Monovisions B&W Photo Magazine

The Pacitti family of Picinisco

Family stories are an important part of genealogy.  They come directly from the source, usually from one of the participants.  As in most cases though, memory can be flawed or the details embellished by the constant re-telling of the story.

The Pacitti family of Glasgow, Scotland has such a story.  One of fortitude, suffering and courage. I wonder if today’s children will tell their stories with such passion.

As a genealogist, I read this story and then asked myself if the records would tell it differently. Here’s what I discovered.

The five Pacitti families who eeked out a living in 1837 with twenty other families in La Rocca, one of the poorest parts of Picinisco, included Nicola Pacitti. He was born on the third of October 1844, the youngest of four sons (one died in infancy) and three daughters born to Lorenzo Pacitti and Rachele Capocci.  His mother was 48 years old when he was born, 10 years after her previous child and she died when Nicola was just nine years old, leaving him and his brother Carlo alone with his father.  It would be another 10 years before Carlo married in 1863 leaving his 19-year-old brother Nicola and his father to fend for themselves.

Nicola married Angelrosa Pelosi when he was 27 years old so it’s very possible he did most of his travelling and modelling before his marriage in Picinisco in 1871.  Many young men and women from this area went to England to model for famous artists and sculptors.  Nicola and Angelarosa may have even met during their travels since she was 26 years old when she married him.  They had two children in quick succession, both of whom died in infancy.  A son Serafino in 1872 who died in 1873 and Maria Addolorata who was born and died in 1874.  Since both of these children were born and buried in Picinisco the trip to Russia must have taken place after this since another son Domenico (Dimitri Nikolayevich) was born in Moscow on September 2nd 1878.  It is said that there was another son, Antonio who died as a teenager but I have not been able to confirm this. Angelrosa is said to have died when Domenico was about 5 years old which would have been after 1880 when another daughter, Alessandra was born in St. Petersburg.  This daughter has been added to the parish census in Picinisco with a notation that she was born in St. Petersburg.  Angelarosa’s name has been crossed through, indicating that she had also died (no date given so it must have been in Russia) but no other children are listed. 

  • Did Nicola return to Picinisco bringing his son, Domenico and motherless daughter, Alessandra with him?  I believe he did.
  • Did Domenico meet and marry Albina Cocozza of San Biagio Saracinsco before returning to St. Petersburg?  Unfortunately, the marriage records for San Biagio were destroyed in WW2 so this cannot be confirmed but I believe he did.

It should be noted that the priest’s updating of the ‘Stato d’anime’ between 1853 and 1899 consisted of adding notations at the time of a parish action, such as a marriage, ‘cresima’ or death.  If Domenico and Antonio returned with their father but had no interaction with the church they would not have been added to the stato d’anime.

Domenico and Albina had their first child in Russia in 1903 and by 1914 had produced nine children while operating a grocery store in the city of St. Petersburg.  War broke out in 1914 and Italy joined in by April 1915 making life for Italians in Russia unbearable.  In 1917 during the Russian revolution it became clear that the family would have to leave.  According to the family story three of the remaining six children had already died of starvation and deprivation by 1919 when the family fled to the Port of Odessa where the Pacitti family were included in the exchange of 200 Italians for 200 Russian exiles. Their journey would cover 1,690 kilometres and cross Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and take almost six months. The journey by sea from Odessa would have taken about two weeks, bringing them, probably, to the port of Ravenna. 

The family must have returned to Picinisco before making the journey to Scotland as they appear in the Register of the Population with Domenico’s father Nicola and his new wife Luigia Rebecca Musto of San Vittore del Lazio.  They would have needed a place to recover after their traumatic escape and where better than with family.  Travel immediately after the end of WW1 would have been difficult but they would not have stayed long.  Returning to the life of a contadino would have been difficult for a family used to city life.

Only Domenico, his wife Albina and just three of their children are listed.  Antonia, Ernesto and Alessandro.  Six of their nine children had died in Russia.  By 1921 they were in Glasgow where a daughter was born, followed by two more children before their family was complete.

The story told by Yolanda was essentially correct.  I hope my reconstruction using the available documents will add some extra depth to the family history.

Featured image: Black and white Historical photo of St. Petersburg in 19th century courtesy of


  1. Such an interesting story of Italian family that travelled for a better life to Russia and then Scotland. Amazingly brave.


  2. My goodness what a story. It should be a film. The perseverence to not to give up took so much courage. I admire them immensely. I don’t know them but I shed a tear for them. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. Hello is this Anna the lady that put the story here ……my mother Yolanda Pacitti last survivor of the Russian Pacitti family she is 96 the only child born in Glasgow ……..I wanted to thank you so much
    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it ……..what a story my mother talks about this everyday …..she was thrilled so thank you so much much appreciated……Natania Gallo


  4. My dearest Auntie Yolanda (Pacitti/Gallo) has told me this story many, many times, but, to find it written now is simply fascinating and one of those many incredible stories which I hope will not be lost for ever….


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