This summer I wrote about my project delving deep into the Italian Church records for the village of Cossano Canavese, Turino, Piedmonte, Italy. You can read about the Status Animarum Records here.
Yesterday, Facebook kindly sent me the memory from 10 years ago after my first foray into these records. This was a massive moment because it opened the doors to an entire branch of my family. I was floored to be able to say I knew the names of all my 2nd great grandparents.
To commemorate how far my research has evolved, here is a 7 generation chart with my grandfather, Celio Gordon Capelli (aka Celio Pietro Guiseppe Ciardonei) as the beginning of the chart. My deep roots in Cossano Canavese has led me to documentation for 174 direct ancestors and 11 generations added to my tree.
My next project is to work out which Maria Brunero born circa 1734 is mine. There are 4 possible candidates born 1733-1735. The plan is to build out the trees for all four families using the parents names to identify which set of parents (Maria’s parents) are my 6th great grandparents.
Last year my grandmother, Mary Dempsey (1921-2017) passed away. She was buried with my grandfather, Celio “Jay” Capelli (1914-2009) at the Riverside National Cemetery. While at the cemetery we stopped at the administration building. Outside of the building, there are kiosks available to look up and locate the burial site of your family member. These are extremely helpful as this is a very large cemetery. The kiosk will print a map and burial site information for you.
Capelli, Jay and Dempsey, Mary burial site, Section 58A, Site 2692, Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Gravesite Locator website, https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/, accessed 22 November 2018.
There are many family trees posted to the big genealogy websites. My personal opinion about these trees, in relation to my own research, is they should be used a hints. I always try to contact the tree owner to see if they have any sources of their information. I am cautious about the online trees but I am also optimistic.
Towards the end of the summer, I received a hint about my grandfather’s family on My Heritage. I took a look at the family trees posted and noticed a sister named Anastasia Adele Ciardonei was part of the family structure.
My grandfather, Celio Capelli, immigrated to the United States in March 1920 at the young age of 5 after the death of his mother, Adele Siletto. Upon the ship’s arrival in New York, my great-grandfather, Matteo Ciardonei, was detained at Ellis Island after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. My grandfather’s aunt (Adele’s sister) Mary Siletto Capelli, traveled from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to pick up my grandfather from Ellis Island. Matteo was deported back to Italy and Celio became part of the Capelli family. Sadly, Matteo passed away a little over a year later in Cossano Canavese, Italy. My grandfather grew up in Pittsburgh in the home of his Aunt and Uncle, Mary and Frank Capelli, with his cousins as his siblings.
I had heard a story that Adele Siletto had passed away in childbirth. I considered this story very likely to be true. When reviewing the family trees at My Heritage, it seems I had finally might have proof of this story.
I contacted a friend on Facebook, Lily, who lives in Cossano Canavese, Italy. You can read about how we were introduced and the wonderful presents she gave to me here. I had received the church death record for Adele Siletto from Lily last year. What I did not know at the time was to ask if there were any records for this possible sister, Anastasia Adele.
I asked Lily to take another look at the church records to see if there was a birth record for Anastasia Adele Ciardonei in the same month Adele had passed away. Lily became my hero once again when she sent a digital copies of Adele’s death record and Anastasia’s birth and death records.
Adele Anastasia Antonia Ester Ciardonei was born on 12 September 1919. Her mother, Adele Siletto, passed away a few days later on 18 September 1919. Anastasia was baptized two days after her mother’s death on 20 September 1919. Sadly, she did not survive and passed away when she was 29 days old on 10 October 1919. Just 5 months later, Matteo and Celio would be on a ship steaming towards the United States.
My heart breaks for Matteo Ciardonei. In less then a year he loses his wife and newborn daughter, tries to reach a better life in America but is deported, and leaves his son with family on another continent. I am also so eternally grateful for the decision he made to leave my Grandfather with Mary and Frank Capelli.
