Who Killed Vincenzo Civitano? My great Grandfather Continued

In my last post I talked about the events leading up to the murder of my great grandfather Vincenzo Civitano. Most of the facts and details had not been passed down  but they are slowly being uncovered. His wife, my great grandmother Nicoletta (Marvulli) was left a widow on Oct 12, 1909 at the age of 32 with 2 small children to raise. My grandfather Francesco/Frank, 2 years old and his sister Giuditta/Julia 3/12 months old. By the April 1910 census, Nicoletta and her small family had moved in with the niece of her husband, Giuditta/Julia Civitano married to Vito Simone. They had two children, Mary, 2 and Rocco 9/12 months. Vito was a retail merchant in wood and coal and Nicoletta was also listed as working as an employee in the same industry. Before I go on with what happened to Nicoletta, Frank and Julia, I’d like to share just a little about Vincenzo’s brother Vitobino Luigi and his family who had also begun to immigrate here.

Vitobino had arrived in 1907 traveling to his son Francesco who had arrived in 1903 along with Vincenzo. Son Domenico had married Giovanna Maggio in 1908 having arrived earlier in NY, son Giuseppe would arrive in 1910. His daughter Giuditta/Julia had arrived sometime before her marriage to Vito Simone which took place on 11 Oct 1906 in Manhattan. I began to wonder who of Nicoletta’s siblings may have been here at the time of Vincenzo’s death and if so why hadn’t she gone to live with one of them? Her sister Rita and husband were living here since 1905 and already had 3 children. Brother Giovanni arrived in 1905 and brother Gaetano had arrived in 1904 married Nunzia (Nancy) Lavechhio in 1909 and had 1 daughter Laura born shortly after. Both of these families are from Grumo Appula and interconnected in so many ways. The pool was small with options for Nicoletta and children to choose from. Her sister Rita was married to Gaetano Caso and from what I have learned he was blind. She certainly had her hands full. A clue to her decision to move in with Giuditta/Julia and Vito Simone may have been found on their marriage certificate.

Marriage Certificate - Vito .jpg

Nicoletta, written as Nicola (seen often on documents) Marvulli was a witness for the marriage of Giuditta/Julia and Vito Simone. I like to believe a bond of friendship had been formed between these two which influenced the decision but more likely the decision may have been made by the family as a whole on where she should go. Nicoletta would remain in New York until the trial and then return to Grumo Appula. There she would remarry a man we believed named Nicholas Gisondi.

I am so blessed to have been connected with a second cousin named Ann Marie Giuliano- Elmendorf. After reading the last blog post she gave me a call to discuss everything. After returning from a visit with her mom that afternoon (her mother is the daughter of Giuditta/Julia, sister to my grandfather Frank) Ann shared some never seen pictures with me. This gem was a true discovery for us both since we weren’t even certain of the name of the man Nicoletta had remarried. To our great delight this photo was actually labeled.

Nicoletta&GisondiNicoletta Civitano with her 2nd husband Nicholas Gisondi (Grumo Appula)          Both Photos courtesy of Ann Marie Giuliano – Elmendorf 


This story is not just about Vincenzo but it is as much the story of Nicoletta, Frank and Julia. For Nicoletta uprooted herself and her children to return to the  home of her birth. It was uncommon if not frowned upon for a woman with children to stay unmarried at that time. We know very  little as to who this Nicholas was, if this was an arranged 2nd marriage or when they we’re married. There is speculation that he may have been a widower himself with a daughter but that has not been confirmed. We do know that she remained in Grumo until the death of Nicholas Gisondi while her 2 children returned to New York before her.

The story continues here: My grandfather Frank returned to New York to pursue a vendetta against the man who killed his father after his release from prison. Frank was sponsored by the oldest son of Vitobino Luigi, his name sake Francesco/Frank Civitano, I will refer to him as Frank 1 and my grandfather as Frank 2 from now on.


Francesco1923Francesco Civitano (my grandfather)                                                                                            Photo courtesy of Ann Marie Giuliano – Elmendorf

Imagine being a boy of 15/16 traveling alone, returning to the home of your birth with the motive of avenging your fathers death. He was traveling on the S.S. Colombo arriving on 7 June 1923. Frank 2 traveled to the home of his 1st cousin at 160 9th Ave. Sometime between 1920 and 1923 Frank 1 had moved his family from W 25th St to the 160 9th Ave

Frank 2 joins the family of Frank 1, his wife Rosina/Rose D’Armiento with children Anna 16, Mary 15 , Louis 13, Ella/Helen 10, Dominick 5, John 4. I want to point out here that daughter, Giuditta/Julia would not born until 1929 * Please don’t get overwhelmed with this name, lol, it will repeat endlessly through the generation. I am making mention of this Julia because she is the grandmother of Peter Marino who I affectionately refer to as Sherlock.

