Everyone is asking me “Who is this cousin Bernardo? Why didn’t you mention him before in your blog?” So in answer to your many questions…….
After my sister, Laurie and I left Italy, cousin Vera, from Rome, Time To Meet Cousins and I continued communicating via email.
One email had a request. Vera wrote that another cousin, Bernardo, her mother Maria’s nephew, who lives in Germany, heard about our surprise visit in Rome and was asking for my contact information. Vera wanted to ask if she could give him my telephone number, as he does not have a computer. I said “Of course. But you know that I do not speak any Italian nor German!” Vera told me that he spoke the Sicilian dialect, English and German, so do not worry. Shortly after, Bernardo called me and we began our continuing conversation about the family.
Also, at this time, I was also beginning a photo scanning project. After Mom passed away, I found a box of old photos that she had stashed away at the back of her closet. I don’t believe she even knew they were there, as she had inherited them from Grandma Milano, her mother-in-law.
Sadly, I never knew about these photos and wished I had. Maybe Mom would have known who some of these folks were.
I told Bernardo about the photos and that most had no writing on the back. Of course, Grandma Milano knew who all these folks were, so there was no need to identify everyone!
Bernardo told me to send him copies and he will try to obtain the information. A couple of months later, I received my self-addressed envelope back with the information for the majority of the photos, mostly of the Milano’s. I believe the other photos, were of various members of Grandma Rosaria’s family (Vivona). Thanks to Bernardo, more pieces of our family history were uncovered.
I know that I should have written this entry a while ago but…I’ve been trying to block it….you’ll understand when you read it….a bumpy road trip….
My last morning in Castellammare del Golfo and I was up at 3:30am, so I would be ready by 5:15am. The first leg of my road trip. Felice, my cousin-in-law, was bringing me to the Punta Raisi aka Falcone-Borsellino airport in Palermo. He drove by Corso Garibaldi for me. By 6:00am, I said “A presto” (see you soon) to Felice and went through TSA in no time. On the quick flight to Rome, I had an espresso and cornetto.
Arrived in Rome, went through TSA and passport control then trekked to the farthest international terminal, of course!! Thankfully my checked luggage would have its’ own trek.
Once I arrived at the Alitalia gate, I checked on my seat assignment and waited to board the flight to Miami. A little while later, there was an announcement of a delay due to a strike of the French air traffic controllers. Really??
Now, those of you who have traveled know all about these strikes, especially in Europe!! They can be a P.I.T.A (rompicoglioni) and cause all kinds of travel nightmares.
As I waited, with another espresso, I thought of the time my younger sister Sarah and I went to the Seville Expo (Spain) eons ago. The day of our return to NY, via Madrid to JFK, there was a strike by Spanair in Malaga. We had to re-book our flights and unfortunately had to stay in Torremolinos, on the beach, another two days!!! A very big inconvenience! Vito laughed when I called him to ask him to call my boss and tell her the news. Mmmmm….maybe an extra day or two in Rome wasn’t a bad idea….
Two hours later, an announcement was made stating that the Spanish air traffic controllers will be taking over and we could board. Once everyone was settled and Alitalia turned on the in-flight entertainment, I turned my favorite news channel – BBC.
That’s when I heard that EgyptAir Flight MS804 crashed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Holy #$!) All you could hear was gasping all around the plane. Except for a young couple sitting across from me, who were still complaining about the delay. When I told them what happened, they continued complaining. I then said “Stop complaining. It could’ve been you”. They finally shut up!!
Finally arrived in Miami!! Then a 3 hour trek home!!
Up at 6:00am. Walked to the Corso and had cappuccino & a wonderful tort at Café Cucece this morning, as Cafe Garibaldi is closed. Plus I bought some sweets for Maria later today. I watched the construction crew work on the building renovation and was sad to see the swallows still flying around looking for their nests.
After breakfast I walked down the Corso, over the bridge to the castle and beyond and took more photos.
Then went to Plaza Europa to the fruit vendor for strawberries. Afterwards, I saw the fruit vendor truck and purchased peaches for Maria.