I want to send a huge Thank You to my extended Italian family who placed Anastasia’s name on an online family tree. Without their help, I would not have been able research this important story in my family history. Every piece of the story adds up to explain how so many decisions came to be.
Last week I wrote a post about finding the death certificates for my Grandfather’s cousins. You can read their stories here and here.
This weekend I followed up and looked for the gravestones of the children on www.findagrave.com. Using the cemetery information from the death certificates, I quickly located both children and a photo of their shared grave.
This photo helps to explain the conflict of first names I have found for the children. To recap, the newspaper article about their death the children are named Elma and Slavelli Cappelli. The death certificates list the children as Adela Cofelli and Resveglio Copelli. This tombstone names the children as Adela Capelli and Risveglio Capelli.
I have to believe that the names provided in the newspaper account were incorrect. The journalist who wrote the story was on site at an active fire and surrounded by chaos. It is easy to see that the names he acquired were close but incorrect. I also think that language may have been a barrier. I am not sure how much english my family spoke in 1916. Even if they did, I am fairly confident that they spoke with a heavy accent. My grandfather told me how his cousin, Mabel, would repeatedly tell her mother she needed to speak english as they were growing up.
The names provided to the Pennsylvania authorities and the gravestone are almost exactly the same. I will be using the spelling used on the gravestones as the names listed in my genealogy software. I will be sure to add a note for the other spellings.
The last time I was visiting my parents in Virginia, we spoke about visiting the Pittsburgh area for genealogy research the next time I visit. Now we will be able to stop at the Redstone Cemetery to pay our respects to Adela and Risveglio.
Over a year ago, I wrote a post about the deaths of Elma and Slavelli Capelli. The post was a transcription from the local newspaper article detailing the fire that destroyed the family home and tragedy of two small children dying. This story breaks my heart even more today as my children are now the same ages as Elma and Slavelli at the time of their death.
I recently read a blogpost at www.geneamusings.com (written by Randy Seaver) regarding death certificates for Pennsylvania. Randy shared the good news that Ancestry.com has added Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1944 as an indexed database. The best part is that digitized images of the original certificates are included.
Since finding the newspaper article about the Capelli children I have not ordered their death certificates. One part lazy added to one part not wanting to deal with the Department of Health and one part this story makes me sad has left this to do item on my list for a long time.
When I did my first search for the children I was unable to find any search results with any of the Capelli variations I commonly see. I knew the children died in November 1916 and their parents names were Alfredo Capelli and Mary Siletto. They had to be in the index somewhere. I tried again by searching using exact matches for Fayette County and November 1916. Listed under the last names Cofelli and Copelli were two children with parents Fred Cofelli/Copelli and Mary Lillitti/Lelletti. A closer look at the images confirmed it was the match I was looking for.
The children I found were named Adela and Resveglio. I now have a name conflict for both children. I am not too surprised since this branch of the family had recently immigrated from Italy and probably spoke with a heavy accent. Elma and Adela sound alike when spoken out loud. The last names are also similar in speech. It occurs to me it is possible my family may not have spoken English yet. At this point, I don’t know the answer and will need to do some more research.
I will need to do additional follow-up to see if I can find birth certificates for both children. I am not too hopeful as their older siblings had certificates of birth filed many years after their birth. I also need to check FindaGrave.com and BillionGraves.com to check for the cemetery. Time to add more items to my genealogy to do list.
Our family recently took a trip to Southern California. It was a mix of work and pleasure. The first day, my husband had a business meeting in Corona, California. While my husband was busy, I took the kids to the next town over to visit my Grandpa. My paternal grandfather, Jay Capelli, was buried at the Riverside National Cemetery when he passed away in 2009.
The last time I was at the cemetery was the day my grandpa was buried. When I arrived at the administration building, I was pleasantly surprised to find a computer kiosk outside. I was able to quickly look up my grandfather’s information. The computer printed a map of the cemetery with the location information on it. Finding the headstone was very easy.
