Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Family Names

I have recently seen some searches arriving at this blog questioning the origins of the names of the families involved in it.  I have done much research into all of their names, but I still have to say that in some cases..I DON'T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT...and in others, I am marginally convinced.  The real problem is that there is not much written in English about these names.  The Italian writings are limited as well, but anything really in depth is just too much for me in my present state of learning of Italian.  Records that predate modern systems are in the archives of the archivescovo(the archbishopric).  I have not had access to them and I doubt that the Mormons have them!  What access to records I do have are VERY difficult to read, and they vary in format so that meaning is a bit difficult as well.
I can try to give you some cues for further research, but I am in many cases probably going to spend the rest of my life searching for the answers myself.  You must also understand that I am standing on the legs of scholars when I write these things.  I am finding the research of others on line or in print, and reporting my findings only.
Much of what I will tell you here comes from published sources that have long disappeared from my memory, but if you want to contact me, I can try to find them if you want to do more research.

I have arrived at no final conclusions at all about these names.

These are the names of families presently recorded in Salina  I do not have similar lists for the other islands as they are not published:


Cincotta  (chin-cot-ta)
I have seen two forms of the name: Cincotta and Cincotto.  More recently I have seen old documents with Cingotta.  When you hear the name, that central "c" can sound quite guttural, so the "g" might just be a spelling error by a person with poor hearing.  It was definitely the same name though.  My sources say that Cincotto comes from the far north of Italy, and is very rare.  It was probably from the area in and around Venice.  There were very early migrations of families to the south along with the Holy Roman Emperor(Germans) to the south, including Sicily.  It probably came from a nickname that developed in a time when formal last names were pretty erratic if they existed at all outside aristocratic families.  The feeling is that it developed in the family of the fifth son of his father.  O and I are usually masculine endings for a word, singular and plural.  A and E would be the same for female endings.  So if that is true, could Cincotta be the fifth daughter of a family?
In the book Sicilian Sisters by Marianna, the author would like us to think that there were five pirate brothers who came to the islands, married five sisters and distributed themselves throughout the Aeolian Islands to escape the retribution of their past victims.  Well, I definitely believe the Pirate part!  Does the author believe this; is it a family story, or is it a good plot for her purposes?
Actually, the remote islands of the Mediterranean had many pirate cells.  In some times there was no way to make a living other than piracy.  I think, however, that for the most part, our people were more likely to be the victims of piracy, rather than pirates themselves.  I suppose we have to keep an open mind however.  Also in the book, the brothers were Spanish in origin.  Why not?
There is a tradition that says that the name refers to the number 58. That would be "cinquantotto" in Italian and "cinquenta y ocho" in Spanish.  A band of 58 pirates perhaps?  Or perhaps the fifty eighth son...Tired that woman out!  Now I am being silly...sorry about that.
When I do searches in Italian, I find that references(which incidentally, usually lead nowhere) say that the name originates and is concentrated in the Messina area, including the islands, and in Ustica.  Ustica is an island to the north west of Sicily, where a number of Aeolian people went for land and trading opportunities.  Lonely and isolated, I would not have done that myself.   However we do have many distant relatives there.
Cincotta predates the perceived general arrival of the Spanish in the islands.   Feudal society was pretty hands off for the most part.  As it was in England, there were a handful of Barons who occupied and defended large tracts of land, and a handful of petty officials who were akin to the Sheriff of Nottingham, controlling a local area that could be covered in a day's ride.  There was little interaction as they did not speak the same language, but there was sometimes a...forced...relationship between a peasant girl and an invading official.
That does not mean that individual family groups could not have arrived there as it suggests in Marianna's book.  Notice the presence of the name in the list of arrivals in my later post though. Spanish were in Sicily from the very early 1400s(Aragonese), and again from the early 1500s(Spanish).  These were the years in which there were Spanish(and Aragonese) Viceroys of Sicily.  There was much struggle over ownership of the area between the French and the Spanish.  So, since we do not have arrival dates for the Spanish names in our records, it is still an open question if this is a Spanish arrival name or not.(I do not think it is.)  The Cincottas were first noticed in the records in the years following the pirate siege of the islands in 1544.  The general thought is that the repopulating people were from Calabria for the most part, but some of the people who were taken from the islands by the pirates were ransomed in Messina and returned to the islands.  I am not aware of a list of family names from before the pirates or a list of the families who returned to their own lands after the raid.
Reaching far back into history we have another possibility which is admittedly rather remote.  In the Punic wars, there was a port at Lipari, which was the best possible in the islands as it is today.  There were struggles between the Romans and the Carthaginians in and around the Aeolian Islands.  The commander of roman forces there was a certain General Cotta...something to think about.  I have read his name in both Suetonius' The Twelve Ceasars, and  I think in Tacitus' Annals of Rome.
The name may also refer to a personal name such as Cingo or Gingo.