Went shopping for a few souvenirs along the way and saw a small shop that caught my eye, as it had large lighthouses out front. It is Sikelia Sicilian Souvenir Shop and the manger is a wonderful young man named Leonardo.
His surname is the same as my cousin Maria’s maiden name and I asked, as all genealogists do, if they were related. He said no, but aren’t we all related in some way? A very wise young man. It was a pleasure talking to him.
I saw Bernardo and he was on his way to go swimming. He asked if I was packed and ready for my return home. NO!
My next stop was to Maria’s for lunch with her & Renzo – macaroni with zucchini sauce and tomatoes, then grilled potatoes and lamb, fruit (those wonderful blackberries) and peaches, cookies (including arancia). TDF!! While eating the pasta (which Maria handmakes fresh everyday), I closed my eyes as I was enjoying the flavors!! Maria thought I needed to sleep (dormire is what I heard). I laughed and told Renzo to please tell Maria that lunch was wonderful and I was in heaven, savoring every bite!! We all laughed!!! I spent most of the afternoon with them. It was a joy to be there.
Walking back to the B&B, I stopped at the Villa Margherita (Comunale) and took more photos there & along the way.
Plus, since Vernaci is right across the street from the Villa Comunale, I had to stop at Vernaci for a delicious gelato!!
When I arrived back at the B&B, I saw Felice, his parents and my cousin Maria Elena (Felice’s wife). They stopped by the wish me “Buon Giornato”.
At this point in time, I did not realize that word had spread throughout the town of my family history search. Nor that people noticed that I had my coffee at the Café Garibaldi on the Corso Garibaldi every morning but Wednesday, when it was closed.
So, I was surprised when I arrived at the Café Garibaldi, and was greeted by two older gentlemen. I was asked by one, if I spoke Italian. I said unfortunately no. He introduced himself as Leonardo Galatioto and his brother Felice. They have a sister in Floral Park NY. One gentleman is a retired police officer, who spoke some English. I told them that my “parenti” came from Castellammare del Golfo.
[Note: My grandfather, Rosario Milano’s mother was Anna Galatioto (daughter of Rosario Galatioto and Catherine Sceusa). I wondered if they were of this lineage. Add to that, I recently received a copy of my parents’ NYC marriage record, which shows a Rosario Galatioto as Dad’s best man.]
Leonardo and Felice asked to see my family tree chart and the book. While perusing, they told me that I may want to check documents, especially the city directories, at the library. But said the archivist is on vacation until Monday.
They were amazed at the amount of information I had. Plus, when they saw the photos, they were surprised to see my cousin Lorenzo, who had recently passed away, as they were friends. They hugged and kissed me. My friend Enzo also joined us for caffé normale.
Cousin Bernardo also joined us. He said we will take a drive to the sea town of San Vito Lo Capo. I wanted to go back to this town as my sister and I enjoyed it many years ago. It is beautiful there and very relaxing.
We drove out into the mountainous countryside around Calatafimi. As we were driving up a mountain, a camper was coming down the mountain road. Bernardo waved his arm out the window & the camper stopped. My cousin was always doing this. So, now he & the other driver, who was from Germany, where Bernardo lives, carried on a conversation from the vehicles, for about a half hour.
While this was going on, I watched the cattle graze, took photos of the flowers & enjoyed the views.
The only reason Bernardo stopped talking was because another car was trying to get down the mountain!!!!!!!!
We continued our drive up the mountain to our destination – Ossario Pianto di Romano. It is a breathtaking monument on the hill where the Battle of Calatafimi took place against the Bourbon soldiers and a tribute to all of young partisans, who were known as Garibaldi’s Freedom Fighters. [I recently read the book “My Life” by Giuseppe Garibaldi where he tells the story of the origins of the freedom fighters & their journey. A great book!]
I was surprised that Bernardo took me there, as he had been complaining for days that I spent too much time at the cemetery & inquiring into records for our ancestors!!
From this vantage point I was also able to take a panoramic photo of the whole town of Calatafimi!!