I had a lot of fun telling my girls stories about my grandfather. My older daughter was especially interested in the story of Grandpa coming to the United States on a ship when he was 5. My daughter is 5 and had so many questions. The girls were very excited to find out that my grandpa enjoyed camping just like they do. My younger daughter brought her prized Mickey Mouse doll with her. She was mostly concerned that my grandpa knew who Mickey Mouse was. She was thrilled that not only did my grandpa know who Mickey was, he had been to Disneyland (aka Mickey’s house). We ended out time with the girls doing a crayon rubbing of the headstone.
Happy Father’s Day! There are many fathers in my family tree and I would like to thank each one for making my being here possible! I want to dedicate today’s post to my direct line of father’s.
I have been very fortunate to be able to research so far back into my direct paternal line. I used to think this branch of the family tree would always be stunted. My grandfather came to the United States as a young boy from Italy. My great-grandfather arrived in the United States with Tuberculosis and was almost immediately deported. My grandfather was raised by his Aunt and Uncle who lived in Pittsburgh. I was not sure that I would ever be able to research records in Italy or translate them.
You can imagine my geeky excitement when I found a microfilm in the FamilySearch.org collection containing the church records for the very tiny town in Italy my grandfather immigrated from. I have used this data extensively to flesh out this branch of the family.
I would love if any cousins shared any photos they may have of my Ciardonei family!
I am currently writing a blog series about how you miss information if you do not sit down to analyze the document after you find it. Over a year ago, I found the Naturalization paperwork for Fred Capelli online. I tossed it into my “to be processed” folder while on a downloading binge and let it sit for over a year. Low and behold, this was a big mistake because I had missed several pieces of very important information. To catch up on the awesome tidbits I missed by not analyzing the Naturalization paperwork of Alfredo (Fred) Capelli, click on these two links: Part 1 and Part 2.
The last item in Fred’s Naturalization Petition that screamed “I need attention!” was his arrival in the United States.
For years I have been trying to pin Fred down in the Ellis Island records. My problem was I found more than one Alfredo Capelli listed. I needed to figure out which Alfredo was mine.
Fred’s Naturalization Petition provided the details I was looking for. Fred left Havre on April 27, 1900 and arrived in New York on May 3, 1900 on the vessel La Lorraine. I am going to make the educated guess that Havre is really Le Havre, France. Le Havre is the second largest port in France and many of my immigrating ancestors have passed through the port there.
I followed up by finding Alfredo Capelli in a manifest at the Ellis Island website. Sure enough, there was an Alfredo Capelli who traveled to the United States in 1900. The details are slightly different though. The Passenger Manifest reads that Alfredo Capelli arrived 18 March 1900 on the La Gascogne. It appears that Alfredo may have come to the United States with family. There are four Capelli men listed: Guiseppe, Guiseppe, Alfredo, and Carlo. I do not know if they are brothers, cousins, or a little bit of both. All are traveling to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and none are meeting relatives at that location. Each man carried $30 or $40 dollars on them.
After doing a little digging, I have to believe the records from the passenger manifest are more accurate than the Naturalization Petition. The answers to the petition were filled in twenty years after Fred came to the United States. I have a feeling he did not remember exactly when he arrived. The La Lorraine supposedly arrived a week before the La Gascogne. Also, a little research into the La Lorraine shows that it was not put into service until August 1900. Lastly, the manifest would have had to be handed over upon arrival to the United States when the ship was processed at Ellis Island.
I have determined the Alfredo Capelli who arrived in the United States in 1903 is not mine. I do have one other passenger list I have identified. Alfredo Capelli made a trip to Italy in 1930. This time he arrived home on September 10, 1930 as a United States citizen. His passport number is listed along with the family address on Vickroy Street in Pittsburgh.
I have been working on cleaning out my “to be processed” folder. This is my bucket for images and digital documents I find online. I recently was looking at the Naturalization paperwork for Alfredo (Fred) Capelli. As I read through the pages, I realized I had missed information about the family by not getting the papers analyzed and filed into their correct place. You can read about the birthplaces of Fred’s children in Part 1.
