Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Relatives on the march to the San Giuseppe Festa through the streets of Malfa...Or should that be street?Via Roma sort of snakes up through the town and part of the way it becomes Via Umberto. I did not know when this was taken, but just out of the picture to the right is where Catherine Marchetti Santospirito lives. The procession is for the San Giuseppe festa that ended at san Lorenzo at the top of the town.
The mountains above Malfa to the east. The foreground is Monte Rivi the other rises behind it in the clouds.
In 2009 Mary Burrill and I climbed this from the other side(to the right) and descended very dangerously ot the left near Santa Marina.
This is the Church of San Lorenzo in Malfa...most of our relatives were baptized here and the records are here. The other church has been closed for some time. The entire church was under restoration in 2009. The town is pretty much to the left and below the church.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
So many stories abound in any family, some apocryphal and some tainted through time and inefficient transmission through the generations.
I am creating this blog so there will, first of all, be a place for relatives to access on-going work on the family history and to leave a record of their recollections of the generations that we have lost or are close to losing.
I mentioned my age earlier. I feel that many of the younger members of a family have little interest in the past or their roots. They often do not recognize the fact that ancestors shape our attitudes, our thought processes, where we live, health and physical stature. In short our family past shapes a large portion of who we are now, and the courses we may choose in the future.
I do not think that we need to dwell on the past, but remember it, honor it and learn from it.
I think it was the ancient Egyptians who believed that if your name is uttered by future generations, then you will continue to live.
So, lets discuss some old-timers, shall we?
But lets make a bargain. We will be honest about the people we write about, flaws and all, but let us also make an effort to be kind. Nobody needs to read about personal vendettas(despite the Islands' proximity to Sicily) just the facts.
When I think of family history, the first face that comes to mind is that of Grammie Cafarella. She lived with my family in Houlton, Maine for much of my childhood, right through college and beyond. I would go to sit with her to vent my rage with the world or to listen to her stories, though I usually avoided her cooking. What a foolish choice that was.
I remember going to visit Aunt Carolina in Livorno, and virtually the first words out of their mouths were, "does she still cook (this or that) like she used to?"
I guess she was something of a star in the kitchen. Everyone remembers her Baked Beans. Her talents were not limited to Italian fare though they were made with olive oil.
She told me all her stories of the islands and her arrival here in the US.
I remembered many of them, but my youth betrayed me and I did not remember enough of them. Also, I did not recognize the cues to ask the right questions so that I would understand them. I once gave her a tape recorder to record some of her stories but she flatly refused to use it. Also, she was curiously silent about the many years after arriving here. She, like my mother, had a difficult life. Certainly there was joy and laughter, but the grind of poverty and so many mouths to fill robbed her of the happiness we all hope for.
Maria Rosa Cincotta was born in Malfa, on the north side of the island of Salina. It lies in the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the very center of an archipelago of seven volcanic islands called the Aeolians(Eolians). The islands are fertile in general, though often dry with a very unreliable supply of water. Water ships now deliver on a regular basis; but you never knew when you would run out. When our grandparents and great grandparents were living there, they often relied solely on what could be stored from roof run-off in cisterns. The home of he youth had two cisterns. One was under the railing of the patio near the big outdoor bake oven, and the other farther out in the courtyard to the west of the entrance.
Salina is the second largest of the seven islands, with it's two volcanoes called Monte Porri to the west and Monte Fossa delle Felci to the east. From a distance the Island looks like a bra floating on the sea. The other islands, Vulcano, Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli, Alicudi and Filicudi were all under the political control of the capital at Lipari, while Salina has, for a couple of centuries, been independent of the others.
Salina is the greenest of all the islands, and is noted for it's riot of color, especially yellow, in the spring. Mediterranean Maquis covers the island(that which is not under cultivation). This is a mix of herbs like Artemesia, sub-shrubs, capers and stray figs, succulents, other shrubby plants and pelargoniums that have escaped into the wild. There are also the ubiquitous pines, olive trees Eucalyptus(High up) and grape vines that Italy boasts so many of.