Two years later on the 1925 census, Frank 1 is listed as proprietor of a coal shop and  Frank 2 is listed as working as a factory porter.

One of the more important issues at this point is that Frank 2 did not avenge his father’s death. He had been talked out of it by Frank 1 who was more like an uncle/father to him than a 1st cousin. Joining the family in 1925 and also listed on the census is Frank 2’s sister Giuditta/Julia Civitano. She is on line 26.



SS Duilio

Below is Julia’s passport photo along with her passport documents.






Before I move on from Julia I wanted to take a closer look at this document because there are a number of things that jump out at me. A few of the facts are incorrect                       1) immigration year for her father is stated as 1899 residing in US for 9 years. His passenger record is for the year 1903 2) it says father lived uninterrupted until 1913 in US, we know he was murdered in 1909 3) this was interesting too – passport issued  included in mother’s passport 4) it also states last left US in 1908 – is this referring to her or Nicoletta? Julia born in 1909 5) accompanying my mother — very interesting because on the above passenger record for her return the page of her listing is for returning US citizens only, I can not find any listing for Nicoletta making this return journey with her, as well as existing family lore is that Nicoletta did not return to the US until her 2nd husband Nicholas Gisondi passed away (we do not know when that is) I also found no record of Nicoletta in any census here as was Julia with her 1st cousin and brother in Frank 1’s census listing for 1925.

This was an extremely time consuming post for me. I spent countless hours in that rabbit hole looking for and at documents, checking on facts and simply trying to place myself in my ancestors shoes. I also want to take this moment to say that in my last post, which I have since edited I had made a huge error in misidentifying a photo. For those of you who may have seen that picture I had said it was of Nicoletta and her 2 children, Frank my grandfather and sister Julia. I was so wrong and thank you to my Uncle Joe for pointing that out. I had actually mislabeled the photo and for years have been wrong think one great was the other great.

My grandfather Frank returned to New York in 1923 at the age of 15 to pursue a vendetta against the man who killed his father after his release from prison. Thankfully he did not fulfill that goal or I, my father, uncle, aunt, brothers would not be here today. Thank you to his cousin Frank 1 Civitano for stopping him 🙂 How ever the The question still remains:

Who killed Vincenzo Civitano?  Vincenzo2               



Who Killed Vincenzo Civitano? My Great Grandfather continued.

After a few interesting turns and diversions in the story of Vincenzo and his murder mystery, I am excited to get back to his story, which sadly, is a short tale of his life in America. In the last post about Vincenzo I shared the passenger record for his voyage here. He arrived in June of 1903 along with fellow Appulian cousin’s. Traveling with him was Francesco Mitorotondo, Francesco Tetro, Angelo D’Armiento, Jacobelli (?) Tommasco, Leonardo Searolo, and Francesco Civitano (18) *note: this Francesco Civitano was the son of Vitobino Luigi – brother to great grandfather Vincenzo (of this post). Francesco was his nephew and would go on to marry Rosina D’Armiento. As mentioned in the previous post most of them were traveling to their shared cousin Luigi Mitorotondo, address listed as 319 Broome St. I believe (below) is the building on Broome St, in from the corner building, the one with the green fire escape, next to the smaller white building. Notice the cobble stone street too, love the cobblestones. Could this be the original building from the 1900’s? (I don’t have the date this Google earth photo was taken)


Continuing to recap on March 1, 1902 (in Grumo Appula) Nicoletta and Vincenzo welcomed their first daughter Giuditta but their happiness was short lived when she passed away at 9 months old on the 20th of Dec 1902.  Later Nicoletta gave birth to another baby girl, also named Giuditta on Oct 8th, 1903, 4 months after Vincenzo had set sail for America. Alone, with out her husband, their happiness once again was overshadowed in sadness when Giuditta #2 passed away on the 7th of Nov. 1904.  I believe Nicoletta endured the sadness and grief of losing her second daughter with out Vincenzo by her side. In a future census record the immigration year was stated as 1906. Coupled with the fact that their son Francesco would be born in 1907 here in New York, I believe the 1906 immigration date is most likely correct. Sometime after the arrival of Nicoletta they moved to their own apt; below.

327W26th2 327 W.26th St NYC




My Great Grandfather Vincenzo Civitano and his son, my Grandfather Francesco c. 1909 shortly before his death.


On July 18, 1909 Vincenzo and Nicoletta welcomed their 2 child, daughter Giuditta/Julia but once again Nicoletta would faced unbelievable horror and grief as her joy of welcoming baby Giuditta was shattered


Vincenzo on the 12 of October 1909 -was brutally stabbed to death.