I also noticed that there was other piece of information in the Naturalization Application that was new information to me. Fred’s birthplace was flashing at me with neon red lights.
I previously had narrowed Fred’s birthplace down to Como, Italy. Both Fred’s death certificate and WWI Draft Registration paperwork listed his birthplace as Italy. It was Fred’s son, Bruno, who gave me the city. It was listed on his birth certificate. The birth certificate was filed in 1926 (Bruno was born in 1909). Bruno obviously needed a birth certificate for a reason. I made the deduction that he must have received the information about the birthplace from his father.
The Naturalization Application lists Fred’s birthplace as Carcente, Italy. A quick Google search reveals that the birth certificate was not wrong. Carcente is a small hill town located in the province of Como above Lake Como.
I have been trying to imagine what life must have been on the side of that hill in the late 1800’s. It is a steep hillside so there could not have been much farming. Fred must have had very little prospects of a good life in Carcente if he felt the need to travel 4200 miles to the coal mines outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am so thankful Alfredo left the beauty of Lake Como so that my family can be here now!
I try to be organized! I have a pretty good structure set up for my electronic files. I have been moving my digital images from my old filing system to the new one over the last couple of years. I still have about 500 images to add information and citations to the metadata, make sure the information is in my genealogy database, and move the file to its new home.
One of the folders I have under my genealogy folder is called “to be processed”. It is a holding place for files til they meet the steps listed above. I try to keep up with this work but I am behind. In a recent attempt to clean this folder out, I found the naturalization paperwork for my grandfather’s adopted father. I knew that I had this paperwork. What I did not realize was I had missed some great information contained in it.
The information I previously had told me that Alfredo (Fred) Capelli had been born in Como, Italy on 3 October 1878. I know the family was dealt a devastating blow when they lost two of their children in a fire. When my grandfather Celio “Jay” Ciardonei came to the United States at age 5, Alfredo and his wife, Mary (Jay’s maternal aunt) took Jay in as part of their family. You can read more about my grandfather here and here.
One of the first things to stick out to me in the Naturalization paperwork was the locations of Fred’s children. I ordered birth certificates for Mabel, Bruno, and Elsie early in my genealogy adventure. Both Mabel and Elsie had No Record Certifications returned to me. Bruno had a birth certificate that was filed in 1926 (he was born in 1909) stating he was born in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Mabel’s SS-5 paperwork listed Mt. Sterling as her birthplace but this conflicted with the birthplace of Brownsville on her death certificate. Elsie’s SS-5 paperwork listed Alicia as her birthplace but again conflicted with the birthplace as Pittsburgh on her death certificate.
I now have locations from someone who was there for the birth! I quickly went to Google Maps to find these towns. To my surprise the names brought up towns all over the state of Pennsylvania. I know that the family only lived south of Pittsburgh and then in Pittsburgh. I then tried a Google search of the town names and Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
I was surprised to be led to a website about the coal mines in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. I have looked at this website before when researching where the Alicia Mine Works was located. This was the mine that the family lived at when their two children died. All three towns listed in the naturalization paperwork were not actually towns but the mining towns or ‘patches’ that sat next to mines. Here is a map showing the locations of the places my grandfather’s cousins were born.
Using the available records I have reached the conclusion these are the proper places for the birth of Mabel, Bruno, and Elsie Capelli. Alfredo Capelli was present for the birth of his children, making him a primary source. The information on the SS-5 paperwork for Mabel and Elsie was filled out by them. I believe the incorrect birthplaces listed on their death certificates is due to information being provided by other people.
If you have any relative who worked in the mining community, I highly recommend visiting the The Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania. The site was put together by Raymond Washlaski and Ryan Washlaski. It includes information about coal mines in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Cambria, Clearfield, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in Western Pennsylvania. In addition to some information about who owned the mines, I have found history of the mines, maps, and even photos of some of the mine patches (towns). It is an amazing resource!!