During my visit to the Stato Civile in Calatafimi [see my previous blog “Dove sei Giuseppe Maria Vivona??] , I had the impression that word went out that an American was here inquire about her family. The reason I say that is because as Bernardo & I were waiting in line to speak with Signora Serafina, a facebook friend, Salvo, came running down the stairs.
I had texted him prior to my trip but didn’t state when I would be in Calatafimi. It was a pleasure to meet him. Salvo Mucaria, in addition to his friend Rosario Vivona, have posted many photos & histories of the town & its people. A truly wonderful project.
After leaving the Stato Civile, Bernardo & I walked around the mountain town. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there & the smell of fresh mountain air. It was something I missed after leaving Colorado many years ago.
I have been searching for information about my other great-grandfather Giuseppe Maria Vivona for two decades.
I’ll start with what I do know, the pedigree chart:
Here’s more information I found through my research:
As indicated on the above chart, he is the son of Salvatore VIVONA and Agostina BOLENA and was born in May 1865 in Calatafimi,Trapani,Sicily. He was baptized the same day in the San Giuliano Church by the priest Giuseppe Orlando. His godparents were Giorgio and Francesca Scianna.
His occupation was a barber surgeon.
He married Angelina GILIBERTI (born in Castellammare del Golfo July 1867 daughter of Michele and Girolama LaTorre) on 13 Nov 1889 at San Giuliano Parish in Calatafimi, Sicily.
They lived in Castellammare del Golfo and had the following children:
Salvatore VIVONA – born May 1891
Maria VIVONA – born August 1894 – married Antonino Bongiorno in CdelG January 1912
Michele VIVONA – born & died May 1896
Michele VIVONA was born May 1897 – married Anna Frazzitta in Palermo May 1921
Girolama VIVONA was born January 1899
Rosaria VIVONA was born Apr 1901
Giuseppe VIVONA was born February 1906
Elisabetta VIVONA was born on 8 Jul 1908
Angelina Giliberti Vivona immigrated along with her daughters Giroloma Vivona age 14 and Elisabetta age 5 on September 30, 1913 aboard the ship “SS Canada” into the Port of New York. Angelina was listed as a widow on the manifest. Two other children, Rosaria and Giuseppe followed afterwards.
Angelina died in November 1928 at the age of 61 at Harlem Hospital in New York City, NY.
So, what happened to my great-grandfather Giuseppe Maria Vivona???? I assumed that he died in Sicily, as the ship manifest indicated. But in my research I have learned that many women who immigrated listed themselves as widows if not traveling with a male family member. So did he really die in Sicily or did he live his life elsewhere apart from his family?
When I was in Sicily, my cousin Bernardo and I went to the Stato Civile in Calatafimi to speak with the clerk Signora Serafina, who has helped me via snail mail in the past.
She pulled the registry book for him but other than his birth and marriage, there was no other annotation. So he didn’t die in Calatafimi.
Previously I wrote to the Stato Civile in Castellammare del Golfo, as this is where he and Angelina lived and raised their children, but no records were found. But I visited it any way, but to no avail.
I also inquired at the Cimitero Comunale in Castellammare del Golfo with Maurizio Cassara, but there was no record.
During one of our morning coffee meetings, my friend Enzo recommended that I go to the Biblioteca and ask to see the city directory. So cousin Bernardo and I went there but the archivist was on vacation but would be back on Monday. Early Monday morning, before going for my morning café normale, I walked to la Biblioteca.
After being buzzed in, I spoke with a young librarian. I told her who I was looking for, my great-grandfather and gave her all the information I had. I said I didn’t care if he had many wives and other children. She laughed and said it was possible. She then told the archivist. The gentleman looked through from 1908 until 1935 but found no entry for Giuseppe Maria Vivona.
So where the heck is he??
I have written many letters to those with the surname Vivona in and around Castellammare del Golfo, Calatafimi, New York and New Jersey but received no response.
Newly found cousins in north Florida have been gracious in providing me photos of Angelina and her children. Plus cousin Kim and cousin Dede provided the photo of the painting of Angelina and Giuseppe that is posted at the beginning of the blog.
But we still have no clue as to where he lived and where he’s buried. Hopefully you, the reader, would know. If so, leave a comment. One day before I die, I would like to visit his grave.
