Saturday, February 28, 2015

Atti di Notaio
Records from Notaries

I have four very interesting records from the period after 1755. My friend, Michele Cartusciello, from the Museo di Cognome, in Padula, uncovered these records for me at the Archivio di Stato in Salerno.  I need to interpret and understand these documents, and it is not going to be an easy task, but it will be worth doing if I can get some genealogical data from the effort.  I will need your help.  And by the way, if these records indicate that I am the sole survivor of a large estate in Italy, I will share it with you:-)

Take a look at a portion of one of the documents.

Look carefully and you will see the name Martino Barbella.  Martino is not on my family tree yet.  I hope he will be in place on the tree once I've figured out exactly what this document says. 

I've been told this record is written in "church Latin".  The Wikepedia article about church Latin doesn't seem to add much to my ability to interpret what the document is saying.  

It is clear that the Notary who wrote this document, Gerardo Arenare, used several shorthand notations.  For example, here is the first line of the first document.

It is, of course, recognizable as an opening invocation to God.

Look closer at that third word.

This, I'm told, is the word Domini.  Apparently, that apostrophe "thing" is shorthand for the missing letters "omi.   

But then, what is this word, following "Domini"?

Is that an H or an St?  What missing letters are connoted by this "apostrophe"?

In his book, "Italian Genealogical Records", Trafford Cole states, "Until around 1865, the official language used by notaries was Latin, and they used abbreviations and codes to make documents as obscure as possible so that only notaries could read them".  As far as I'm concerned, they did a pretty good job.  We're going to have some fun trying to break these "codes" in this blog.

Here are the first few lines put together:

What I see here is:
Today (oggi) the 19th (diecinove) of the month of March (mese di Marzo) in the year 1755 in the village of Sassano............?????

Does anyone know what this is (third word in the bottom line)?

It appears in the main document several times.  I believe that first letter is an F and I'm wondering if, in 1755, Sassano was a Frazione of some larger area, perhaps Sala Consolina. Then "nella F'ra di Sassano" would translate to "in the village of Sassano", or something like that.

In any event, there is much more to come in future posts.  This document will reveal some type of transaction between two couples.  They are Arcangelo Caputo and his wife Isabella Fruglio and Martino Barbella and his wife Arcangela Borgia.  We will have fun breaking this document apart, and who knows what we will find?

So this is the start.  There is much more to come.  Stay tuned, and if you can help, please post comments below or email me directly at

Thanks for reading and see you soon!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Sassano Project

Do you have ancestors from Sassano?  Then I have a website for you.

Sassano is a small hillside village in the middle of Italy's Mezzogiorno.  It is in the province of Salerno, in the Campagna region.

Sassano, Salerno, Campagna, Italy

My great grandfather was born in Sassano and he was my immigrant ancestor.  He is the reason that I obtained the birth, death, and marriage records for the commune of Sassano from the Latter Day Saints Library.  I have them in microfilm form and I have been through most of them searching for the Barbella cognome.

As I was searching, a funny thing happened.  I began to feel a connection to the names I was looking at.  I began to feel as though I was a part of this community.  First you might find the record of a person's birth.  Then you discover their marriage record.  Finally you see their children being born.  It made me feel like I was a part of the community.  That is why I am now indexing these records and making them available on-line in The Sassano Project.

This is, at least, a small part of the reason that I made the voyage to Sassano in the spring of 2014.  I can't begin to tell you how much I felt like I was "coming home".  

I met in the village's mother church with the local priest.  I had the privilege to observe some of the vast holdings of church records on the shelves there.

Don Otello Russo in the office at San Giovanni Evangelista

I went to the town office and found the originals of the civil records I have on microfilm.
Officials at the Ufficio Di Anagrafe - Sassano, Italy

My father and my grandfather were both born in Brooklyn.  Yet, somehow, inexplicably, I have been drawn into a relationship with Sassano that I simply cannot describe.

Original Stato Civile

My project to index the records of Sassano can be seen at this link.  It is, by no means, complete.  The project includes birth records from 1866 to 1873.  I have been working primarily with the birth records but there are also a few years of death records available.

My work has been simplified with the addition of a computer controlled microfilm reader.  I can easily scroll through the microfilm tapes and magnify sections.  I can even obtain digital images of individual records without the need of a camera.  Please let me know if you would like me to find a particular record for you.  Just leave a comment below and when I next find myself at the library I will try to help you.

Cimetero di Sassano