We acknowledge the research of genealogist Anthony Vermandois as the basis of our exploration into the lives of our ancestors from Agropoli in Campania province, Italy. At his website Imagines Maiorum, Anthony presents information gathered from vital records and marriage banns in Agropoli, along with data from the U.S. Federal Census records. Families from other towns in Southern Italy are also being added to his database.
This week his research on the Serrapede and Ruocco families starts our discussion about relationships between the members of these families who married into our direct line.
We have also used a series of free on-line Genetics Fact Sheets provided by the New South Wales Goverment’s website of the Health Centre for Genetics Education. Their Fact Sheet No. 16 on issues related to consanguinity made the complex genetic issues surrounding marriage between closely related family members very easy to understand.
Please see the Resources section at the end of this posting for links to the articles and Fact Sheets which provided the background reading for this posting.
Ruocco Family, Part B http://www.imaginesmaiorum.net/surname.cfm?id=323
NSW Genetic Fact Sheets
main website link for Acknowledgement.
Our Muro and Serrapede Family Bloodline: Descended from Cousins, Distant Relatives or Different Branch Families?
In our last posting we became acquainted with Nunziante and Anna Maria, the earliest ancestors Anthony has documented in our Muro bloodline. Their son Nicola Muro married Giuseppa Ruocco. When we analyzed Giuseppa’s pedigree we learned that her mother was from the Serrapede family!
Pedigree chart for Sammy’s paternal line (Serrapede-Ruocco)
This was a great surprise for us since Sammy’s paternal line is from the Serrapede family. His paternal Grandfather Gennaro Serrapede was descended from the bloodlines of the Serrapede, Ruocco, Conte and Borelli families. These lines of descent are shown in the chart above with blue and purple borders around Gennaro’s ancestors.
Sammy’s maternal line (Ruocco-Serrapede).
Giuseppa Ruocco Muro was Sammy’s Great Grandmother through his maternal line. Giuseppa’s marriage into the Muro family brought the Serrapede, Ruocco, Cavollo and Carnicelli DNA into Sammy’s maternal bloodline. Giuseppa’s descent from these families is shown in the diagram with orange and green borders around her ancestors.
Please note that the Luigi Serrapede (born circa 1800) in Giuseppa Ruocco’s line is a different person from the Luigi Serrapede (born before 1815) in Sabato Serrapede’s line as shown in the two charts above.
We questioned if Sammy’s parents might have been distant cousins because of these marriages. We reviewed the pedigree charts of all our ancestors carefully. The earliest ancestors we have on our tree were born circa 1790 – circa 1800. From this time forward we notice that:
- There were no intermarriages between first cousins in our line.
- There were no intermarriages between Aunts with nephews and Uncles with nieces.
- Although a family name like Scotti or Ruocco could appear in both the parents and then the children’s generation when a marriage occurred, the selected spouse came from a different branch of that family. There were no instances we can see of First or Second Cousins marrying.
Anna Maria Conte
- Sammy’s Great-Great Grandmother Anna Maria Conte Ruocco came from the town of Torchiara. She was not from Agropoli and thus brought new DNA into the Ruocco bloodline which flowed into Sammy’s paternal bloodline through her daughter Filomena Ruocco Serrapede. Filomena was Sammy’s Great Grandmother along his paternal line.
- Research has shown that there is a higher risk for birth defects to occur when marriages take place within the immediate bloodline where the couple share the same ancestor in common. For example, Cousin John wants to marry Cousin Mary. Cousin John’s Father is the brother of Cousin Mary’s mother. This means John and Mary share the same Grandparents in common. They are First Cousins and as such are at an increased risk for their children inheriting any genetically linked diseases that run along the family’s direct bloodline.
The slightly higher risk for birth defects or inheritance of genetically transmitted diseases occurs because both partners to the marriage might carry the faulty gene within them and pass it on to the resulting offspring. Instead of getting the faulty gene from just one parent there is a risk that the child will inherit two of the same faulty gene.
Marriages that occur between people who are not related increase the chances of a healthy gene overwriting the recessive (faulty) gene. This faulty gene might still be passed on but will not have a chance to activate within the child. One way to understand this is to think of computer programming. The dominant (non-faulty) gene contains correct coding. It is strong enough to override the recessive gene with faulty coding.
- Since there were no marriages so close in time and relationship in our family lines the next questions that arose concerned what forces existed that prevented such a match being made in such a small town as Agropoli?
