Category Archives: Genealogy

Christmas Traditions In Italy


Italian traditions in Italy are based on the religion of Christianity. Christmas starts eight days before Christmas and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany. Musical salutes are made at the shrine of the Virgin Mary and songs are played at the homes of carpenters in honor of St. Joseph. Eight days before Christmas, a special Novena of prayers and church services begin. It all ends on Christmas Day. On December 23rd, sometimes earlier, children dressed as shepherds with sandals, leggings tied with crossing thongs, and wearing shepherds’ hats, go from house to house playing songs on shepherds’ pipes and giving recitations. They receive money to buy Christmas treats. In cities like Rome real shepherds sometimes carry out the performance. A strict fast is observed 24 hours before Christmas after which a meal with many dishes (but no meat) is served. The traditional Christmas dinner, Cenone, is made up of spaghetti and anchovies, an assortment of fish, fresh broccoli, tossed salad, fruits, and sweets.


A Yule log, the Ceppo, is burned, and toasts in wine and wishes for the future are expressed. The Urn of Fate, an old Italian tradition, is a large ornamental bowl that holds wrapped gifts for members of the family. When the family gets together, each member takes his turn at drawing a gift from the urn until all the presents are distributed. The presepio (manger or crib) represents in miniature the Holy Family in the stable and is the center of Christmas for families. Guests kneel before it and musicians sing before it . The presepio figures are usually hand-carved and very detailed in features and dress. The scene is often set out in the shape of a triangle. This is a wooden frame arranged to make a pyramid several feet high. Several tiers of thin shelves are supported by this frame. It is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pine cones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides. A star or small doll is hung at the apex of the triangular sides. The shelves above the manger scene have small gifts of fruit,candy, and presents.


The ceppo is in the old Tree of Light tradition which became the Christmas tree in other countries. Some houses even have a ceppo for each child in the family. The ceppo is a wooden frame several feet high designed in a pyramid shape. This frame supports several tiers of shelves, often with a manger scene on the bottom followed by small gifts of fruit, candy, and presents on the shelves above. The “Tree of Light,” as it is also know, is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pinecones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides and a star or small doll is hung at the apex. From the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome a cannon is tired to proclaim the opening of the Holy Season. Each tries to outdo the other by displaying the biggest presepio.


La Befana:  Kindly old witch who brings children toys on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. According to the legend of la Befana, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and to invite her to join them. She refused, and later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Christ Child. Again she refused, and when night fell she saw a great light in the skies. Children in Italy hang up their stockings on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. They celebrate the visit of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. Instead of Santa Claus, children are expecting Befana. She is a witch-like character who rides around on a broom. The legend is that the Three Wise Men, I re magi, stopped at Befana’s hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and asked her to join them. She said no, she was too busy. Later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Baby Jesus. Again, Befana said no. Later when it was dark and she saw a great light in the skies, she thought perhaps she should have gone with the Wise Men. So, she gathered some toys that had belonged to her own baby, who had died, and ran to find the kings and the shepherd. But Befana could not find them or the stable. Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. And each year since she can not find him, she leaves the gifts for the good children of Italy and pieces of charcoal for the bad ones.


No meat is eaten for twenty-four hours before Christmas Eve, but there follows a meal as big as the family can afford. A special New Year Banquet is eaten on the last day of the year, with raisin bread, turkey, chicken, rabbit, and spaghetti. Champagne is the drink of the evening.


DECEMBER 6: La Festa di San Nicola – The festival in honor of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of shepherds, is celebrated in towns such as Pollutri with the lighting of fires under enormous cauldrons, in which fave (broad beans) are cooked, then eaten ceremoniously.

