Family History Summary Narrative

Dave’s side, paternal - The Christiano Name

Our Christiano family comes from the Province of Calabria in southern Italy. Almost all of them are from the very small town of Carpanzano, about 30 kM south-southeast of Cosenza on the ridge of the Appenines. Immigration was at its peak in the US, and for us too between 1900 and 1910. Grandfather Salvatore Cristiano came to America in 1908. Although he entered the US with his original surname, he shortly applied for naturalization. It was only after he gained that status in 1913 that he changed his name to Christiano. There does not seem to be any kind of legal procedure, he simply began spelling it the “American” way. He also changed his own name from Salvatore to Sam. We’re not sure but it seems he felt strongly about leaving certain things in Italy when he came to the new world. The Cristianos appear to have been farm workers (contadini) back in the old country.

Like many Carpazanese, Salvatore followed them to upstate New York. His first place of record was in “Torrey Park,” in Geneva, NY. This mostly Italian area was established by earlier Italian immigrants who knew how difficult it was for newcomers in America. His residence in 1910 was as a roomer in Syracuse. He finally and settled in the town of Waterloo. There he met his future wife.

Dave’s side, paternal - The Sferlazza Name

Salvatore’s wife to be was Antonina Sferlazza. The Sferlazza family's roots are in the town of Lercara Friddi, in the province of Palermo, Sicily. Some of the Sferlazza family and the Vento family (her mother's name was Concettta Vento) first emigrated from Sicily to Brazil around 1895. Anna (her common name) was born in or near Sao Paulo in 1898. Sometime between 1900-3 the family moved back to Sicily. Her father was Pietro Sferlazza who came to the US in 1903 and settled in Geneseo, New York. Most of the family followed in 1904 but for some reason Anna and her younger sister Maria Angelica did not - we do not know why. (There were several “NY Passenger Lists” for Atlantic crossings for Concetta and her children but most of them had the names crossed out. The last entry, with no cross-outs, did not include the two daughters. Pietro was naturalized in 1906 and received a US Passport in 1907. On the passport application he included his two daughters Antonina and Maria Angelica but not his wife. Perhaps he returned to Sicily to bring the two girls to America, which would explain why neither of them have any record of immigration at Ellis Island (since they were named on Pietro's Passport - a later census record for Anna statyes her citizenship was "through father."). Unfortunately Pietro died at an early age; Anna and the other children were raised by Concetta (Aunt Jennie) who moved them to Waterloo.

Many of the Sferlazzas who came to America also changed their name; the alternate is Sperlazza. Since a written “f” and a “p” look very similar I speculate the this caused the “split.” Salvatore and Anna divorced in 1926.Anna remarried Nicholas Del Gotto in 1934. We have a record of Anna’s Social Security Application from 1936 in Fulton, NY but no record of her living there. The Del Gottos later lived in Albany, NY for several years. During the war, their Albany address was used by all three of her sons who served in the military. Anna ended up in California at the State Hospital in Camarillo where she died in 1964. Nicholas remarried and died in Albany.

Dave’s father Sam (originally Santo or perhaps Sando, maybe even Santino) and two brothers had tough times - a fractured family in the middle of the great depression. Sam was a small but wiry athlete, having played varsity football for Waterloo High before dropping out of school to put food on the table. He trapped muskrats in what is today the Montezuma National Wildlife refuge. He left home sometime in the 30’s heading west as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked in Washington state helping build civil works projects. In the late 30's he followed many Waterloo Italians to North Adams, Massachusetts where native hydropower was powering a large woolen mill industry. (Waterloo also had a woolen mill where we know Anna was employed.) Nine days after Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the US Army and headed for the Pacific. He became an artillery mechanic (Tec 5, 155mm guns) and was stationed in the Pacific northwest and in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. While he apparently never saw combat he did have some good winter stories about Alaska and being marooned, having only Harvard Beets and corned beef hash to eat for months. (He never got over it and could never ever eat them again.) After his discharge he returned to North Adams. He decided he wanted a job with a utility company and told me he went to the Northern Berkshire Gas Company employment office every day for months where the manager told him he was so sick of seeing him he would give him a job. Apparently he also learned the electrician trade while there.

Dave’s mother Sophie (Zofia) also dropped out of high school but went to a nursing school in Albany, NY for a time, and also ended up working as a “nanny” for well-to-do family in North Adams. (She was double counted in the 1940 census!) They were married in 1946 in Adams. Dave was born in North Adams in 1949. Shortly after, they all moved to booming Long Island, New York where they briefly stayed with Aunt Jo (Sferlazza) Tuttle and family in Queens. They bought a Levitt home in Hicksville in 1950 for $7,990.

Dave’s side, paternal - The Hajdas Name

Dave’s mother’s side is from what is Poland today. That country (like Sicily in more distant times) found itself in between unfriendly neighbors all too frequently. His grandfather Jan (John) was born not far away in Dubrowa. This area in southwestern Poland was called Galacia, a part of the Austria-Hungary Empire back then. He immigrated in 1911 and worked as a spinner and later a baker.

Dave’s side, fraternal - mother

Her mother’s family (Krupa) is from Wieopole, a tiny village about 45 kM east-northeast of Krakow. She immigrated in 1912 and initially settled in Thompsonville, Connecticut.

They both moved to Adams, Massachusetts where they married in 1915.

Uncovering family history from this part of Europe is much more difficult than Italy where strict record keeping was prescribed back in Roman time. The continuous strife in Eastern Europe between 1910 and 1950 makes for a history that most of the inhabitants would rather forget, making genealogy research challenging.

Mafia Connection?

I suppose most Italian families (especially with Sicilian roots) wonder if anyone in the family was a mafioso. In our case, it seems so, although indirectly. Pietro Sferlazza’s wife was Concetta Vento. Her parents were Giovanni Vento and Domenica Zagone. (While family records list her surname as Zagona, extensive research on Italian surnames has me convinced that it is Zagone. The pronounciation would be the same and one finds no Zagonas in Italian records, but lots of Zagones. And these Zagones are very common in Caccamo where Domenica is supposedly from.) I’ve always been intrigued with finding information about Domenica who is thought to have died during childbirth in Brazil. While searching immigration records for the name Zagone, I came across a Mariano Zagane. This person was traveling to Geneseo, NY with four others. The record had a notation from an other user that the last name should be Zagone. This person happened to be an organized crime historian who pointed me to newspaper accounts of Mariano who was a Mafia capo (or perhaps mini-boss) in Chicago in the very early 1900s. He was eventually shot and killed (on the third try) in 1909. The story can be found here. He confirmed that the correct spelling of the name is Zagone. (I subsequently found many Lercara records including Domenica's marrriage to Giovanno Vento, all with the “e.”

Mary’s side - The O'Buckley Name

Mary’s father was Donal O’Buckley. The Irish were also in the renaming business as the original family name was Buckley.

The other Name

(Mary has been assigned to write this...)


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