Today the VGS Italian SIG announces the creation of a new Facebook Group Page. It is a closed group, meaning that only members can post and see posts. To join, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/755393214590289/ (you may need to copy this link into your browser) and ask to join the group.
If you are not a member of Facebook, it is easy to join. This page will be for SIG members and other VGS members with an interest in Italy or Italian Genealogy to share things Italian.
This is a re-post of an article from The Newsletter of The Villages Genealogical Society, Volume 6 Issue 11, July 2014.
“My Journey to Italy”
Text and photos by John Seymour a member of the VGS Italian SIG
My mysterious research journey into the life of my paternal grandmother began with very few, but specific items that my sister had written on the back of a napkin. These items, obtained during a conversation with my grandmother’s niece, included exact dates and times of birth, marriage, and death as well as names of places, ship arrival times, occupations, and little nuances such as strict table manners.
San Demetrio Corone Town Hall Photo by John Seymour
I soon discovered that the task wasn’t going to be that easy. Finding her place of origin and correct surname became a real challenge. Was she born in Albania, Greece, Italy, or New Jersey? We always assumed that she was born in New Jersey. Was her surname Lepera, Bellaspica, Lyare, Laspesa, or Layare? We always assumed that it was Layare. It seemed that her family’s country of origin and surname changed with each Census and City Directory. It wasn’t until I started exchanging information on various forums that I began to focus in on the correct place and surname. The correct place was San Demetrio Corone (population ~4000) in the Province of Cosenza in the Calabrian region of Italy. There were other places with similar names, but this one fit the bill.
San Demetrio Corone Church
The correct surname of LePera (also Lepera) was obtained through the State Archives in Cosenza. San Demetrio, along with many other isolated villages, was settled by the Abanian Greeks (known as Arbëreshë) fleeing the Ottomans in the middle 1400’s. Click Here to read the Wikipedia article on The Arbëreshë People. (Editor’s note: The Arbëreshë name of San Demetrio Corone is Shën Mitri.) Since they retained their own culture and language for over 400 years, it could be understood that their nationality and homeland was misstated. The changes in surnames and given names appeared to be their own doing after they arrived in the U.S. I was astonished to learn that my great-grandfather’s name in San Demetrio Corone was Angelo Maria Matteo LePera and not Napoleon Bellaspica Layare, his most frequently used name in the U.S. And, my grandmother’s birth name was Guistina Augusta LePera and not Justine Augusta Layare, the name by which I knew her. Turns out that the letter ‘Y’ was not even in their alphabet. Since my grandmother was only two years old when she emigrated, she probably never had all the information that we can obtain today.
San Demetrio Corone Piazza
Routine E-Mail correspondence with the State Archives in Cosenza, translated by Google, revealed so much exciting information that I had to take a trip to San Demetrio Corone this year. I flew to Rome where I rented a car and took the day-long drive to Cosenza. I stayed four nights in Rende, a suburb of Cosenza. During my stay I made two trips to the Archives and two trips to San Demetrio. I was fortunate to find an English speaking employee at the Archives, Maria Colosimo, who assembled a group to sit with me to answer my questions. In San Demetrio, I met a resident, Furiati Angelo, sitting on a bench in the center of town. He knew no English, but after showing him my list of questions translated into Italian, he provided nonstop assistance. He took me to the Town Hall, through the Church, and to the cemetery on the outskirts of town. On the grave stones at the cemetery were the surnames of Macri, Baffa, and Bellucci in my great-grandmother’s line. There are still many LePera’s in the area, but none remain in San Demetrio.
San Demetrio Corone Cemetery
Best of all, Furiati introduced me to a school teacher, Teresa Taranto, who knew the local language and was fluent in English. Teresa’s father had emigrated from San Demetrio to the Bronx where she was brought up. She has since returned to San Demetrio teaching on a full-time basis. Joining a San Demetrio Facebook group, I was able to connect with several more people in town. I must add that driving was a challenge. Without Google Maps on my iPhone, I would have really gotten lost. The drive up the hill to San Demetrio took all of an hour. And, parking at the Archives required a very small car to negotiate the alleyways around the 15th century building. It’s amazing how Maria was able to extract tidbits of information from the original documents which would likely have remained unknown. Needless to say, my Italian research is far from over. John Seymour
30% Off AARP Discount on Ancestry World Explorer Membership
Yesterday, my real life human alter-ego, Jim Lannin, remembered that his Ancestry membership was about to auto-renew today at the sky-high price of $299.40/year. Calling Ancestry’s Customer Service line to grovel and beg seemed to be the only last minute option. Besides, he embarrasses me when he gets like that!