Family lore is that it happened over a business dispute. What little we know is that there was a trial, that the assailant was found guilty and was sent to prison. Also the story continues: Nicoletta wanted to return to her home and family in Italy but before she could go she had to remain to testify at the trial. What we do know for sure is that sometime after that dreadful day and before April of 1910 Giuditta moved to 250 W 29th St. and joined the family of her husband’s 1st cousin, her daughters name sake, Giuditta and brother-in-law Vito Simone with their 2 children Mary 2 years and Rocco 9/12 months. Their ages are the  exact ages listed  for Francesco and yes – baby Giuditta. Brother-in-law Vito’s profession is listed as coal and wood man and our poor Nicoletta is listed as a coal and wood employee. She has lost 2 children and she has just lost her husband. She has lost her new apartment home and she must go to work. I can’t even begin to imagine her thoughts at the time. Another very interesting detail is listed too. Under the heading ‘mother and number of children’ it now says ‘number born’ 6; ‘number living’ 2. Had Nicoletta been pregnant again and in her grief and sorrow lost her 3rd and a 4th child, had she lost one prior to Vincenzo’s death and then another by working or was this only a clerical error on the census?  Nicoletta does return to Italy, and for now we believe after testifying at the trial. And here the story rests for many years – well over 100 years.

The questions for me now became where was Vincenzo buried? Calvary Cemetery was what my Uncle Joseph had told me but Calvary had no record for him and Joseph had never been to see him with or without his father. And who murdered Vincenzo? No one seemed to know? What was the argument over really? Something perhaps over delivery routes?  The incident was rarely talked about and for those of us still alive to remember they do not remember. Another interesting part to the story is this: My grandfather Francesco now know as Frank returned to New York (from Italy where he was living with his mother, sister and 2nd husband) as a young man to avenge his father’s death. (I will detail this in a later post)

The story does continue 100 years later as I began to probe and prod my Uncle Joseph for details. This was his grandfather and Frank who returned from Italy to avenge his fathers death, was his father. I could not let this story just rest nor could I allow the memory of my great grandfather Vincenzo to just fade into a fairytale or become just another lost Italian immigrant of little importance in history. It was our history and incredibly important to know the details and honor his memory. The details of his death were becoming a fairytale and the few details left were being doubted. Enter the incredible sleuthing talents of my cousin Peter Marino. This tale began to haunt us both and while I fell short in locating any documents Peter slipped into his Sherlock cap and slowly the details and events of Vincenzo’s death were revealed.


Vincenzodeath5Peter first located the death certificate. Note that his name is listed as James and the Civitano while it does look like the t is crossed it was listed as an L for Civilano. You can barely make out ‘married’ and ‘coal dealer’ but it is clear that it says ‘stab wound to chest’  ‘homicide’ The next document is from the Coroner’s office. It appears the case was received by the District Attorney on Dec 8th 1909 case # 4991 with Vincenzo’s name recorded properly.


There are very few words to express the feelings felt with finding these records finally. It was a long persistent painstaking and disappointing process with all of the credit and accolades going to Peter. But as if that wasn’t enough, Peter contacted Calvary Cemetery, located Vincenzo’s grave in the paupers section and then had this temporary gravestone marker mounted in place.





The next question continued to play in the back of my mind for the next couple of years which was “who murdered Vincenzo?” Surely if there had been a trial, surely if Nicoletta had to remain in New York to testify and the assailant went to prison, surely there had to be a record of the trail. But we, Peter nor I could find any record. We had revisited this question, this mystery quite a few times with no progress but a few weeks ago I woke with the idea to search google for New York district attorney trails 1909 – something like that. Its funny how obvious a search question could be but it never occurred to me. I was excited to find from the

New York City Department of Records: Municipal Archives “District Attorney Records, 1895-1971 Closed case files, docket books, newspaper clippings, investigations, correspondence. The Municipal Archives holdings of records created by the District Attorneys of the five counties are closely related to (and often identical to), many of the criminal court series. The New York County District Attorney collection is the most extensive. It consists of closed case files, from 1895 through 1980 and the related “record of cases,” a.k.a. docket books which serve as a name index to the closed cases.”

Of course I sent out an email immediately asking for information, direction in moving forward in locating any court documents and the name of the assailant in this case. Nothing is online and they do not do any research for you. It is all in person. The archivist returning my query has been extremely helpful so far and did say he would do a preliminary search for me and see what he could uncover. I am hoping to hear back from him soon. In the mean time I contacted Peter aka Sherlock and my Uncle Joe. I am cautiously hopeful that we many have the answer very soon to ‘Who killed Vincenzo Civitano?’