Here is another mess, though with very different issues. 
The standard origin of the name says that it is derived from the word Kaafir in Arabic.  This is an Arabic/local dialect name meaning the unbeliever.  Infidels!  Well, does this surprise anyone?
There are a number of variations, but all are listed together in the sources I have, suggesting that they are considered to be the same or related name.  Cafarella(my own family and my favorite for some reason), Caffarella, Caffarela, Caferella, Cafferella, Cafarelli, Caffarelli, Cafar, Cafa, Caffa, Cafarensis(Hmmm) and Cafarellius. Cafaru is a Sicilian name which originally meant "Rotten".  Like most names other than Wheeler, Smith, and similar professional or place related names, there was no such thing as a last name till relatively recently, and on top of that, there was no standardized spelling of virtually anything.  Add dialects that changed with every fifty miles or less in Italy,(Italy only became a country in the 1860s and 70s after all.) and the mess is complete.

It seems that Cafar was the original name.  The others may have developed from this Campagna region name.  There are a number of Cafarelli references.  The Cafarelli probably came to us from the Latin version of the name which can bee seen in Rome on the portal that leads from the Piazza Campodoglio designed by Michelangelo to the side of the palace that bears the Cafarelli name behind and attached to the museum facing the Piazza.  There are several references to the name in palazzi in Rome.  Palazzo Caffarelli Negroni being one.
The Cafarelli that is related to this site was French in origin and France has a number of Cafarelli families.  A general Cafarelli was involved with Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and probably others as well.  However, if we are to believe the stated origin of the name, there is no similar root in French.   I do not have any second thoughts when I say that this family is of Italian origin.  There is a Palace in Avignon which bears the name, on the square that also fronts the Pope's palace.  They would have relocated there from Italy during the "So-called Babylonian Captivity" when the popes resided in Avignon.  There was a Scipione Cafarelli who became the adopted child of the Borghese family, and began the famous sculpture collection of that family while he was a Cardinal.  He was also related to one of the Popes of that time.  I guess when the family business moved to France, it was a good idea to go with it.

At present I am going to have to pursue a name that might be part of our family on the mainland.  The name is Don Bernardo de Natale di Cafarella in Caserta.  If you do not know the area, it is north north west of Naples.  Do not hold your breath!  There are curious connections that I do not say are concrete in any way, but may have to pursue. 
1. The Pignatelli were Spanish/Italain  Viceroys of Sicily.
2. The Pignatelli and Cafarelli had adjoining estates on the Via Appia Antica in Rome.
3. The Pignatelli had some relationship to the barons near Casapulla, Caserta in Campagna.
4. The Sifolas and Natales had land granted by or somehow related to these barons and Pignatellis in Campagna.
5. Girolama Sifola married Don Bernardo Natale di Cafarella holding lands of all these people.

The final word is that there are a number of possible origins for the name.  There are some expert writings that credit the name as having cropped up in different areas of the country from different roots(that is all the written variations mentioned above) Bari, Salerno, Palermo, Messina, Rieti, Torino, northern Campagna all have possible claim to the name.  I will have to make a connection from the Cafarella names listed in the 1500s to their mainland origins, and then we may be able to pin it down a bit better. Give me more time and we may have an answer.  However, Cafarella was always the name in the Aeolian Islands.


This is typically Spanish and is a very common name all over the world where there are Spanish populations. I usually hear it pronounced: "Vaskez" in Spanish populations, but my family and others I have known from the islands pronounce it: "Vascooez".   It may be a derivative of the Spanish name Vasco which refers to Basque, or  to the Gascony region of France.  There are a number of populations in Italy and it would be likely to appear anywhere that the Spanish settled and in the kingdoms taken over by the Spanish.(The southern half of the mainland of Italy and all of Sicily and it's islands.)  There are supposedly large populations in Syracusa, Noto and other areas of Sicily, but also in Bari and Naples. 
The article I placed elsewhere in the blog noted that it arrived in the islands in the period after the depopulation in the 1500s, usually as administrators.  The Spanish actually arrived to take over Southern Italy and Sicily in the last decade of the 1400s, though when they arrived in the islands could be somewhat later.  It seems to me that they probably were there before the depopulation as it usually took no time at all for a new king or administrator to lay claim to an area.