- The Roman Catholic Church prohibited marriages between First Cousins within the same bloodline. First cousins who wanted to be married could not get the church to recognize the marriage. The Church would also not recognize a marriage of an Aunt to her Nephew or an Uncle to his Niece.
In order to marry a first cousin a dispensation was needed from the church. These were expensive and out of the reach of those living modestly or at the poverty line. Usually dispensations were granted to royalty and the upper classes who used marriages between first cousins to maintain property and political influence or build alliances.
Such dealings were out of the world in which our own ancestors lived. Therefore, we think the influence of the Catholic Church played a role in preventing such marriages from taking place in Agropoli and other towns in Italy. This does not mean that marriages between First cousins did not take place but from what we see in our own review there weren’t any occurring in our family during the time period after 1790-1800.
Note: The Catholic Church believed that marriages between second, third and fourth cousins were not deemed as breaking the natural law and God’s law since the commonly held ancestor went back several generations. Modern genetic studies show that risks exist amongst 1st Cousins 1x Removed and Second Cousins, too.
- In our immediate families there have been no genetically linked diseases expressing themselves in our immediate Serrapede family.
- We reviewed the complete charts of descent which Anthony has at his website for the Serrapede and Ruocco families (See Ruocco-A and Ruocco-B) and could not find a common ancestor for these families within our bloodline.
If there were any common ancestors between our lines of the Ruocco and Serrapede ancestors they may predate 1790-1800. If this is the case, by the time Sabato Serrapede married Filomena Ruocco and Pietro Muro married Giuseppa Ruocco, the DNA was no longer a close match having been varied by the contributions of other spouses from other families who married into the Ruocco and Serrapede families we are descended from.
The Gene Pool: The importance of brides from other towns marrying into the community in Agropoli
Antonia Ruocco’s chart. Luigi, Angela Maria and Gennaro (our direct line ancestor) were her step-children.
Some families like the men in the Pinto family frequently married brides from nearby towns. These marriages brought new DNA into the community of Agropoli.
Sammy’s paternal Great Grandmother Filomena Ruocco Serrapede died when she was 40 years old. She left three small children ages 9, 8 and 3 years behind. Her husband Sabato Serrapede married Antonia Ruocco 6 months after. We cannot find a direct relationship between Filomena and Antonia. After 20 + years of marriage to Sabato Antonia became a widow. Her second marriage took her into the Pinto family.
Antonia could have been looked at as a valuable source of introductions to families from outside of Agropoli after her marriage into the Pinto family. Antonia Ruocco Serrapede was featured in Posting No. 11f-Agropoli-A Mother in Heaven and another Mother on Earth-Antonia Ruocco Serrapede.
Discussion with US, Sunday May 10, 2015 11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Uncle Sammy and I discussed matters of health in our immediate family. We have not experienced any genetically linked illnesses. There also aren’t any mental illnesses experienced within the generations of our ancestors who came to America and thereafter.
In contrast, on my father’s side heart conditions and respiratory problems that were present in the generation which settled here got passed down to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of that first generation in America. Death certificates list the causes of death as heart trouble for my Great Grandfather Alfonso, Grandfather Al Terry and my Dad, Frank. Grandpa Al’s little sister Angelina died from chronic bronchitis and my Uncle Alfred developed emphysema as a young adult. Grandma Blanche inherited the gene for diabetes from her mother Tillie. Her daughter Maureen died from complications due to diabetes.
Longevity runs on the Serrapede side of the family. My Grandfather Sam lived to be 102 years old and was still showing will power to keep on living until the beginning of his 101st year. There are other relatives in the past who also have lived to be 80-90 years old despite the hardships of their lives in Agropoli. We cannot say for sure if the Mediterranean diet, a life lived in the country away from metropolitan areas, a closely knit family support network or other factors contributed to this longevity.
The takeaway for us in this discussion is the importance of knowing one’s family health history as well as the stories of the people who were part of our bloodline. In this way family history projects contribute to the increased well-being if the family historian takes time to compile a list of causes of death and any health problems discovered while researching the ancestors.
This effort provides a comprehensive overview for a physician or specialist treating a relative when hereditary conditions may exist.
Fact Sheet 1: Genes and Chromosomes
Fact Sheet 2: Genetic Conditions – An Overview
Fact Sheet 5: Variations In Genes Making Them Faulty (Mutations)
Fact Sheet 16: When Parents are Relatives
Consanguinity in Canon Law
Can Cousins Marry in the Church?
Cathy Caridi, J.C.L.
Map of travel route from Agropoli to Torchiara