Search of the week

Eric contacted me with a ‘brick wall’.

He was applying for Italian citizenship and had collected all the records he needed, and had already corrected several of them to meet the Consulate’s standards.  One record though, was a real puzzle.  His Grandfather Gioacchino was a foundling born in Palermo, although his entry record indicated he was from Marineo. All other records matched with surname and parent information (unknown) except that of his marriage.

The marriage record showed a completely different surname, one the family had never heard of, and also listed both a father and a mother, although it was obviously the right marriage record as the bride was definitely Eric’s Grandmother. The Consulate did not accept this and asked Eric to get some clarification.  He asked what could he do to clarify this for the Consulate.

I first checked the ship manifest and discovered that his LAST RESIDENCE was Marineo, not his birthplace.  For foundlings this is significant as they are often fostered to farming women in nearby towns to the large city where the child was found.  I also checked Ellis Island for people traveling from Marineo with the surname he provided on the marriage record.  Sure enough I found several and even some from Palermo itself.  The Italian white pages also confirmed this distribution of the mystery surname.

The question is, ‘How could Gioacchino have organized his marriage certificate to have all these errors and yet continued to use his own, given surname for his children’?

This is how I think it happened.

Gioacchino was in America for less than two years when he met the woman he wanted to marry.  I doubt he could speak much English at this point and it is unlikely he was literate so the clerk probably filled out the form for him.  The certificate Eric sent me was a certificate.  If he could get a copy of the original form complete with ‘signature’s I think he would see where the problem lay.

I suspect Gioacchino presented himself with surname first as many Italians do even today.  Then as the questions continued , age, birthplace etc. the BIG question came  What is your father’s name?  I can just see Gioacchino give that Italian shrug and raise his hands, palm up indicating, ‘I don’t know’.  The clerk assumes he does not understand the question and rephrases it.  ‘Who raised you?’  Who did you live with?  This is a question Gioacchino can answer, Giuseppe Azzara, he replies. He can even answer the next question about Giuseppe’s wife.  The clerk is happy, she fills out the form, changes his surname at the top to reflect the Azzara surname of his ‘father’ and every one is happy.  This is a civil wedding and I doubt Gioacchino did more than say ‘yes’ when prompted.

What Eric needs to do now is:-

Obtain a copy original of the marriage application. (I don’t know if that is possible but it will surely show some corrections)

Contact the Palermo Brefotrofio and request information about the family to whom he was fostered.  With luck it will be Azzara.

Contact the Comune of Marineo for a record of his residence in that town, and also the residence of Giuseppe Azzara.  Hopefully they will be the same.  Records for Marineo are on line so a search for the couple named on the marriage record would confirm that Gioacchino did not invent his ‘parents’.




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