DECEMBER 8: L’Immacolata Concezione – celebration of the Immaculate Conception

DECEMBER 13: La Festa di Santa Lucia – St. Lucy’s Day

DECEMBER 24: La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve

DECEMBER 25: Natale – Christmas

DECEMBER 26: La Festa di Santo Stefano – St. Stephen’s Day marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men

DECEMBER 31: La Festa di San Silvestro – New Year’s Eve

JANUARY 1: Il Capodanno – New Year’s Day

JANUARY 6: La Festa dell’Epifania – The Epiphany



Lost Treasures of the 20th Century

I was sitting back today thinking of my childhood and the childhood of this generation. I had to laugh when I thought of my granddaughter coming up to me and asking me about a record album she had seen in my family room, she wanted to know what it was. I tried to explain that is what we call a vinyl record and that’s how we listened to music growing up, she looked at me like I had three heads. So I took out my record player, yes I still have my old record player from my sixteenth birthday, put the record on and let it play, she then turned to me and said really grandma that’s what you listen to, and I said you bet. I also explained that we would save up our allowance to buy records monthly.  And then she laughed when I showed her my transistor radio yes I still have that to along with my brownie camera, my tiny tears doll and my Gerber baby.

Going out and playing my god we would leave the house in the morning and wouldn’t come home to dinner, never do I ever remember saying I was bored, or did I even otter those words or know what that was.  But the kids today when you say go out and play they ask you what your suppose to do, REALLY.  The last thing we wanted was to stay in the house.

We had one telephone in the house and I remember at one time having a party line, when I told my grandchildren that they actually thought it was a party line they said wow how cool to have a party on the phone. UGH

It sadden me to think what this generation is missing, fun today is how much you can spend on them, or what electronic device can keep them occupied.

I laugh when I go into a bathroom and you don’t even have to flush a toilet anymore or turn on a faucet. I hate to ask what’s next. Kids today half of them can’t tell time on a clock, handwrite, or tie their shoes. They have to wear a helmet and knee and elbow pads to ride a bike. And it just makes me nuts every time I hear well it’s not politically correct. All I know I and my brothers and friends and all the kids of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s survived and are here today to talk about this. I hope you all enjoy my blog please leave comments.record record player gerber_doll tiny tears

Italian Quotes


Italian families stick together through thick and thin. We Fight and love so intensely, but in the end we will always be family. It’s not uncommon for families to live together even after the children are married with families of their own. With family acting as such an integral part of every day life, no wonder there are so many wonderful Italian quotes about family. So what is your favorite family quote?
Things you heard when you where growing up and have been etched in your mind for life and you know will be passed down to your children. Come on and share..

Ok Here are a few:

Amor di madre, amore senza limiti…..A mother’s love has no limits. 

Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire…..-
No matter where you go or turn, you will always end up at home.
Il sangue non e acqua.
Blood is not water. Or Blood is thicker than water. Or, family comes first no matter what.

Per un orecchio entra e per l’atro esce.
In one ear and out the other.

Giovane ozioso, vecchio bisognoso.
If you’re lazy when you’re young, you’ll be poor when you’re old.

Chi tova un amico trova un tesoro. : He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.

A tavola non si invecchia.
At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.

: Casa mia, casa mia
Home sweet home.

Dio benedici questa casa.
God bless this house

Ogni brutto figghio pe’la mamma pare nu giglio.
Every ugly child looks like a lily to his mother.

Fur Slipper Gang of Chicago


A friend of mine told me this story the other day and found it so cool. He  can remember his mother telling him a story about when she was about eight or ten years old (she was born in 1929) that she lived in an apartment building with her family that also had a bank robbing gang living in the building. (his mother and his aunt were paid $5 to keep their mouths shut. lol ) They were called the Fur Slipper Gang because they would have a woman dress up as an old lady with slippers. She would rob the bank while the other gang member(s) stayed in the getaway car. His mother told him they got caught when the police were canvassing the neighborhood and knocked on the robbers apartment door and the woman who answered the door was still wearing the slippers from when she dressed up as an old lady to rob the bank.  Has anyone else ever heard of them? The lived at 624 May St. And when I looked up the 1940 Census records sure enough I found them. They where arrested on Feb. 4 1940. Five members of the “fur slipper gang” were indicted (one was a woman). They robbed over a hundred banks.

Italain Superstitions Malocchio

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Did you know that the Italian culture has so many superstitious beliefs? Some superstitions are so prevalent, so ingrained in the culture, that they dictate
even the smallest details of everyday life. I can vouch for this because I’m
from an Italian Family and my Grandparents and my aunts and uncles, and many family friends were constantly warning us of these things we must do or not do as I was growing up.

