A Tale of Two Families
by Bob Sorrentino
My two Italian families come from vastly different backgrounds, and like most first generation Italians, my parents would not have met in Italy. My dad’s family came from Naples and my mom’s family from Toritto. I have done extensive research on both families and have had my share of roadblocks and amazing finds.
As I stated above, mom’s family was from Toritto in Puglia. One thing great about Puglia, is that there is an abundance of records online on the Antenati. For the longest time, I did not think I would find my ancestors from Toritto, as I could not find my grandparents death certificates from NYC. Finally, one day, I mentioned this to my mom and she said, “I have copies”.
That opened up a lot of doors from me and as a result, I was able to find over 120 records from Toritto and Acquaviva della Fonte and trace the family back five generations to the mid 1750’s.
As I was going through the records I found that most of the men were farmers, as were many of the women, with a few seamstresses every now and then. I was finally rewarded with one great great great grandfather who was a forest ranger. Hooray!
When my grandparents came to the US, they left there oldest son Giovanni in the care of his grandparents Francesco and Maria Nicoletti. Francesco had a cow and would walk door to door with his grandson and deliver fresh milk, milking the cow on your doorstep! Uncle Giovanni stayed in Italy until the late 1940’s and only made it to America, by way of Canada, around 1954. As a result we have a great picture of life in our home town through interviews with my cousins, and a taped interview with Uncle Giovanni did with my cousin in Barese.
Dad’s father comes from Naples gentry, in that they were mostly lawyers, and even a pharmacist. As a result, most of the records show them being referred to as Don or Donna. I recently learned that my great grandfather Achille Sorrentino was a Supreme Court Justice in Naples in the early 20th century and his obituary lists him with the title of Marquis.
Nicola Piromallo c 1912
Here is where it get’s really interesting. As a boy, my mom would show me a card from my great grandfather Nicola Piromallo, with a crest and below his name dei duchi di Capracotta ( from the dukes of Capracotta ). So I always suspected some nobility. As I researched more I found that his grand parents were Count Giacomo Piromallo from Montebello and Duchess Beatrice Capece Piscicelli from Capracotta. While I have a large gap, I do know that the Piromallo family come from Spain in the 1500’s and was able to trace Capece Piscicelli back to around 1100 AD.
During my research, I found that Nicola Piromallo, married Emilia Caracciolo. I had never heard that surname before, so I asked one of my cousins. She confirmed that Emilia was our great grandmother. Well…. Emilia descends from one of the most noble families in Naples going back to 950 AD. Her grandparents were Prince Luigi Caracciolo di Torchiarolo and Marquesa Costanza Soluzzo.
But that is not all, through the Caracciolo links, I found that I am a direct descendant of most of the royal families in Europe, such as, Capet, Valois, Aragon, Castile and Leon, Plantagenet and many others. I have also found direct lines to at least 23 saints and 2 popes. I never thought that I would ever find anything like this, and being a history buff it is fun to read about these people with a new perspective.
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