The Megna name, if it is the same as that found all over Italy, comes from the name Omegna which originated in the Piedmont area called Novara Province and refers to a town of that name at the northernmost point in Lago Orta.  The name has a number of population concentrations in Italy. 
One area where it is common is in neighboring Lombardy.  It also occurs in some concentrations in Sicily, especially Palermo, Calabria and Campagna.  These statistics of areas of concentration are based on current populations.   Since it is not unusual for many people to migrate to the jobs, we might concentrate on those areas where they might have come FROM, rather than the large job markets where people WENT.  Calabria was likely to be the area that most recently fed the islands, though they may have originated there in Piedmont. 
As the name appears after the depopulation of 1544, I would assume that the source of the name would be confirmed as Calabria, at least most recently.
The name entered our Cincotta family in the 1840s.


This too is a pretty obvious derivation. The name is a form of Lazarus. It refers to Aramaic: La'zar for "aid of God".  Strangely we have a Lazar in the family, as well as Lazzaro a few generations back.  This name probably arrived in Sicily and the islands during early periods when there were many Jewish families.  They were so common, that it would be difficult I would think, not to find some trace of jewish roots in all families of the south.  The published sources have this name originating in Lombardy with branches in Brescia, Milan and Bergamo in the far north.  They also state that the name is dotted around the Italian penninsula like leopard spots!  Of course, the lazarus in the bible is revered in Christian communities as well as Jewish.  I suppose the source of our Lazzaro names could be from either source.   There are several Lazarus' that could be a source of this Sirname.  Lazarus of Bethany(Raised from the dead.  Lazarus of Persia(a martyr), Lazarus and the rich man from the new testament and Lazarus, Bishop of Milan in the 400s.
Personally I think that the Jewish presence in Sicily is our most likely source for the name, but again, migrations from the north were pretty common, especially when the German and northen Italian Holy Roman Empire was supplying rulers in Sicily.  You may have noted that the name was listed in the arrivals post 1544.
The name has some unsavoury connotations as well.  It can mean a person who may only have been born with the help of god.  It can refer to people with skin diseases, rashes, leprosy etc., and sometimes as a scoundrel or malefactor of some kind.  That being said, there is no shortage of great people in the North, and there is a famous Lazzari family involved in politics around the time of an arrival of nobles in Sicily in 1584.  This could account for the name's arrival as the arrival dates post mentions their arrival after 1544.


Sangiolo is a name which has defied every attempt I have made to define it. Following the spelling variations that are common in the family, there is no Sangiolo or Sanciolo recorded anywhere, but Sangio and Sancio do exist in the general Sicily, Calabria, Puglia area.  Following those names and their close realtions we have various forms of Sanchez, and a number of shorter forms of Sangiolo or Sanciolo, like: Sanci, Sancio, Sanciu, Sangi, Sangio.  Proving that these are connected will mean tracing the family back till the original name finally appears, but to me, this is a logical connection.   These names appear all over Italy, many of them in Sicily and Calabria, as well as in the far north.  If indeed connected, some form of the Sangiolo name may go back to Roman times.  I am having enough trouble following the Cafarellas and Cincottas, so the likelihood that I can trace the Sangiolos is pretty slim.  Those with the name should be searching for someone to start this research. 
The name does not appear in the roster of names arriving in the islands posted elsewhere in the site.  One can never trust records completely, but it seems likely that the name is a recent arrival in the islands.  I have records that put the name into the middle of the 19th century with Luigi Sangiolo in Capofaro.  We are used to seeing women being brought in from the mainland or Sicily, but there is no reason that Luigi or his father or grandfather could not have married an island girl and stayed.


Marchetti is like a number of related names derived from the latin name Marcus or the medieval Marchettus.  Marchetti specifically is all over the north central areas of Italy and also in Apulia.
It is not a terribly common name in the south, though it is not unusual in Naples and farther north. There are some examples scattered in Calabria and all over Sicily however.
Marcetta is present in the islands after the depopulation in 1544, and could be a variation in spelling of Marchetti, and except for a few branches coming from Rome, the origins would not be much different from the Marchetti name.  If this is not the family, then it must be a more recent arrival in the islands.  Here is another example of someone needing to follow the name back to its point of origin on the mainland or Sicily, or to find the connection with the name Marcetta if there is one.
There are also Marchetta families in the islands which may be from the same source, being only a spelling variation, or could have come from another population on the mainland or Sicily.

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