, married two sisters (Barbara and Maria). My dad tried, but he couldn’t really remember their maiden name. Maybe it was something like “Gembrone”, but that was the best he could do. Maybe someday I could find a relative of Charles and Barbara and find more information about the “Gembrone” family.