I was excited about today. It was the day that my cousin Maria (Bernardo’s Zia) was going to show us where our great-grandfather was buried. Bernardo and I were at the cemetery 4 times & could not locate the grave. We looked above ground at the mausoleums & below ground in the catacombs. But I remembered the grave being above ground. We even went to the office to inquire of the records but there was no information, nada. How was that possible??
I could kick myself, as 17 years ago when cousin Lorenzo brought Laurie & I to the cemetery, we saw the grave. I even took notes of each grave that we visited. I wasn’t bold enough to take photos at that time. I have since learned to do so.
Bernardo picked me up and we drove to cousin Maria’s home. We had café’ normale and then piled into the car & drove to the “Cimitero Comunale” on the other side of town. Maria reminded us that each week she changed the flowers at her father-in-laws grave.
Once we arrived, Maria moved quickly through the cemetery. She started rolling one of those huge “library” ladders & started to climb up. All we could do was hold her & the ladder. Bernardo fetched the water & I handed Maria the flowers.
But, there it was. No wonder I couldn’t see it. For those of you who know me, I am vertically challenged, aka short.
Plus the inscription on the stone is faded.
I couldn’t thank Maria enough. After paying our respects, I went with Maria to her husband, my cousin, Lorenzo’s mausoleum. We swept out the dust, watered the plants, changed the water in all the vases & added fresh cut flowers. We visited all the other family graves.
The office was closed when we were leaving but when I returned home, I wrote to Signor Maurizio Cassara inquiring into the process and cost to clean and restore my great grandfather’s grave marker. I have yet to hear from him.
When I arrived at the Café Garibaldi this morning, I was greeted by the owner Vito & sat outside. A little while later, I was joined by a gentleman, Enzo, who is a childhood friend of my cousin Bernardo.
What a wonderful man. He is a retired IT (Information Technology) professor. When I told him I was a retired mainframe computer programmer & web designer, we both laughed. We had a very enjoyable morning discussing tech. He also asked to see the charts & book I had as people had told him why I was here. I laughed again, as I was brought up in a larger city where everyone did not know your name nor your family.
Cousin Bernardo tracked me down & said “Andiamo”. Today he decided that it was time to go for a drive!! He told everyone we would be gone all day.
Breakfast (café normale & a pistachio cornetto) at Café Garibaldi where I met a gal & her Mom. After introductions, I learned that she works with refugees in northern Italy. Her Mom is French, married an Austrian & divorced. They asked why I was here & I showed them my paternal family chart & my book. They were fascinated. The gal said she knows nothing of her father’s family & maybe she should start asking questions. They’re here for 4 days, a long weekend.
Word has gone out that my family is from here & I am researching my roots. So now, folks are stopping by the café as they are interested in seeing my family tree chart & the book.
Bernardo met me on the Corso. He knew I was researching both family trees & tracked down a Vincenzo Vivona, who we met at another café on the other side of town.
Vincenzo is from another branch of the Vivona’s & gave me his sister’s name & address in Brooklyn, as she may know more info.
Along the drive, we saw lots of motorcycles & heard that there was going to be a blessing of the helmets.
We drove out to cousin Lorenzo’s vineyard. I was very sad to hear that the vineyard was sold as my sister Laurie & I had many happy times there.
Bernardo said cousin Maria was waiting at his house, so he drove us there, saw Maria & Vincenza. Maria reminded me that I was invited to dinner today. She’s such a lovley lady. She said we will go to the cemetery during the week to show us where our great-grandfather is buried.
We left with Maria & drove to both marinas – Alcamo & CdelG. The CdelG marina was packed with cars & you couldn’t get through – unreal – La passeggiata Domenica. So we walked.
Dinner at Maria’s – OMG – what a feast – homemade pasta, salad, grilled meat, potatoes & zucchini, plus many dolce. I kept closing my eyes while eating & Maria thought I needed to sleep. I told her that I was in heaven & savoring each bite. Nothing like homemade spaghetti!!! What a day!!!!!
I decided to walk back to the B&B so I could begin to digest that wonderful meal.