Revisiting Giuditta Sportelli wife of Francesco (our stage coach robber)

I had intended to continue the story of my great grandfather Vincenzo Civitano, born in 1868, his death in 1909 New York, a family murder mystery,  but I felt compelled to go back to his mother’s parents/grandparents for a moment and add to their story. The questions in my mind was how did this family survive, how did Giuditta make ends meet, provide for her 3 young children; my great grandfather Vincenzo, brother Vitobino Luigi and sister Isabella after her husband was imprisoned and then died 6 years later into a 18 year sentence.

Cousin Peter Marino posted a comment that intrigued and enlightened me on something I had no idea about. For those who may not have seen his comment I felt it was important and I needed to readdress this. Peter wrote “The most intriguing part of the Francesco the Stage Coach Robber equation for me is that all indications point to his wife Giuditta Sportelli was born into a family of some prominence and (likely) wealth. Giuditta’s mother Beatrice Racano and her parents are in multiple places referred to as “Don”/”Donna” or “Il Signor”/”Signora”, a mark of esteem and deference for a person of prominence in the community — someone with great wealth, education or political position. In the case of the Racano family, the male members were “farmaciste” (pharmacists); in Italy around this time, pharmacists were relied upon to give medical care to the members of the community.” 

I decided to do a little more digging into this so I posted a page from the wedding document of Francesco Racano and Maria Barbieri, the grandparents of Giuditta, parents of her mother Maria Constantina Michele Racano to the genealogy FB group ItalianGenealogy for some help in translating the page.

Marriage Certificate - Francesco -3

With the help of Wilma DiVincenzo, member of the group, this is what she shared with me.

Marriage #38 – Notation: married at the Mother Church of Acquaviva, 21 December.

The year 1817, the 21st day of December at the hour of 21, before Giulio Iacobelli, Mayor of Acquaviva, appeared Signor Francesco Racano, age 39, an apothecary chemist living in the town at Strada Pier Gentile, adult son of the deceased Ludovico Racano, who died in this town 15 November 1815 and the deceased Beatrice Mofetti, who died in this town 20 January of this year; the grandparents are dead also; AND equally appeared Signora Maria Barbieri, age 19, a gentlewoman, living at Strada l’Ostero, minor daughter of Signor Michele Barbieri, age 45, a Civile and Signora Angela Pepe, age 46, a gentlewoman, lady of the house, here present and consenting.

Marriage Banns were dated 17 December and 14 December.

A Civile is a landowner and I just love the term that Signora Angela Pepe was a ‘gentlewoman, a lady of the house’. Most certainly they held a place of high esteem within the community and I think more research into this time period and position would be fun. For now I may have found the answer on how this ancestral family of mine had survived or had she been shunned for perhaps marring beneath her station and no help was given? Was that perhaps the reason both her son’s left Grumo for the streets of gold of America? Oh how I love genealogy and each door that opens for research.







My Great Grandfather Vincenzo Civitano

In my last post I talked about my 2 x great grandfather Francesco Civitano who was born the 23rd of Sept., 1834 in Grumo Appula. He died on the 20th Apr., 1879 in Civitavecchia at Bagno Penal Facility. Francesco was just 44 years old. He had been convicted of stage coach robbery and battery and was sentenced to 18 years of hard labor. Considering the fate of Francesco perhaps it was a blessing that he fell ill and died after only serving 6 years.

As I began to prepare for this post I could not help but see a correlation between Francesco and his father Vitobino Luigi. Both were men who died early in life leaving their wives with young children to raise and care for. Vitobino was 33 and Francesco 44. As I looked at their ages, I thought Vitobino was quite young and wondered if perhaps something out of the ordinary had happened to him. I posted his death certificate to the FB page Italian Genealogy to see if I could get some help in interpreting his certificate. First of all, FB genealogy groups are fabulous ~ I always find a warm welcome to these groups as well as a wealth of knowledge, information and lots of help. I had quite a few responses to my document post and all who responded were in consensus that he had died at home and nothing out of the ordinary was stated about his death.

Continuing to look at the correlation between father and son, something else jumped out at me that I hadn’t seen before. That was the direct correlation between father, son,  grandson and great grandson.  Let me try to explain.

Vitobino Luigi 1803 – 1836, son Francesco 1834 – 1879, son Vincenzo 1868 – 1909,            son Francesco 1907 -1987 (my grandfather)

Francesco was 2 when his father Vitobino Luigi passed away, Vincenzo was 11 when his father Francesco passed away and then Francesco is 2 when his father Vincenzo passes. Both these Francesco’s will lose their father at the age of 2.