Here’s are some of the most common superstitions :


The curse of the evil eye. Anyone can cast the evil eye intentionally or accidentally. All it to pay someone a compliment while feeling jealous or envious. My Grandmother use to give the TV set the evil eye if someone was doing something she didn’t like. She was adorable. The symptoms of malocchio curse can be moderate
to severe including migraine headaches, to fatigue and dizziness, or a soccer
team losing four straight games, and so on and so forth. The remedy for the evil eye involves a special ceremony performed by a grandmother or mother or aunt who has be taught the ancient ritual to dispel the evil eye.
They drip olive oil into a bowl of water. If the oil beads in a circle around the perimeter of a bowl, she must pray to a female saint for the cure. If the oil beads in a row through the center, they must pray to a male saint.


If a bird should fly into your home, be very afraid, for this is a sure sign of death.


Bread is most revered in Italy. When baking bread, always make the sign of the cross over the dough before baking.  And when taking the bread out of the oven, never let the bread slide upside down when removing it from the baking pans. This is considered disrespectful to the body of Christ. When you go to visit someone’s home for the first time, take a loaf of bread, it insures they never go hungry.  Also no matter how stale the bread is, it  must never be thrown away without kissing it first.

Selling your home:

When Italians want to sell their home, for good luck, they bury a small statue of Saint Joseph upside down facing towards the home.

Itchy Nose:

When your nose itches, it means your going to either kiss a fool or a fool is going to kiss you.

Pregancy Cravings:

Cravings, WHAT EVER YOU DODON’T TOUCH YOURSELF! Why? Because if you don’t have what you’re craving and touch yourself, your baby will be born with a birth mark in the same place you touch yourself and with the shape of your craving. Don’t believe me? My son has a birth mark of a steak on his back. REALLY he does.


Italian, we consider lucky numbers to be 10, 25, and 7. There are some numbers we consider unlucky, like 17, 90, and 48. Wednesday the 13th and Friday the 17th are unlucky days during the month. The number 90 is a scary number (this is from Sicily).

Le Corna or Red Hot Pepper:

In southern Italy, we have some objects that give us good luck, like a red hot pepper and “le corna.” The symbol for “le corna” is a hand with only two fingers pointing down. When a baby is born, we put a good luck object like these under the mattress of the baby’s crib to keep away bad luck. But “le corna” has a different meaning when the two fingers are pointing up. That means your wife or your husband is cheating on you!


Itchy Hand:

An old superstition about itching hands says that money is either coming or going according to which hand? If it is the left yoy receive money, if it is  the right you pay out?

Saint Christopher Medal:

A Saint Christopher medal can be found in a Italians car, he is the patron saint of motorists, he allegedly protect his fellow driver.

Visting Family and Friends:

Never ever go to anyones house empty handed, always, always bring something, to show your repect and graitude for them welcoming you into their homes.

I hope you all enjoy these. Looking back on all these makes me smile, and I thank the lord everyday that I was born Italian and brought up with such a wonderful loving Italian Family.  And even thought many have passed on who taught these superstitions, they will always be passed down from generation to generation. Because that is the Italian way. Viva Italia!!!!!!


Italian War Orphans

Italian War Orphans:
With the war casualties and even larger numbers of pows meant that many Italian children were left with only their mother to support them or on their own. And with a collapsing economy this was very difficult. When the fighting reached Italy, villages and cities were devestated all the way up the peninsula. Many children were killed or wounded and in many cases lost both parents. Large numbers of children were displaced as well as many orphaned. We have very few details on the dimensions of the problem or the measures taken by Italian authorities to deal with it at this time. In many cases this meant children who had lost their fathers and the mothers were unable to support them. Many were taken care of by extended Italian families. But larger numbers of children were on their own or with mothers who could not support them. This was a horrific time for these children, to be left homeless and alone.