All in all, you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place, this green, craggy place set in the vivid aqua sea, it's mountains wreathed in clouds or backed with startling blue skies. And there are sugar cube houses clustered here and there in the little villages round the island.
An aphid carried a parasite that killed many of the vines throughout Europe beginning about 1870. Islanders believed that they would escape the problem as they were twenty odd miles at sea. One year after Grammie was born, 1889, the vines were attacked and the economy was destroyed. Half of the population of the islands emigrated by the beginning of the century as a result. Of course at the same time, steam was slowly replacing sail as a means of transport, making it harder for them to compete. As fortunes drained away, it was impossible for most to convert to steam.
On the mainland, the train system was expanding. Lines were extended in increments from Rome, to Naples, Naples to Reggio until it was a major threat to sea based trading.
Meanwhile, commercial relations with France deteriorated in the 1880s which resulted in a tariff war that lasted from 1887 to about 1890. This put a terrible strain on the wine producers in the south of Italy, and finally killed the wine based economy of the islands.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
This is a copy of a print by Piranesi. The text below translates: Grotto of the Nymph Egeria commonly called the Cafarella. Piranesi was very famous in the 18th Century for his prints of Views of Rome. Any serious collector of antique prints will have at least one of his works. Many of his final prints were quite large, and, in fact there is a large version of this one. I believe that this was a preliminary print, done prior to his final large one. I tried to buy the large one as well, but I lost out by one bid...I really couldn't afford it, but I thought it was important for family history. I do, in fact own this one, purchased from a gallery in Belgium. This ruin still exists south of Rome in the Caffarella Park. This is a huge rural park that is used as a recreational area and as an outdoor museum of the antiquities there from Roman and Medieval times. It is located outside the San Sebastian Gate along the Via Appia Antica, near the famous catacombs and just south and east of the church known as Domine Quo Vadis. This property was purchased by the Cafarella family in the 15th century and was held by them till the 18th century. I will post text describing the park and it's history separately from this post. What I find interesting is the spelling of the name. The Cafarelli, Caffarella and Cafarella family I believe were all one and as evidenced in the 18th century print were spelled Cafarella at least by some. As spelling had no hard and fast rules at that time, this is not much of a stretch. I passed a copy of this print on to Dusty and Anna Burrill, by another artist in the nineteenth century who spelled it with two F's.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
One thing that I know for certain is that the 1910 Census listed Anerio as Philip and that they lived on Center Street in Malden. Both Jake Cincotta and Carolina Cincotta lived with them at the time.
Carolina would eventually marry Antonio Cafarella(a cousin) and move back to Italy after 1924. Jake would be taken back to the island soon after this and would not return till he was 19.
The Philip and Anerio thing is a common theme in the family. I suppose that men named Anerio probably got sick of spelling it to people, but he is listed in early records as Anerio, however he called himself Philip. I will have to find original records in Salina to solve that issue, though when I found the house there on Via Gelso, he was listed as Anerio.
It is certain that there was a devotion in the family to Saint Philip of Neri(Philip Anerio) and one documented ship owned by the family was the San Biagio(Saint Blaize). The Vasquez family ended up with Onofrio after the saint. Other saints particularly revered in the islands were Giuseppe, Bartolomeo, Stephen, Lorenzo and as always in Italy...Mary.
John was in the first world war in France. He sent cards and one souvenir card to Grammie that I passed on to my sister, from France with a lace pocket and handkerchief of diminutive dimensions on the front. Other than photos, this was one of the few things that Grammie always kept with her.
By the time she was 15 1/2, she had married her first cousin John Cafarella. This occurred at Sacred heart in North Square in Boston. This is what Grammie told me. This seems a bit strange to me as they were Maldenites, but this is what she said. Here is another subject for research, as there is also the Sacred Heart in Malden and there may be some confusion.
