Adding A Sibling To The Family Tree

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.

Tombstone Tuesday – Adela and Risveglio Capelli

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  Using the cemetery information from the death certificates, I quickly located both children and a photo of their shared grave.

Digital Camera, digital images (, accessed 14 July 2014, photograph by Randy Knight, gravestone for Adela Capelli (8 Set 1913 – 23 Nov 1916) and Risveglio Capelli (19 Agos 1911- 23 Nov 1916), Find A Grave memorial #66220248, Redstone Cemetery, Brownsville, Fayette, Pennsylvania. Used with permission from Randy Knight.


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.

Following Up A Newspaper Story With Documentation

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 (written by Randy Seaver) regarding death certificates for Pennsylvania.  Randy shared the good news that 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.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1944, No. 112520 (stamped), Resveglio Copelli entry, died 23 November 1916; indexed database and digital images, ( : accessed 8 July 2014); citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1944, No. 112522 (stamped), Resveglio Copelli entry, died 23 November 1916; indexed database and digital images, ( : accessed 8 July 2014); citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1944, No. 112520 (stamped), Adela Copelli entry, died 23 November 1916; indexed database and digital images, ( : accessed 8 July 2014); citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1944, No. 112520 (stamped), Adela Copelli entry, died 23 November 1916; indexed database and digital images, ( : accessed 8 July 2014); citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (

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 and to check for the cemetery.  Time to add more items to my genealogy to do list.

Tombstone Tuesday – Visiting Grandpa

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.

Celio "Jay" Capelli, Riverside National Cemetery, Section 58A, Site 2692
Celio “Jay” Capelli, Riverside National Cemetery, Section 58A, Site 2692

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.


Working on a crayon rubbing.
Working on a crayon rubbing.


A wonderful visit to my Grandpa's grave.
A wonderful visit to my Grandpa’s grave.

My Paternal Line

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.

Italian line

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 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!

My Dad in High School
My Dad in High School


My Grandfather right before his deployment to Europe in WWII
My Grandfather right before his deployment to Europe in WWII

Finding Goodies In What You Have (Part 3)

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.

Naturalization Petition
Naturalization Petition

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.

La Gascogne 1 la gascogne 2

Postcard of La Gascogne.  Original postcard is available at
Postcard of La Gascogne. Original postcard is available at


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.

Finding Goodies In What You Have (Part 2)

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.

Google Earth view of Carcente, Italy
Google Earth view of Carcente, Italy


Map of Lake Como.  Carcente is marked with the red pin.
Map of Lake Como. Carcente is marked with the red pin.

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!

View from Carcente. Photo added to Google Maps by Alelon 10 March 2010.
View from Carcente. Photo added to Google Maps by Alelon 10 March 2008.
Photo attached to Google Maps by Alelan 10 March 2008. Vistada Carcente.
Photo attached to Google Maps by Alelan 10 March 2008. Vistada Carcente.


Finding Goodies In What You Have (Part 1)

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.

Capelli, Alfredo nat kids birth


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.

Alicia Mineworks, Tower Hill Mine Works, and Mt. Sterling Mineworks
Top to Bottom: Alicia Mine Works, Tower Hill Mine Works, and Mt. Sterling Mine Works


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!!

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Celio “Jay” Capelli

Jay Capelli is my grandfather.  He passed away in June 2009.  I found this photo of him in a file of family documents at my parents house about nine months ago.  I believe that it was taken in his early twenties.  It may even be the photo he needed for his naturalization application.

I just love how happy he looks in this photo.  I remember the twinkle in his eyes when he was happy and smiling.

Jay Capelli

The First Story I Wish I Had Not Found

My family (and my husband’s family) has its share of scandal.  I have found stories of slave owners, murder, multiple marriages, illegitimate children, suicide, alcoholism, and teenage pregnancy.  I have never been the kind of researcher who questioned what to do with stories that can cause trouble.  They need to be told just as much as the rest of the story.

I have learned this week that another kind of story also needs to be told.  The gut wrenching, heartbreaking stories of loss in an ancestor’s life are just as influential as any scandalous stories.  I was truly devastated when I found the following news article about the death of two children in a fire.  While I was happy to be able to confirm a family story, I could not help but mourn for Mary Capelli and her children.  I wish I had not been able to find this story because I would never wish a tragedy of this magnitude on anyone.

Every event that occurs during your life helps to shape you as a person.  It is easy to see how this accident shaped the Capelli family.  I now have a reason why the family left coal country for the big city.  I also have some insight into how my grandfather, at age 5, was welcomed as part of the family after arriving in Pittsburgh just a few years later.

