Photo of Carmela Serrapede (right), my Grandpa Sam’s niece by marriage. Carmela has her arm around her son Luigi who was named after his paternal Grandfather Luigi Serrapede. Next to Luigi is his sister. The girl with her hand in front of her face is Stefania, daughter of my Grandfather’s niece Italia and her husband Antonio. Stefania wasn’t waving hello. She was a very particular 9 year old who did not like to have her picture taken too often.
We have used the results of Anthony Vermandois’ research of the families in Agropoli, Campania Province, Salerno, Italy as the basis of all postings about our ancestors who lived in Agropoli. These findings are published at his website Imagines Maiorum: Ancestors from Campania.
An Informal Approach to getting to know our Italian Ancestors
The reason for using Anthony’s research is two-fold. First, we do not speak Italian. Second, since we are employed full-time we have to make the most of the spare time allotted to the family history project. For the earlier generations, Anthony’s research provides us with enough information to get started.
Our approach to the earlier generations is to do what our parents and grandparents would have done: consider what we have and reflect on it. This is followed by discussion supplemented by some extra reading on the topic. We know that this is very informal and not genealogical. This approach does work in raising awareness of the people and places we discuss. In time it helps what once was unknown or far away become familiar. Past and present meet and the ancestors enter the flow of discussion and are with us in spirit.
Review of Research Findings by Anthony Vermandois of Imagines Maiorum-Ancestors from Campania
Luigi and Angela Maria are the earliest of our direct line Serrapede ancestors that Anthony has located documents for.
Luigi Serrapede was born in Agropoli before 1815. Unlike his descendants we do not know what his profession was. We also do not know who his parents were.
No information available on Angela Maria Borelli except that she was the wife of Luigi Serrapede. We do not have her date of birth nor the town where she was born. Perhaps she came from outside of Agropoli. The Borrelli family is not listed among the families of Agropoli at Imagines Maiorum.
Luigi and Angela Maria had two children:
- Sabato born circa 1834
- Gennaro born circa 1843
My Uncle and I wondered if Angela Maria had other children who died in childbirth between the time Sabato and Gennaro were born. No records of possible births and deaths are listed as part of their entry.
Sabato Serrapede, born circa 1834, is my Great-Great Grandfather and my Uncle Sammy’s Great Grandfather.
When I told my Uncle that Luigi and Anna Maria were my Great-Great-Great Grandparents and his Great-Great Grandparents he immediately replied that there has to be a simpler way of describing the relationships. I told him we could say they are his 2x Great Grandparents but that didn’t sound so good when spoken. “2X” can also be a t-shirt size!
Our Discussion about Sabato Serrapede born circa 1834
In succeeding generations of our family there have been several boys named Sabato or Sabattino. Variations of the name such as Tino or Sam are used by surviving men in the family so that we know who is who.
It was an old Italian custom to name children after a beloved relative who was deceased. I’ve been told it was a way to keep the memory of that person alive in the current generation. It also was a way to ask the relative to watch over their namesake from the other side.
In My Grandpa Sam’s immediate family line there have never been any boys named Luigi or girls named Angela Maria. But I do remember that during the 1976 trip to Agropoli my Grandparents and I visited Carmela Serrapede who lived in the Old Town of Agropoli. She was married to my Grandfather’s nephew. Carmela named her son after her Father-in-Law Luigi Serrapede.
During this discussion of the custom of naming children after an ancestor the following questions arose:
- What was the basis for selecting the ancestor to name one’s child after?
- Did siblings agree that one branch would use one set of ancestors and another branch a different set?
- Is the proliferation of one relative’s name an indication that he or she was the most popular, most loved or most influential?
My Uncle and I think that there is a strong probability that when there were many children in the younger generation bearing the name of the same ancestor the parents may have had very practical reasons for this choice. The parents might have wanted their child to enjoy any social standing or connections that their namesake had. In other instances the relative may have been loved by many which would account for a profusion of Filomenas, Giuseppes or Sabatos in succeeding generations.
I loved my Grandmother Josie very much and although I’m not fond of the name Josephine I would consider Josie as a girl’s name. She was a strong and determined woman who achieved much step-by-step throughout her life. Having a young girl hear about her namesake and learn about her brings the role model so much closer. And if the relative is still alive there’s a chance that a strong bond can develop between them.
There are many, many unusual names being given today. Some are very charming and others overused or ridiculous. I think it would be lovely to bring back this old fashioned custom along with all the powerful ties it creates to the family’s past by bringing that past into the present and forward into the future.
In the next posting we’ll go into the details of Luigi and Angela Maria’s sons. The story begins to unfold with their lives. What we learned completely changed our views on how far back our family arrived in America.
Discussed: Sunday, October 12, 2014 4:00 P.M. EST
Written: 6:05 P.M.