At the top of Summer Street, now found as Summer Street extention, John's brother Gaetano owned a piece of land. commonly called "The Mount" amongst the family. It is almost a promontory that bordered wild lands in Melrose. There were cliffs and a big Rock there.
This was where Grammie and Grandfather John set up housekeeping. There were wild blueberries and other attractions to this land. A perennial draw to the family kids for excursions and picnics. There they built a tar-paper shack and moved in. There too, they began to raise their family, starting with Joseph Gaetano Cafarella in 1905. Grandfather John was a barber, though I do not know just when he took this trade up. He could easily have worked in one of the family stores as well. His Barber shop was on the corner of Washington Street and Clifton Street in Malden. The back of the building seems to hang over the MBTA tracks there.
After that the new family moved to Hyde Park somewhere. This has been reported to me as an apartment house. Here, sometime in 1917 or18 if my math is correct, Grammie looked out of a window to see her young daughter Jenny playing by the incinerator barrel, when her hair caught fire. Grammie, pregnant at the time, fell down the stairs trying to get to the child and damaged her unborn child, John. Jennie died.
They moved back to Malden on Eastern Ave.
John was born with issues that defy my description as all those who knew him are now gone. By the pictures, it seems certain that he was retarded and that he had physical issues as well. He died in his teens.
Next it seems that the family moved to Linwood Street, where they are listed in the Census in 1920. They had by now, Joseph age 15, Rosa aged 11, Philip aged 9, Lawrence aged 5, John aged 2 and my mother Mary at 11 months. Grammie was to ultimately have 11 pregnancies and would by the 1980s, be survived by only 4. In about 1950, My mother wrote down all the names of relatives and their relationships to us. In that list, she included brothers Bert, Robert and Tom.
Grammie bought the property at 31 Palmer Street in Medford about this time. Uncle Laurie's daughter Linda told me recently that her father once said that they spent the first winter there before the foundation was poured in a tent. Pretty good with all those kids. This plot of land would become a hive of activity that would only end after a slow decline in 2008 when it was finally sold out of the family a year after Aunt May's(Joseph Gaetano's wife) death.
At this time, Grammie was evidently somewhat estranged from Grampa John. She shifted her dependence to Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe did the best he could, and was the major player in pouring the foundation there, that would become home for the family until almost the time I came along. Grammie just put way too much pressure on Uncle Joe. He was just too young and vigorous to become Grammie's surrogate husband. He soon left to join the Marines, but never stopped lending support to his family for many years. He may not have had what would be termed a brilliant military career in terms of high rank, but I suspect that this man who served in most of the major battles in the South Pacific won the respect and admiration of everyone he ever met. This was a genuine hero in the eyes of every acquaintance I ever spoke to. He was a member of Edson's Raiders in the Marines.
Now I will walk in dangerous territory. Grammie was a force of nature. Tough as nails, hard working and very stern. This was news to me. I always knew her as a little stubborn perhaps, but very sweet in her way. She was caring and nurturing, gentle and smiling despite her reclusive and almost disappointed nature. You have to understand that she lived with my parents and me for many years before retuning to Medford not long before she died. It is obvious that she had softened...not completely mind you, but a great deal. She was likely a hard person to live with, which probably contributed to the separation. That being said, my grandfather was loved by most of those he knew, including his children. But there were obvious faults there as well, if even half the stories were true. This is a very difficult thing to write about as emotions can run high on this subject. One thing I realized in going through my divorce, is that there is no way that anyone can understand what goes on between two people who are married. Even family and children cannot see both sides of a story when they only get one. It is not that people lie. It is more like they shade events in their favor. I do not blame either of them and have no right to. I was not there and neither was anyone else really. Let us just say that their separation, though hard on all, was probably good for both of them. I suspect that both were happier in their own spheres.