Finding Dave’s Family


I had the honor of being able to help out my dear friend Dave who was given up at birth.  Dave was adopted by a wonderful family but always had the yearning to know who his birth parents were.  He came to me one day and asked if I could help him locate his family, Of course I said yes, and that’s when my adventure started. He had his mother and fathers names, so I started my search there. He had heard that he had 4 brothers. I found his father within hours, and learned that he had justed passed away a few years before, and that his father had one brother who was also deceased and a cousin who also was deceased. I did learn he came from a prominent family in Skokie, Il.

His mothers research took me a lot longer to find all the pieces to this puzzle, because womens names change through marriages. Not like in European countries where the women keep their given name.

I went to a genealolgy conference and met Jeanne Larzalere Bloom who specialized in orphans and abandon children. We discussed Dave’s situation and she advised me to get divorce records if they were divorced.

I did find out that his parent divorced in the 1950′s so I ordered the divorce records from the County Clerks office and waited about 2 weeks till they came in. I finally got the call they where there. So I went down town and started going over the divorce records, and they were very sad and hard to read. There was alot of abuse, but I learned from the records that he had a sister, no brothers where listed. I also found his grandmothers name and a aunts name. So I copied all the records and gave a call to fill him in on what I had learned.

Next I started with his grandmothers name and found the obituary, which listed his mothers current name and the town she lived in and a brother and his 2 sisters. His older brother and sister both had passed away. Ugh But he did have a living sister, Yeah. The reason why the brother and younger sister was not listed in the divorce records where because they had different fathers.

So my research went back to his mother, and I found out she also had passed away a few years back, so all I had was his younger sister. It was heart breaking to have to call him and tell him they were all deceased except his younger sister.

So then I started on his deceased brother and found his wife and childrens name.So we contacted her and she told me that his younger sister was in a group home with Autism, she gave me the group home name and phone number. I called Dave back that evening and told him my finally good news he was very excited and couldn’t wait to meet his sister.  So the next day Dave called the group home and he explained the situation. The owners of the group home were so happy to know that she had a brother. And so  we set up a date when Dave could meet  his little sister for the first time. It was so exciting for him, he said he always wanted a little sister.

The picture above is Dave and His Little sister.

Dave keeps in close contact with his little sister and hopes to have her move to Chicago in the near furture.

Never think that there is a dead end, keep asking question, the answers are out there.

Today at FGS

Today was a great day at FGS. I have met so many nice people, who are so willing to help you in your quest.  I will be writing a course for National Institute For Genealogical Studies, on Land, notarial, and adoptions.  And will be talking to to write several articles on Italian Orphans.  I’am so excited.  It’s going to be a busy rest of the year.  Yeah

I also had the honnor of seeing Dr. John Phillip Colletta today twice, wow is he a dynamic speaker. He is so wity and funny, one of the best speakers I’ve seen on top of being Italian. He had everyone  at the luncheon laughing so hard, he really can tell a great story. I hope someday to be half the speaker he is, he truely loves what he does and it surely comes across.

I also had the honnor of seeing Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, she  is another great speaker. She lectures on Orphan, abanden children. I have learned so many great things from her. That will be my next blog so stay tuned.




Welcome to Italian Family Genealogy

family tree1This is my first post to my website.  I became intrested in Genealogy several years ago when I was looking for my Grandfathers birth record who was an orphan. I remember the day that I found his birth record, I was so excited, but couldn’t read it, ugh. But there happen to be a women who was at the family history center who could read it. It was bitter sweet. I remember going home and sitting in my back yard wondering why, Why did his mother abanden him in a strangers front yard. Who was she, what happen to bring her to the decision she made.  And most of all I thought who am I. I’m still searching, I had my uncle take a DNA test, in hopes maybe I will get the answer. In the last couple weeks I have gotten 2 hits on his DNA match, it’s could be a break threw, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Today I’m at the FGS Convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I attended my first Genealogy Bloggers  dinner tonight, it was very enlighting to all the new programs the Family History Centers are coming out with this year and in 2014.  They are a wonderful organization with so many wonderful people that are so willing to help you out.

This is going to be a great week, so many seminars to go to and looking forward to all the great speakers, and making lots of new friends.

Right now I’m going to watch Who Do You Think You are, I’m so glad they brought the show back.

I look forward to posting my adventures in my Italian research and sharing my findings with you all.