Ofelia – a very lucky foundling!

In Rome at 8:30am on April 24th 1908, a baby girl was born to an unnamed woman at 152 Viale Giulio Cesare .

She was delivered by the midwife Carolina Zacoma, age 42 and at 1:30pm she was presented to Cavalier Vincenzo Stefanelli at the City hall where her birth was registered and she was given the name Ofelia Cairi.  Her mother was not named on the record.  I think we can assume she was not married and that the address given was a kind of ‘home for unwed mothers’. Given Ofelia’s healthy birth weight I believe she probably came to Rome from the surrounding countryside to give birth to her child and was probably from a farming family.  If she had been from a wealthier family she would probably have given birth in the hospital of San Giovanni Laterano who handled many births to unwed mothers.

The midwife was ordered by the clerk to take the child to the Brefotrofio of Rome with a copy of the birth record and her belongings which consisted of a little cap, a shirt, a vest and two blankets.

She was registered at the Brefotrofio with a weight of 2700 grams. (almost 6lbs) and then taken to the church of San Francesco a Ripa to be baptized.  On the 29th of April she was fostered to a family from Castelliri who took her without asking for any payment.

Essentially they took her for ‘love’ not money, in an ‘affidamento affetuoso’.

The family was a couple named Mattia and Loreta.  They already had two sons, Antonio born 1902 and Pasquale born 1904 and a daughter Vincenza.born 1906.

Another son Alfredo born 12 March 1908 had died April 26 just two days after Ofelia was born. Despite already having 3 small children, Mattia and Loreta made the trip to Rome to choose a baby to take Alfredo’s place just days after his funeral while she still had a supply of milk to feed a new baby.  They could have chosen to be paid for feeding and caring for Ofelia but they chose instead to take her in a ‘loving foster care’.

Tragedy struck the family again just three months later with the death of their oldest son Antonio on July 23rd. of that year and again in 1915 with the death of Vincenza.

In 1910 Angelo was born and in 1912 Agnese but by this time Ofelia had established her place in the family.  In fact, when she married in 1928 consent was given by her foster parents as well as the Brefotrofio since she was still a minor (under 21).  Her marriage took place in Isola del Liri where she was living (and I assume ) working.

She married Francesco Sbardella and had several children before emigrating to America.

This story is posted with the permission of her Grandson Carlo.


  1. […] My experience with the often illegible script, and identification of numbers meant we worked as a team with me reading out the information and her copying it down. She was able to complete many of her goals during our time together and I had no paperwork. She was thrilled to identify three of her mother’s DNA matches as actual fourth cousins, through common ancestors who were born in the late 1700s. A man from one of the other families she was working on, a very distant match to Janeen and her mother, was delighted to finally learn the circumstances of his grandmother’s birth, adoption, and upbringing. Read about that in my blog of last week: https://angelresearch.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/ofelia-a-very-lucky-foundling/ […]


  2. Dear Ann, Thank you for your truly unsurpassed, exceptionally, excellent work, in finding my adopted grandmother. I’m sorry, I will have to stop a bit to clear away tears of joy. Although I have never used a service before, I can not imagine anyone that could even come close to delivering an equal caliber of high quality work as you have. I would unquestionably recommend your service to anyone who thinks that they have hit a “brick wall”, such as with adoption records. Ann will cut them down like a hot knife through butter, without complaining, as only a true professional can. It was an honour and privilege to work with her. And, I’m surely without doubt, confident, that you will heartily agree, to the amazing and fascinating experience that awaits you. CP


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