11f-Agropoli-A Mother in Heaven and another Mother on Earth-Antonia Ruocco Serrapede


Anthony Vermandois has researched the families of Campania in Southern Italy and compiled a very impressive collection of data at his website ImaginesMaiorum-Ancestors from Campania.  We have used the genealogical charts of descent from his website to research the following families for this posting:




Relationship Notes

Sabato Serrapede and his first wife Filomena Ruocco were presented in posting no. 6.  Filomena passed away when their youngest son, Gennaro, was two years old.  Six months later, Sabato married Antonia Ruocco.  With the research we have available so far we do not find that Antonia and Filomena were from the same bloodline in the Ruocco family.

Sabato was the son of Luigi and Angela Maria (nee Borrelli) Serrapede.  He was:

Sammy’s Great Grandfather
EmilyAnn’s Second Great Grandfather

Gennaro Serrapede was  Sabato and Filomena’s son.  He was:

Sammy’s paternal Grandfather
EmilyAnn’s Great Grandfather along her maternal line

The Step-Mother and Step-Sisters in the Italian version of “Cinderella”

In an effort to find some material about step-mothers in Italian culture we first reviewed how they were depicted in 19th century Italian children’s stories.  At Wikispaces (see link in Resources section) the Italian version of “Cinderella” mentions a very wicked step-mother and two wicked step-sisters at the beginning of the tale.  But after this perfunctory introduction the step-mother plays no active part in the story.  Cinderella’s step-sisters are selfish and taunt her yet this seems mild in comparison to the way in which the Step-Mother and Step-Sisters are portrayed in the Disney version of this fairytale.  In fact, Cinderella’s father had offered to buy her a gown at the start of the story but she asks for a pet bird instead.  The bird turns out to have magical powers and grants Cindrella’s wishes to be made dazzlingly beautiful when she goes to the ball.  Although the step-mother is not actively portrayed in the Italian version of the fairytale, she is still described as “evil”.

The aspirations of modern day Step-Parents in Italy

In her brief article at stepmom.me, Cinzia Fontana provides the following insights into the modern Italian step-family:

  • A legal separated must be in force for three years before divorce filings may begin.
  • Italy is still coming to terms with the concept of what a step-family is.  The Italian language is evolving words to define the different combinations that arise when parents with children from other marriages or relationships come togther as a family unit.
  • The role of step-mother still carries some negative connotations because popular conceptions influenced by stories like “Cinderella” persist in the imaginations of the people.
  • Cinzia has interviewed step-parents who told her they wanted to be good parents to all the children in their new family arrangement.  Even with the difficulties they said they would do it all over again.

Antonia Ruocco-A young bride of an older man with three children

After considering the few facts that we have about Antonia Ruocco we think her actions give us a hint about the kind of person she was and the kind of wife and step-mother she could have been.

Antonia was born in 1850 in Agropoli.  She was the eldest daughter of Francesco and Teresa (nee Torre) Ruocco.  Her father was a fisherman.  She had one sister, Chiara, who was born in 1852.

Sabato Serrapede and Antonia Ruocco were married on June 2, 1870.  He was 16 years older than her and the father of three children ages 10, 9 and 2 years old.  At the age of 20 Antonia was assuming responsibilities many women her age would turn away from.

No children were born to Antonia and Sabato during their 23 year marriage.

 Antonia’s Second Marriage

After Sabato’s death in 1893, Antonia waited three years before marrying again.  Her second husband was Giovanni Pinto who was a bachelor and worked as a barber.  It’s possible that Antonia married up since Giovanni’s father was a possidente, meaning he owned land and/or building(s).  Antonia and Giovanni did not have any children.

We do not have Antonia’s date of death yet.  We hope she was alive when her younger step-son, Gennaro Serrapede married Emilia Pappalardo in 1895.

From a child’s point of view

We think that since Antonia came into Gennaro’s life when he was 2 years old, he grew up considering her his mother. When Gennaro was away from Agropoli during his extended stay in America we wonder if he recalled her whenever his thoughts went towards home.