This article appeared in The Morning Herald, Uniontown, Pennsylvania on November 24, 1916.



 Third Child, Aged Six Months, Tossed From Second Story Window by Mother Who Also Leaped to Ground

(By H.H. Baer)


BROWNSVILLE, Nov. 23 – Bodies of two babies, with their charred arms clasped about each other, was the grim spectacle brought to light after the flames had been subdued at the Alicia works Thursday afternoon.  Another baby six months old had been tossed by the mother from the second story of the building and was unhurt.  The mother leaped after the baby and was badly bruised.  Her condition is most serious as a result of the shock when she learned the babies had been burned to a crisp.





ELSIE CAPELLI, aged 6 months, injured when she was thrown from the window to the ground; will recover.

MRS. FRED CAPELLI, mother of the babies, bruised when she leaped through the second story window to the ground; condition serious.

Just how the fire started is a mystery.  The large double frame dwelling, nos. 68 and 69, were burned to the ground.  Four other houses across the street were blistered and damaged from the heat of the frames.

All the families are either Italian or Slavish.  A telephone call was received from the W. Harry Brown works to the effect a fire was raging in the company houses.  Both South Brownsville and Brownsville fire trucks, loaded with firemen, went to the scene.  They found one house in flames and others about to ignite.

Water in the fire plugs would not throw a stream five feet.  Chemicals from the trucks were thrown on adjacent houses to save them, while the hose were taken in the second stories and nozzles run over the sides of the houses to keep the flames in check.  It was due to the excellent work of the two fire companies that the entire lower two rows did not burn to the ground.  The Alicia fire company formed a bucket brigade and assisted in quenching the flames, which were fanned by the stiff river breeze.

Mrs. Capelli, whose children were burning to death, dashed from those holding her several times in an effort to rush into the burning building to the relief of the little tots.  Each time she was caught before she accomplished her purpose only to make another effort to enter the building.

Mrs. Capelli was quieted somewhat when told her babies had been saved.  She stated in broken English she was down stairs in the front of the hause [sic] asleep when she was awakened by the smoke choking her.  She rushed up stairs, where her three babies were sleeping in a bed.  She grabbed the smallest child and threw her through a pane of glass from the second story to the ground.  She then made another effort to save the remaining children but was almost suffocated by the heat and smoke.   Finally unable to reach them she threw herself through the window.  Her clothes were singed and her arms and limbs cut by the glass and the jolt of the fall.  The house was then a mass of flames and none dared to enter.

It is thought the fire originated in the kitchen from the cooking stove, having a good start before it was discovered by the residents, although there are 150 houses in the two rows.

Fred Capelli, the husband, was in Brownsville at the time of the fire and his homecoming in the evening at 5:30 o’clock was another sad affair.  The fire started at 1:45 in the afternoon.

When the building had burned to the ground, nothing standing but the two brick chimneys, the charred remains of the little babies were found locked arm in arm.  The bodies were in the basement, having fallen from the second story, but the death lock was not broken.

The theory is advanced by the firemen that the children were suffocated before the fire reached them.  This was also the reason the children did not answer the mother’s summons at the window.

The bodies were taken to the morgue of Kisinger & Luce.  They will be buried together sometime today.  Both will be laid to rest in one little coffin.  Two elder children were attending school at the time of the fire and added to the pitiful scene, when school was dismissed.

The extent of the damages is not known exactly, but estimated to reach $8,000.  Besides the home of Fred Capelli in the house No. 68, the belongings and furniture of John Tompko, in house No. 69, were completely lost.  Martin Yallincich living in house No. 67, suffered heavy loss as did John Superak, living in house No. 66.  House No. 70, Pauls Disi’s residence, all household belongings and furniture was either ruined by fire or chemicals and water.  House No. 71, Steve Paviectovich, suffered slight damage by chemicals and water.

The fire occurred in the “patch” of the Alicia works which are located 150 feet from the river bank.

Company Physician J.H. Lab??? remained with the mother for five ???? administering medicine and ????

All telephone communication between Brownsville and Alicia ??? severed for a short time.  The el??? Current at the plant was shut off ??? wires burned in two.  Those we??? Paired in a short time.

Superintendent Reynolds state??  houses would be rebuilt immed??? and the homeless families sho??? and cared for until their new bu????   was completed.

All men residing in the house ??? employed at the works, either in ??? mines or on the outside.