When I began this post I wanted to concentrate on the two sons of Francesco but I have re thought and re written this post now for a number of days and in light of some recent research developments I have decided to concentrate on Vincenzo, my great grandfather.


Vincenzo Civitano 

Vincenzo the younger of the 2 sons of Francsco and Giudetta Sportelli, was born the 1st of May 1868. Attending Vincenzo’s birth was a levatrice – a midwife, named Antonina Tortorella who reported his birth on the 5th of May to Mayor Raffaele Patruno. Witnesses at his birth were Domenico Cascione and Rocco Colasuonmo. (see document at end of post – I am amending this post after a change with WP style)  



By the time Vincenzo was 5 years old his father was sent to prison in Civitavecchia. I do not think at this time Vincenzo truly understood what had happened to his father or to his family but by the age of 11 when his father died in prison I have no doubt that he fully understood every aspect of what had happened in his families life.

I want to stop here and write just little more about my 2x great grandfather Francesco the stage coach robber. As I was preparing for this post I wanted to try and find out the conditions in Italy at the time my great grandfather would be traveling to America. Why would so many leave their homeland for New York and beyond. That led me to an interesting discovery from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Italy#Early_modern_history

“After 1861[edit]

The southern economy greatly suffered after the Italian unification and the process of industrialisation was interrupted. Poverty and organised crime were long-standing issues in Southern Italy as well and it got worse after unification. Cavour stated the basic problem was poor government, and believed the solution lied in the strict application of the Piedmonese legal system. The main result was an upsurge in brigandage.[28] Because of this, the South experienced great economic difficulties resulting in massive emigration leading to a worldwide Italian diaspora, especially to the United States and South America. Many natives also relocated to the industrial cities in northern Italy, such as Genoa, Milan and Turin.”

According to Wikipedia; “Brigandage refers to the life and practice of brigands: highway robbery and plunder.[1] A brigand is a person who usually lives in a gang and lives by pillage and robbery.” So in this part of my research it becomes apparent well most likely that that my 2x great grandfather Francesco was a brigand.

Life was most certainly not easy for Vincenzo and at the age of 32 on Oct 7, 1900 he married Nicoletta Marvulli. The Marvulli family was another established Grumo Appula family. In fact Vincenzo’s brother Vitobino had married Nicoletta’s older sister Angelina in 1882, some 7 years earlier. (see marriage document below) 

Attending Nicoletta’s birth was also a levatrice – midwife by the name of Laura Tetro. Witnesses were Nicola Forese and Gaetano Colavito. * Please note a few of these last names, Tetro, Forese, Colavito as they will continue to be repeated and shared within our family. In fact Vincenzo will go on to have 1 daughter, Giuditta Julia who will marry a Forese.

On March 1, 1902 Nicoletta and Vincenzo welcomed their first daughter Giuditta but their happiness was short lived when she passed away at 9 months old on the 20th of Dec 1902. With Nicoletta pregnant for a second time and married for just 3 years, Vincenzo set sail for America along with fellow Appulian’s and family members cousin Francesco Mitorotonto, Angelo D’Armiento, Francesco Tetro, Leonardo Searola, Jacobelli (?) Tommasco, (another) Francesco Civitano. They arrived in New York on 19th June 1903.

While Vincenzo was Nicoletta gave birth to another baby girl, also named Giuditta on Oct 8th, 1903. Their happiness once again was overshadowed in sadness when Giuditta #2 passed away on Nov. 7th 1904. I do not know if Nicoletta was with Vincenzo in New York at the time because I can not locate an immigration documents for her. However I believe she endured the sadness and grief of losing her second daughter with out Vincnezo by her side. In a future census record I was given the fact (which can be wrong) that Nicoletta arrived in 1906.

According to the passenger manifest Vincenzo was traveling to a cousin, Luigi Mitorotonto  as was Francesco Tetro, Leonardo Searola and Francesco Civitano. Francesco Mitorotonto was going to Luigi as well but he was his brother in law.


I could not locate Vincenzo in the 1905c. But  what we do know is that by 1907 Nicoletta had arrived  because my grandfather Francesco was born 8 Nov. 1907 in New York City and this would be consistent with the future census record I did find.

In my next post I will continue the story of Vincenzo, his growing family here in America and his murder mystery.