Bill Cafarella came along after 1920 The last of Grammie's brood. The foundation of the house was poured. It was just a little bit crooked. The front, northwest corner was just a bit too far out. Uncle Joe always pointed this out as the house that came later obviously had to have square corners. I do not think that they had a great deal of experience in pouring foundations, so the fault cannot justly be pinned on them. There was certainly not enough money to build the house. If you have ever been to Salina, you know that the houses there are all masonery and generally look like cubes...sugar cubes when whitewashed. This was probably a very comfortable look for Grammie as the houses of her childhood looked very much like this capped foundation. The entrance to the resulting house was on the North side. This was used as a garden entrance after the house was built. Stepping inside, the ceilings were quite high. There were only a couple of steps down to floor level, as the ledges it was built upon meant that the foundation was sitting very near the ground surface on 2 and a half sides. As you entered the house from the middle of the north wall, you were standing on an outcropping of ledge that ran from there at the door to the left, all the way to the corner.The space was divided in two, from East to West with partitions. Almost strait ahead was a large opening like an archway, and there were smaller openings at the east and west ends. The near half was the kitchen and utility area of the space. The kitchen with the stove was against the East wall and backing up to the ledge. There were tables and shelves for oil lamps and tins of this and that. The top of the ledge was filled with garden implements and other storage, but in a prominent position near the stove was Mike's cage. Mike was the green Amazon Parrot that stayed in various family homes right up till the 1970s. More on him later. In the middle of the space was the dining table with just enough space to form a narrow corridor on either side. A Morris chair and an alcove for the washing machine completed the area near the archway. On the west end of this space were the sink, under the window, and a partition that formed a coal bin to the corner. In the middle of the west wall was a closet for the toilet.
Standing in the archway and looking into the other half of the space, the living space, the East corner held Grammie's "bedroom", which was more of an alcove, separated mostly by an overstuffed chair and Uncle Phil's piano, set perpendicular to the wall. Next along the South side was a large sofa and a 6 foot flight cage for the birds that Uncle Phil and Grammie loved so. Opposite the sofa against the arch wall was the Victrola and it's miscellany of Caruso and other 78RPM records. Between that and a large overstuffed chair and phone table was THE CLOSET! Drapes covered the entrance. It was huge by my sister's child-sized perspective. It was actually flush with the wall and intruded considerably into the kitchen and utility space. It scared my sister Dolly, as she was called then, and was filled with all sorts of interesting and scary things.. In the south-west corner, partitioned only slightly from the living room, was Uncle Phil's room, at one time also shared with Uncle Bill.
This space, decorated with bits of lace, drapes of floral fabrics and all the handicrafts that Grammie loved so, became sort of an icon of what the family was all about. Grandchildren filled every available space and Nelson Eddy would occasionally show up to sing while Uncle Phil played. There was always some activity there and probably constant cooking! The early years are a mystery now, but seven children from Uncle Joe( in his last year before joining the Marines and his infrequent visits) to teen Rose, pre-teen Laurie and Phil and infant Mary and Billy trouped through and grew in that place. There were piano lessons and cousins drawn by the activity, goats, chickens and acres of wild forest covering rocky promontories surrounding it. Today the play ground forests are occupied by the radio towers, hospital and dozens of houses.
Rose was known as Chick by her younger siblings. She used to sign my mother Mary out of school and troupe to the movies or to lunch or some other activity the two of them could share. Rose was a bit boy crazy, a trait that she passed on to my mother to some extent. She married very young(I have found no record as of this writing). There were issues however as it turned out that the young gentleman was heavily into "The Mob" as the story goes or some other facet of organized crime. Does this refer to the Mothers And Fathers Italian Association? Who knows, but when this was discovered, his picture was cut out of the wedding photo, he was divorced and was deported to Sicily by the government. DIVORCE! This was a big issue for most Catholics, and was a big issue for Grammie. This drove a rather large wedge between Rose and her mother which evidently never healed. Rose remarried to Roy Henderson, a sailor from Alabama, and were evidently happy for a time. He was sent overseas during World War II and was decorated after excellent service at the invasion of Italy. Rose, meantime (according to a story told by my mother) was trying to see Grammie. As I understand it she was going to Palmer Street while sick in a winter storm. She collapsed on Belle Ave. with full blown Pneumonia. She was returned to her apartment where she was evidently robbed by other tenants in the building before dying of the pneumonia at age 19.
