Francesco Civitano and his daughter Isabella Sollecito nee Civitano

We know very little about the life of Isabella daughter of Francesco Civitano and Giuditta Sportelli. She was their 2nd daughter. Rosabetta Isabella, their first daughter died as an infant. Isabella was 7 years old at the time her father was sent to Bagno Penale facility, Civitavecchia which left Giuditta on her own with the children. She joined her brothers Vitobino and Vincenzo with the daily living chores and responsibilities. Isabella was 13 when he passed away (in the prison) on 20 April 1879.

Isabella was born on the 21st of July 1865 and died the 9th of Sept 1947. Her whole life was spent in Grumo Appula. She married, raised her family and was buried there. I have yet to make a connection with any cousin who follows her line. A death of 1947 seems pretty current to me and I am hoping to learn more about Isabella.

Isabella was baptized 2 days after her birth on 23rd of July 1865 at the Parish Church of Grumo. Witnesses of birth were Giuseppe Ancona and Domenico Capursi.

On the 31 January 1891 at the age of 25 Isabella married Michele Sollecito son of Leonard Sollecito and Francesca

The marriage certificate indicates that Isabella was a filatrice. A filatrice is often interpreted as a seamstress however it can also be interpreted as a person who works with a spinning wheel. I was so delighted to find out that definition since I actually spin and spent quite a few years spinning as a hobby, using a drop spindle and a wheel. At one time I had 3 wheels and my daughter Marissa is now the owner of my walking wheel or great wheel. I am going with this definition.

Interestingly the term spinster comes from a woman passed the age of marriage who spent her time spinning.

Isabella and Michele Sollecito, a peasant farmer, went on to have 7 children of which only 2 that I know of would go on to see adulthood. 1 with an unknown death, 1 died at 15 years the other 3 all died at 1 years of age.

Leonardo Sollecito b. 25 Feb. 1893 d. 5 Mar. 1954 This is all the information on Leonardo.

1) Francesco b. 1895 d. 1896, 2) Francesco b. 1897 d. 1898,  3) Francesco b. 1899 d. 1901 It seems being named repeatedly Francesco might have been a curse. Whether it was or wasn’t I am sure it brought great sadness for this family.

Francesca b. 15 May 1902. What happened to Francesca our Francesco’s female namesake goes unanswered at this time. We have no idea how old she lived to.

Giuditta b. 25 Feb 1905 and d. 6 March 1920 at 15 years old. Nothing is indicated on her death certificate as to the cause of death however I am feeling that a good guess could be the 1918 Flu Pandemic that swept the world until Dec 1920. This was H1N1 deadly influenza virus that claimed 500 million lives around the world.

Donata is the last of the children of Isabella and Michele. Born the 14 Nov. 1908 she was 15 years the junior to her brother Leonardo who lived until 1954. Donata married on the 27th April 1930 in Grumo to Pasquale D’Erasmo. My research is incomplete at this time but there could be a distant cousin connection between them as the D’Erasmo family is off the line of Giuseppe Civitano married to Maria Rella. Their son Francesco married Anna Catrina D’Erasmo with children to follow Pasquale may be from this line. Donata died at the age 65 in 1973 in Grumo. My assumption at this time is that their life was spent in Grumo but we do not know. We have little to no information on birth and death for Pasquale other than his father was Vito D’Erasmo and his mother was Rosa Burdi. There is so much to discover about this entire Sollecito branch of the family. I most certainly have my work cut out for me.

My beautiful 2x great Aunt Isabella, mother of 7 children of which only 2 would survive to see her buried, I hope found some happiness despite the lose of so many children and the loss of her husband Michele 10 years prior to her passing in 1947.

I would just like to make a short note here regarding the fact that this family was living during the time of the rise and fall of Hitler. Because my mother was a Jewish woman, I not only celebrate and honor my Italian roots but I also honor and celebrate my Jewish roots as well. What I did discover, which I wasn’t aware of until now is that Bari was a site for Displaced Person Camps and Centers and I thought it would be interesting to include that with this post considering Grumo is a town/commune in the Province of Bari.

Bari area

DP camps located near the Adriatic sea port of Bari were an important stage in illegal emigration to Palestine. ORT conducted extended activities in a number of camps in the area- including the Bari Transit Camp, Barletta, Palese and Andria. 

Bari Transit Camp in Southern Italy opened in 1946. It was a large DP centre with up to 1,500 inhabitants. The camp was known for its bad living conditions with definite shortages of food and living space. Resulting from a lack of appropriate premises, the first ORT classes established in Bari in January 1948 were held in wooden sheds and buildings. In 1948 they were attended by over 100 students.  Courses included cutting out of men’s and women’s clothes, shirt making, leather work and locksmiths training.

 A very important ORT school was established in 1947 in a large DP camp located by the city of Barletta. In 1948 eight training courses with 276 students were in operation in the camp. The trades taught included cutting, shirt making, mechanical knitting, auto-mechanics, cutting of shoe-uppers and leather goods. There was also a school for mechanical agriculture which by mid-1948 trained 187 agricultural mechanics. In children’s workshop a group for thirty-seven children from the local Jewish school was preparing for agriculture education by learning basic gardening, poultry rearing and rabbit breeding. From 1949 Barletta remained the last camp for Jewish DPs and the centre of ORTs work with displaced persons.

An important part of ORT activities in southern Italy was played by  agricultural training. In the large DP centre of Palese, near Bari, ORT ran courses in agriculture, preparing young kibbtuzniks for immigration to Palestine. Similar training was conducted for thirty-six young people in the building of the local government in Andria.


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