Vincenzo and Nicoletta’s marriage certificate 

Vincenzo’s birth certificate page 3,2,1

~ Francesco Civitano~ Stage Coach Robber

In an earlier post I talked about the repeating name of Francesco in our family. Today I want to write about Francesco Civitano son of Vitobino Luigi and Isabella Elisabetta D’Amico who most deservedly warrants a closer look. He was an extremely interesting character and the ‘father’ of many of our immigrating ancestors. One of the major splits in the tree are from this Francesco’s 2 sons Vitobino Luigi b. 1860 and brother Vincenzo b. 1868. Before returning to this Francesco; of note, these 2 brothers married 2 sisters: Vitobino Luigi married Angelina Marvulli and Vincenzo married Nicoletta Marvulli. 

Francesco was born the 23 Sept 1834. He was baptized in the Parish Church of Grumo on 25 Sept 1834. His official birth was reported to the Mayor of the time; Michele Garzilli by his father Vito Luigi. Witnesses at his birth were Rocco Umbrino and Vito Vincenzo Sardone. * look closely at the last page of the document it has Vito Luigi’s signature –

Birth Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1834) p.2

1st and 3rd page

Francesco’s birth certificate

On the 19th of February 1860 Francesco married Giuditta Maria Sportelli b. 2 Nov 1839 in Acquaviva delle Fonti, in Bari,  daughter of Vincenzo Sportelli and Beatrice Constantina Michele Racano.  

Marriage Certificate - Francesco

Marriage Certificate - Francesco -2

As I have already mentioned Francesco and Giuditta had 2 sons Vitobino Luigi and Vincenzo, they also had daughters Rosabetta Isabella b. 14 Feb 1864 d. 7 Sept 1864. She  survived about 7 months old. She was followed by the birth of a 2nd daughter named Isabella b. 21 July 1865  d. 9 Sept 1947 Grumo Appula. Isabella married a man named Michele Sollecito.

Francesco was a peasant farmer as most of our Grumo ancestors seem to have been. He had married Giuditta (at age 26) in 1860.  Son Vitobino Luigi was born in that year, followed by the 2 daughters and then Vincenzo, their last child in 1868. I repeat this information to set the stage for what is to come. Times had been hard for farmers, I don’t know if that led father Francesco to break the law or if Francesco might have just been bad.  I like to believe that the times were so tough that he resorted to crime to support his family. In any case he robbed a stage coach out of desperation for money. He did not get away with it and by August 30 1873, at the age of 39,  Francesco was found guilty of stage coach robbery, with aggravated assault with serious injury and sentenced to 18 years at forced hard labor at Bagno Penal facility of Civitavecchia.

My family line follows Francesco’s son Vincenzo. Vincenzo was just 5 years old when his father was sentenced to prison. Many of our descendants here in America follow the line of brother Vitobino Luigi. At the time their father was sentenced Vitobino Luigi was 13 years old, quite old enough to have had a total understanding of what had happened.  I can’t even imagine what Giuditta was going through. The question again comes up for me, what was the living arrangements like? Was there communal living arrangements of Civitano families working the land?  Who and how did Giuditta support herself and her family?

The situation gets worse, while serving 18 years at hard labor, at the age of 45, on the 20th April 1879, 6 years into his sentence, Francesco had taken ill and was transported to the infirmary. On the 17th April, 3 days later he died. According to the document he was certified dead by Dr Tommaso Alessanari and given last rites by Chaplin Luigi Palagi who I believe was the director of the prison.

Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.1Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.2

Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.3

I initially began researching Francesco in 2008 when I met via the net a man, who I mentioned in a beginning post by the name of Frank Dattolico. He was instrumental in helping locate many records and got myself and yes cousin Peter Marino aka Sherlock Holmes started on the journey. In 2 of my correspondences with Frank. I asked him how he got his information on what happened to Francesco and he wrote (Feb 2008)

Hello Sharon, I found the document on film number 1692719 it’s with the 1876 death records but it is in the supplement section. The Supple# is No 5. The document is all in long hand. I’ve been trying to translate the whole document but page two the ink is kinded of light and is hard to read. I translated page one which it states that the Town official of Grumo received an extract of the death of Francesco Civitano from the Director of the Civitavecchia Prison, which I learned is a prison for forced labor about 44 miles from Rome. The present day City of Civitavecchia is a big Cruise Ship port. * 1876 transposed for 1879 in a following email to me a few days later

Sharon me and a friend of mine who was born in Italy translated page 2 of Francesco Civitano death record and a summary of it, is as follows:
     Let it become known that the deceased  Civitano, Francis, son of  the late Vito Luigi, forty two years of age born in Grumo and resided in Grumo, profession peasant farmer, on August 30,  1873 was found guilty of aggravated assault with serious injury and was sentenced to 18 years at forced labor at a Prison in Civitavecchia. On April 17, 1876 he was sent to the infirmary. At 1:00 AM  April 20, 1879 he died. He was certified dead by Dr. Tommaso Alessanari and given last rites by Chaplin Luigi Palagi and present was the Director of the Prison. 
I hope this helps you out. Ciao Frank Dattolico
As I was looking over the death record for this blog post I was wishing I could read Italian.  Even if I could I am not sure I could even decipher it. I did pick out the words Bagno Penale number of times and with google translate Bagno – bathroom. A google search of Bagno Penale brought up the article below that I found fascinating and wanted to share it with you.