Philip was hit by a rock on his lower leg and developed tubrculosis of the bone or osteomyelitis. He worked at the Revere Knitting Mills in Malden for a time, as an elevator operator at the Plaza in Boston and learned to play piano and other instruments like no one else! He eventually earned a degree from the Sherwood School in music. As I understand it he also worked in a metal fabricating business at one time and made cookie cutters for Grammie that passed on to Mom and then to me. They are now, sadly, lost through my divorce. He gave lessons to about everyone in the family at one time or another. I think that all liked him, he was a bright and interesting guy, but he was a tough teacher. A slap on the wrist is an understatement. He would slam your hands on the keyboard or you could end up on the floor. This harshness ended alot of piano careers. However, everyone experienced his teaching style differently and many thrived and loved him dearly. He had many many jobs as church pianist and organist both in the Boston area and in Maine. He took part in a number of musical theater productions in Maine through Ricker College. He loved Gilbert and Sullivan. He had his own Radio show in Boston and was frequently on the radio in the Houlton area. When Grammie moved to Littleton, Maine on the Johnny Farm(More on this elsewhere) He came with her and his brother Bill. Ater a time, the farm, twelve miles from town, proved to be far too remote for young men who wanted to have a life. The two boys eventually rented a house on Fair Street in Houlton. As my sister said in her letter, elsewhere in the site, that they literally had to drag Grammie out of the farm to live there in Houlton. Eventually Uncle Phil bought a modest house at 44 Park Street where he lived the rest of his life. He collected antiques which fairly took over the house along with his piano and organ. He gave lessons in piano, organ and voice and took in boarders from the college to make ends meet. There was a type of dinnerware available in the fifties that was a dark baked bean brown with a dripping frosting of white and cream glaze at the top rim of everything. Half of the house was not wired for electricity. It was not much of a house, but it was all his. He also taught Summer sessions at Colby College for a number of years. He took in boarders from Ricker College to make ends meet.
In 1973 Phil was diagnosed with lung cancer. He spent much of the following Summer in bed in his dining room and died with his mother present later in the year. He had kept the diagnosis a secret from Grammie along with it's prognosis till the end.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Col. Joe Cafarella said that he came home on leave and found both his grandmother and his Uncle John in coffins in the family parlor. These are the parents of the seven Cafarella siblings.
My friend Maria Salvi has recently sent me some information concerning Giuseppi's father.
Obviously I do not have a photo, so I will place the info here. It seems that though some of the Cafarellas landed on Via Gelso in Malfa, the family previously came from Capofaro. This is only about four kilometers from Malfa, and is still a part of the commune. Therefore this is a rather fine distinction, but when you are looking for someone's house, it can make all the difference in the world. There is a Via Cafarella there in Capofaro, and the local church was Saint Anne.
Anyway, this info got me one step further in my quest for information. The entry is as follows: 1438870 Capo Salina: April 23, 1835 Gaetano Cafarella 40 Shoemaker and wife Giovanna Vasquez had a child and named him Domenico. Not really very much, but this confirms his wife's name, his profession and their first born child...Quite a jump forward.
Upon calling Jennie DeFina about this, she remembersed that in her childhood, relatives talked about U puntu Capo, referring to the town where the Cafarellas were from and that the church was St. Anne's.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
He had Epilepsy, probably as a result of a crash during his time in the military, which limited him for the rest of his life. He was a gunner flying patrols over the coast of the US, probably patrolling for submarine traffic as they carried a torpedo. They crashed in a Douglas A24 Dive Bomber or a Grumman Avenger off the coast of Georgia. He had many burdens in his life, yet he was still one of my favorites.