Discussion with Cousin Alfred on Sunday, May 25, 2015 at 4:00 p.m.

Alfred Bartolomeo is my first cousin 1x removed through my Mom’s side of the family.  Alfred and his wife Angela invited me to lunch over Memorial Day weekend.  We discussed Antonia’s marriage to Sabato.  Alfred thinks that Antonia loved Sabato and the children.  Only love would motivate a woman so young to marry a man with three small children.  He thinks this choice tells us much about her character.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, June 7, 2015 11 am-12 pm

What impressed itself upon us was that Antonia entered the picture at a critical point in the children’s lives.  She had time to establish herself before the older children became adolescents and time to bond with the two year old.  Sabato needed a mothering presence in his household first and foremost which is why we think he married six months after his first wife’s passing.

Her presence provided not only compansionship for Sabato but supervision and stability for his children.  Her contribution to the cohesiveness and continuity of the family were very valuable.  To have assumed so much responsibility at such a young age seems to us to indicate she was a caring person with a desire to raise the children.  She could have just as easily waited for a younger suitor.

My maternal Great Grandfather Nick Muro married for the second time after Great Grandmother Letizia died and left him with 5 small children.  His second wife was the widow of an Italian soldier who died on a battlefield in Italy during WWI.  Rosina Aiello Marasco Muro was known to me as Great Grandmother Rose.  My Mom used to explain Great Grandmother Rose in this way:  Letizia Scotti Muro, my first great grandmother, was in heaven looking over us.  Great Grandmother Rose was here on earth to complete Letizia’s job.  I was a fortuniate little girl to have two great grandmothers.

Letizia’s daughter Josie was my maternal Grandmother.  Never did Grarndma Josie complain to me about her step-mother.  In fact the word step-mother was never used.  She was always called Mother Rose.  As I grew up I learned that there were times when Josie and Mother Rose had their differences but things evened out later in life.

I believe the concepts we have about step-parents or step-family members are determined by the way in which the relationship carries out and the attitudes held by the rest of the family.  We inherit these concepts just as we inherit DNA.

Uncle Sammy related that there was never any use of the designation step-mother, step-father or step-children amongst Nicola’s children by Letizia and Rose.  Letizia’s daughters were older than Rose’s daughters and so were expected to help with housework and watching their younger siblings.  As they grew older the girls looked forward to moving out and making a life of their own.  Letizia’s three daughters eventually moved to Brooklyn, NY.  Only Letizia’s younger child, Peter, remained in Wilmerding.  Rose was the only mother he knew and he loved her very, very much.  Before Peter passed away, he had the bodies of Nick and Rose moved to the vault where he would be interred with his wife Angie.  Today, Peter and Angie are close to Rose and Nick as they rest in peace.  That is how much Peter loved his Mother Rose.


A brief summary of the Italian Cinderella story
Note:  The translation is very poor.  This version mentions the wicked step mother.


The book from which the Wikispaces summary is taken is a complete online version of “Italian Popular Tales” by Thomas Frederick, Crane, A.M. Pages 42-47., Published by Macmillan and Company, London, 1885.

This version does not have a wicked step-mother.  We do not know if the sisters are step-sisters.  They do taunt Cinderella and are not kind to her.


Italian stepfamilies
by Cinzia Fontana


Italian words for family members


aunt la zia

boy il ragazzo

brother il fratello

brother–in–law il cognato

cousin (female) la cugina

cousin (male) il cugino

daughter la figlia

daughter–in–law la nuora

family la famiglia

father il padre

father–in–law il suocero

girl la ragazza

grandchild il nipote

granddaughter la nipote

grandfather il nonno

grandmother la nonna

grandparents i nonni

grandson il nipote

husband il marito

mother la madre

mother–in–law la suocera

nephew il nipote

niece la nipote

parents i genitori

relative il parente

sister la sorella

sister–in–law la cognata

son il figlio

son–in–law il genero

stepfather il patrigno

stepmother la matrigna

step brother; half brother il fratellastro

step sister; half sister la sorellastra

uncle lo zio

wife la moglie