MONDAY 07 August 2017 – Updated at 19:53 (article translated) 

The “criminal bath” of Civitavecchia


CIVITAVECCHIA – In the northern outskirts of Civitavecchia there is a monumental complex characterized by a large and massive wall that represents one of the most impressive historic buildings of the city and, paradoxically, one of the least known ones. This is the so-called “sanitary bathroom”, the prison structure of Via Tarquinia, named after the “Victim of the Duchess” Giuseppe Passerini, who was transferred to history as one of the earliest penitentiaries in the United Kingdom in 2013.

In fact, the name “sanitary bath” was inherited from the old warehouses of the dock where we know that from the early seventeenth century in the harbor town were convicted. Often the premises of the docks were located below the sea level, where the water was filtered and moisture was perpetually reigning and perhaps that is why such detention facilities were designated with the names of “criminal baths”, “floating baths” or “Prison mouillées”. In the ancient bath of the dock we know that there was a small cemetery and a “spacious hospital” built in 1658, where the cleanliness was the highest and where, at the center of the cameron, stood an altar for the celebration of religious functions. However, in response to the new emerging prison demands in the mid-nineteenth century, along with the intensification of maritime traffic, the dock space became increasingly inadequate as a detention facility and a new penitentiary was necessary.

Thus, in the “Prato del Turco” (the current Via Tarquinia) site, the new “criminal bath” was constructed thanks to the direct interest of Pope Pius IX who in 1864 entrusted the Pro Minister for Weapons, Mgr. De Merode. The project worked on Ing. Navona and then Captain Pinto, while an artillery company (later constituted in genius body) was involved in the execution. On October 26, 1868, during his last visit to Civitavecchia, Pius IX wanted to visit the ongoing work that was completed by 1870. The structure, starry form, consisted originally of two environments: the first was destined To accommodate 120 guards, the second 250 convicted with 20 penalty cells reserved for prisoners of “vicious conduct”. Inside the prison there was a hospital that could receive more than 120 detainees, various premises destined for various functions (offices, reception rooms, accommodation rooms, etc.) and, in particular, a chapel on an octagonal basis , In the shape of a semisphere shell, in the middle of which was the altar for the celebration of religious functions to which the “servants of the penance” could be assisted.

The imposing walls of the prison structure were guarded at the four corners by expert rifles. The Penitentiary in Civitavecchia will be one of the most important in the history of the national prison system, renowned for hosting the great majority of political prisoners convicted by the Special Tribunal from 1932 to 1943 during the second half of the fascist twenty years. Defense of the state.After the Second World War, the first “Institute for the Treatment of Young Adults” was created in the jail, a state-of-the-art facility in Italy for the detention mode for people aged 18 to 18 And 22 years old.

Returned to a detention center for detainees of any age, in July 1992, the facility will be temporarily disabled following the entry into service of the new prison in Borgata Aurelia, still in operation. On April 15, 1999, the Tarquinia penitentiary will be reinstated in the five historic departments of the same illustrious Italian characters: the criminal and political man Enrico Ferri, the jurist and philosopher Gian Domanico Romagnosi, the literary illuminist Cesare Beccaria, the experimental psychologist Agostino Gemelli And patriot Carlo Cattaneo. Today, the House of Reconciliation “G.Passerini “in Civitavecchia, is an advanced treatment institution with 60 detention rooms and ample spaces for educational, work, cultural, sports and religious activities, in full accordance with the most modern dictates that make a prison structure Which is respected, that of a place that equally respects the punitive and rethinking function of the detainee.