When “Little Mary Sunshine” came on the line, her cheerfulness and friendliness immediately began to soften his cynicism. When he started to whine about getting stonewalled at renewal time last year, only to have his friends tell him all year stories about the discounts they had received… well, it was just plain ugly!
Things got better when “Little Mary” interrupted him and asked: “Sir, are you a member of AARP?” He responded: You bet! I’m surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands, of people here in The Villages who are both Ancestry.com customers and AARP members.”
“Mary” then told him about the discount now available to AARP members of 30% off on Ancestry subscriptions. “That will cut your annual subscription cost to $209.00″, she said. After a feeble attempt to grind another $10.00 off, he gave in, saying: ” OK you win! Just don’t take the payment out again tomorrow!”
Jim then proceeded to give “Little Mary Sunshine” his card number for a one year subscription. This, of course, gives new meaning to the old expression: “Pay a “Little”, Save a Lot”!
The Italian Genealogy Special Interest Group will meet Tuesday, March 18th at the Savannah Recreation Center at 1:00 PM-2:50 PM. The Italian SIG meets the third Tuesday of every month, except June, July, August, September and December.
Our goal is to offer help and advice to one another through meetings and emails. This is done by informally sharing research and techniques as our members discover their own Italian ancestry. Our focus is to initially assist each other with the variety of documentation available to achieve individual research objectives.
This month’s meeting will have a short review of Sunday’s March 2nd meetings of Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, and then focus on members’ success stories. At 2:15 PM, a 32 minute slide show of Sicily with music will be shown.
For this meeting all members are welcomed to bring guests. Everyone must sign in. New members are welcomed. If you are not a member of the Villages Genealogical Society (VGS) and would like to attend future Italian SIG meetings, a VGS membership form will be available to you. The fee for joining the VGS is Ten ($10) Dollars. The yearly renewal is Five ($5) Dollars.
The Amazing New VGS Italian SIG Website is Now Online!
My name is Giacomo. I am the new Web Assistant for the Italian Special Interest Group of The Villages Genealogical Society. I have spent the last three weeks putting together this wonderful new Website for you, the members of the Italian SIG.
There are so many resources available for you on this site. Here are the top 15 features as of today:
A gallery of photos taken all over Italy, from Lombardia and Veneto to Sicilia and Calabria, many taken by me, Giacomo! Only a few have been uploaded, but many more will appear over time.
Many pages on Regional Italian Cuisine. This area has pages for every region, and it too will expand over time.
Pages about Italian Linguistics.
Resources for Italian Surname Search and Research.
Videos about Italy and Italian Genealogical research.
Links to Radio Italy New York Live as well as radio staions from all over Italy which broadcast on the Internet. You can select your music in a new window, minimize that window, and go back to doing your research while you listen!
Lists of Regions, Provinces and comuni, all with links to the Wikipedia page for each.
Maps, including maps of the individual regions with the component Provinces shown, as well as a Linguistic Map of Italy.
The ability to search by Region or by Topic. New Topics are being added all the time. Eventually we will have Search by Province, too.
Of course there is a DNA section with links to various Italian DNA projects.
A content sidebar with links to the VGS Website, a slideshow, a link to the Italian National Archives Genealogy Website, and Links to our new forums, where you can post things you want to talk about or answer someone elses post. Use the Search by Topic feature and search on Forums for examples of how this works.
There is also an RSS Feed Reader Board, featuring five of the top genealogy blogs. Click on a blog name, and you will see their most recent posts crawl up the screen. Click on the post, and suddenly you’re viewing it in the source blog!
For those of you who have wide screen monitors, if you view the site full screen, you will note a photo of the Temple of Hercules Victor which I took in Roma a few years ago, residing in the right hand portion of the screen.
This wonderful blog, which will bring you news and items of interest.
A contact form, with which you can send a message to me, Giacomo, with suggestions and ideas about the site.
I really hope you like the site.
The Villages Genealogical Society, The Villages, Florida