Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Speaking of how easy it was to find records from San Potito, I've been in contact with others researching the village (who found me through this web site), and there's a wealth of information out there, most of which I either had no idea existed, or knew of but figured I wouldn't see any time soon.

Lawrence and William Sennello have been researching their family (Sanillo) from San Potito for almost ten years. They've been there, and have made some very valuable contacts that have given them access to some excellent sources of information. For example, I had no idea that there were Censuses carried out of the town in 1802 and 1806. But the Sennellos did, and they've provided me with extracts they have of some of the names they're interested in, some of which overlap with my family. These Censuses include exact birthdates for many of the people, dates which predate the records the Mormons have, which only go back to 1809. I found my 4G-Grandmother, Nicoletta Matteo, in their abstracts, for example, and now know that she was born on 29 May 1791; I had previously narrowed this down to some time between 1789 and 1792. Her father, Giuseppe Matteo, was born on 30 September 1768. And Giuseppe's father, my 6G Grandfather, was Giovanni Matteo, and that's a name and generation I didn't have before. In 1802, Giuseppe's wife is listed as Marta Conte, so that means that Nicoletta's mother, Francesca Riccio, died before 1802; I figured she must have died before the civil records began, but had only firmly narrowed things down to "before 1842". I also found Rosa di Palma, the first wife of Michele Rapa, my 4G Grandfather (and Nicoletta's husband). Rosa isn't strictly speaking an ancestor, but I still am interested in her, and it was intersting to find that she was born on 18 July 1784; I had narrowed her birth down to the correct year. The Census didn't list an exact birthdate for her father, Cesare di Palma, but it did list Cesare's father, Giovanni. The Sennellos have copies of the entire Censuses, and I hope to be getting copies soon so I can look for my families that they didn't abstract.

This week Lawrence sent me a package filled with fascinating information about the raid the brigands made on San Potito on 22-23 July 1865, in which a number of local men were killed and more wounded. It's all in Italian, but I can decipher some of it, with the help of Altavista's Babelfish, enough to have a rough idea of what happened. The Sennellos are very interested in that incident, as apparently one or two of the men killed that day were Sanillos. I'm interested in it because the mayor, who was kidnapped and then killed the next day, was a Pietrosimone, although I haven't been able to make a connection between mayor Simeone Pietrosimone and my Pietrosimones yet. There was a photocopy of a photograph of three of the brigands, and they look like some mean hombres. There was also an article describing what happened from the newspaper La Campania, maps describing the attack, and an extensive description of the raid that apparently draws heavily on transcripts of witness testimony about the raid. That seems to be an excellent source on what happened; I hope to get it transcribed and translated eventually.

Larry also loaned me a book he had been presented by the mayor of San Potito when he and his brother visited. It's a reprint of a book published in the 1890s called Riassunto Storico Dell'Antico Sannio by Giuseppe Mennone. It appears to contain brief histories of many of the villages in the area. It devotes three pages to San Potito, and almost nine to Faicchio, where Laura's great grandfather Filippo Saracco came from. I wish I could read Italian the way I can read English.... I'm trying to do rough translations with the help of Babelfish and hope that Laura's parents will be able to help clear up bits I don't understand.

Possibly the most exciting thing here is that the Sennellos have access to the entire set of records from the church of Santa Catarina in San Potito from 1697 to 1795. Larry just got that in the past few days, so we're still figuring out what to do with it. He sent me scans of a couple of pages, and there appears to be an index to the records, which is good, since there are about 1100 pages of them. I knew that the records existed, because Jim Matteo had visited the church on one of his visits to San Potito and had told me about them, but I had figured I would need to eventually visit the church myself and abstract whatever I could in whatever short time I would have access. To find out that a copy of the complete record set exists here in America is just beyond my wildest dreams. It's entirely possible that with these records, I could take my family back to the mid-1600s.

Anyway, the Sennellos have been remarkably generous with their time, their knowledge, and their information and materials. I had put together a database of the people of San Potito who I had come across in the records (still a work in progress), whether I was related to them or not, and was happy to share that with them, as well. I had been floundering over the past couple of months, and I was about ready to declare this branch of the family "finished enough" for now, until I could get access to more records like those of the church, and move on to other branches. Whole new doors are opening now.

Posted at 10:26:00 PM