(03 Mar 2017 – 10:27 am)




Collecting Cousins

One of the amazing aspects of genealogy for me is not only the history, the story, but the connection, the connection to the story and the connections made through the story. Sometimes those connections can spread like wild fire which is the fun part. This morning I connected with another very distant cousin, but cousin indeed. We shared some information back and forth and I was able to put the connection onto paper for her to see. As the song goes, ‘his name is my name too…’ her name is Donna and in fact that is my birth name; Donna, changed at my adoption. Donna asked ‘how do I figure it all out?’ well I thought it was the perfect time to show you how I do figure it out. With pictures and graphs. Funny story, I always remember one of the high school math teachers I worked with; teaching special ed math; always told her students if you can’t figure it out,  draw a picture to show your thinking, and so thats just what I do, I draw it out. For me that’s the easiest way to see what I am trying to see. So as you begin to follow this blog, all the who had who and who had when, just start drawing it out and I guarantee you’ll see the connections

Donna is off of brother Giuseppe and I follow Vitobino Luigi. Our most recent common ancestor (mrca) would be their parents; Francesco Civitano and Rosa Spano

Cousin Connections

With this family blog in it’s infancy  it is difficult to know in what direction to go. There are so many branches and stories to share. As I began to write about the Francesco Civitano married to Rosa Spano it suddenly occurred to me that back in April of this year I had had a cousin connection break through that had taken me almost 15 years to connect all the dots. Now you might think I need to give up my ‘Watson’ status because I am a very poor genealogy detective or you could think, wow great staying with it for so many years, you finally solved that cold case. Either way I’d like to share this with you now as it follows perfectly where I am in starting this blog.

Back 15 years ago as my search for my birth family came to its end, one of the first Civitano family members I connected with was a woman named Elizabeth in our tree. What I want to say is our connection as friends was instant and our friendship blossomed over the years, corresponding over the net and snail mail at times too. It was a cousin connection we never thought we would prove and for yup, 15 years I have revisited it over and over trying to find how we could connect – if in fact we did. I can’t tell you how many times we went over the details of her known ancestry tree and what I had been compiling. It all seems so simple now and right out there blaring at me, screaming here I am, here’s the connection. Back in April of this year it all came together.

We were connected by our 4x great grandparents Francesco and Rosa. Below is the email I shared with her when I discovered the connection.

Repeating Names: Francesco Civitano my 4x great grandfather

I want to talk a little about repeating names in our family and on some of the documents we have. Naming customs of our ancestors most certainly contributes to this and this can either make it very easy to follow a family line or can cause great confusion. I find it a blessing actually. There seems to be a warmth and familiarity that draws people closer, uniting them as family ~ at least for me, in the names being passed down honoring the ones who came before. In my case the name Francesco continues to repeat itself with my Grandfather being named Francesco and one of my brothers as well and as you will see in others sharing the wonderful name of Francesco.

In some of the early documents we have gathered we see last names such as Spano, Rella, Tetro, Perigena, Colavito, D’Amico just to name a few and it goes on and on with these names reporting births and deaths as well as learning the names of the mayors at different times; they all seem to come full circle in identifying who married who, who was a cousin to who or aunt or uncle, who was related by marriage and who wasn’t. Genealogy research for me is not just the names and dates but the landscape, the stories, the buildings, the lost history waiting to be found and shared, they all tie together in telling our story.

The first descendant I want to take a closer look at is

Francesco Civitano born 1763 and died 16 July 1829. He lived to be 66 years old. Francesco was a Contadino – peasant farmer. He was the son of Paolo and Giacoma Giannini. He was the last child of 4 children born (that we have record of) His first marriage was to Rosa Spano daughter of Giuseppe Carlos Spano and Donata Fattizza. With no marriage certificate we are assuming Francesco and Rosa was married prior to or by their first child being born in 1787,  their children are as follows

Donata Maria born 1787, Giuseppe 1792, Nicola 1796, Giacoma 1797 and Vito Luigi 1803.

Rosa Spano Civitano died 1 May 1824. She was 60 when she passed. Francesco was 61 years old. Reporting her death to Major Giuseppe Lupis were her two sons Nicola and Vito Civitano.

After Rosa’s death Francesco married Rosa Careccia, 55, on 8 July 1824. She was the daughter of Vito Modesto Careccia and Vincenza Mitarotondo. This marriage was just 3 months after Rosa #1 passed away. My thought on this is that it must have been out of necessity for help on the farm, for running the home, and for companionship.

The marriage was short lived as Francesco passed away 16 July 1829, a short 4/5 years later. The people reporting his death were Lonardo Siciliano and Paolo Colavito to Mayor Giuseppe Lupis. Interesting that it was not one of his 3 sons, nor his daughters reporting the death as with Rosa #1.

Rosa (Careccia) Civitano died 15 Sept in 1845. She lived another 16 years. We don’t have much information on Rose #2 other than her parents names at this time and an additional spouse by the name of Angelo Serentino but I am unclear whether this was a 1st or 2nd marriage for her.

What comes to mind as I begin to write about our family back then and specifically about Francesco and Rosa #1 and Rosa #2 is where were all the grown children at this time? where were their children living? Was it a communal family farm effort? Did they all live together or did they share adjoining farming and pastoral lands? I am not sure we will ever know.