Roma/Romani/Rom/Zingari. I don’t know the proper term used in Italy. As the title says, this is a challenge, especially because it is still fresh and is something that came into my genealogy world a few days ago. Did my second great grandmother Filomena Napolitano from Nola, Italy have Romani relatives in her immediate family?
If you read my blog or follow it, you may have seen that over the past couple of weeks I have made surname lists for each of the regions in Europe my ancestors came from. I had shared my Campanian list far and wide and by Wednesday of this week the manager of a Romani DNA project had seen my list and informed me that a handful of names in my tree were considered to be of Romani origin.
Some were Marotta, Barbarino, Petillo, and a few others. I was intrigued because Filomena Napolitano’s grandmother was named Rosa Marotta, and I remembered I had recently discovered Rosa’s father’s professions and that they “might” signal professions that were sometimes reserved for Romani in Europe. After that I recalled Filomena’s father was a smith and someone married someone related to a gravedigger.
These recent familial discoveries were due to the addition of Nola records on that glorious website for Italian researchers: Antenati.
Then, distant cousin V.C. (7th cousin), also a fellow Nola researcher of our shared Campania lines, who may also share Ferraro ancestry back there in Caserta, brought some very compelling arguments to this mystery. He had actually been researching the Romani possibility before I heard from the manager of the Romani DNA project. V.C. told me someone in his family had the sopranome or nickname Zingara. He has been a huge help.
Therefore, for this “challenge” post I am going to present several avenues I have already researched and with this week’s information I should further research in consideration of proving, disproving, or if you are of the nature to accept without more research, that Filomena’s father brought Romani roots to her stock.
I know nothing about Romani genealogy! I am just going to look at what the records concerning Filomena’s father’s family tell me. It is a challenge, especially because Nola is so large and in the early 1800s had many nationalities living there.
1. Filomena’s father was a smith. Maybe he is just a smith and it doesn’t mean anything
Filomena’s father Carmine Napolitano was a smith, which is sometimes considered a Romani profession. He and his wives and children lived at Strada Dell’Arco in Nola.
His father Antonio, and brothers Felice and Paolino were all tailors.
Father Antonio lived at Strada dell’Arco throughout most of the records I have located so far and died there in 1842. However in 1835 he lived at Vico Secondo del Carmine. Antonio could also write his own name legibly on records.
Brother Felice resided at Strada dell’Carmine at the time of his marriage in 1826.
Brother Paolino lived at Strada Sant’Antonio at the time of his marriage in 1838. Paolino could sign his name legibly on records.
So where did Carmine learn to smith?
For over a thousand years the Festa dei Gigli has been held in Nola. The celebration uses a traditional profession of smith.
What about Antonio’s other sibling Maria Napolitano? I should look at her family as well to see where she lived and what profession was in her husband’s family.
2. Filomena’s paternal great grandfather Antonio Marotta.
My fourth great grandmother was named Rosa Marotta, wife of Antonio Napolitano. I was informed on Wednesday that Marotta can be considered a surname of Romani origin. Rosa’s father Antonio Marotta died in 1829 at the age of 92 and unfortunately nobody could recall the name of his mother. At the time of his death Antonio was a horse cart driver. However, in 1821, when he was named on his daughter’s death record, he had the profession of trash collector.* Antonio died at Strada Sant’Anna but had previously appeared on records as living at Strada Dell’Arco.
Can I find his siblings in the town?
What about Rosa’s Marotta’s mother Giulia Notaro? Where was she born and does she have family in the town? I should research the Notaros.
*Sometimes Romani in Europe were given the menial jobs for the town. Remember that, it may come in handy in another place in this post.
Maybe his professions mean nothing.
3. One of Filomena’s great grandmothers was a Criscuolo. Some of the Criscuolo were tinsmiths.
My 5th great grandmother was named Prudenza Criscuolo. She was married to Felice Napolitano. Felice’s death isn’t in the town civil records and should have been there because he died in 1809. There was a note on a marriage record I found that he died at the time of an epidemic in the town and there was no official record of his death anywhere. A notary had four men swear out that he did on April 22, 1809. Hmmmm…All I know is that he was the son of Silvestro and Teresa Trocciola.
Prudenza Criscuolo died in 1822 at Strada di Nuova in Nola. She had a brother named Michele Criscuolo. He was a butcher. His grandchildren lived at Strada Dell’Arco at the same time as Carmine Napolitano and his family. The Criscuolos living at Strada Dell’Arco were cousins to Filomena Napolitano. Some of the Criscuolos appear in the records of Nola with professions of tinsmiths and instrument makers.
A branch of the Criscuolo took their tinsmithery to Arienzo, Caserta and eventually to a town in the province of Avellino where again the professions of tinsmith appear.
4. The families of the other spouses of my direct Napolitano ancestors in Nola and a look at their professions
Filomena Napolitano’s father Carmine had a first wife. She was named Giuseppa Manna. Giuseppa Manna’s family lived on Strada Dell’Arco and her father Berardino was a hauler. As I have previously written a lot about Filomena’s mother, you can read here that her mother’s father was a type of property owner in Sirico.
What can the rest of the Mannas in Nola tell me?
Filomena Napolitano’s grandfather Antonio re-married after Rosa Marotta passed away. His second wife was named Angela Rosa Tortora and he married her when he was 55. Her father Tomasso was a gravedigger. Some of Angela’s brothers were also gravediggers.* One brother was a priest.
5. Addresses of my ancestors and their relations in more undiscovered Nola records
Does living at Strada Dell’Arco mean anything here? Carmine Napolitano’s brothers moved out of this neighborhood. But it seemed to be the neighborhood of his parents and his paternal grandparents including the Criscuolos. By the way I could find no present-day Arch Street in Nola.
What about the other Marottas? There were several other horse cart drivers with that surname I should research. Also, some of the death records describe the relationship to the deceased for everyone mentioned on the them. It also gives addresses. I think examining death records in Nola for other collateral family could help solve a bit of the challenge.
6. The surname Napolitano
I learned something new this week about Roma with basic online searches. In Southern Italy the Roma took surnames after the geographic regions in which they settled. Such surnames are: Abruzzese, Molisani, Napolitano, Cilentani, Salentini, Siciliano, Lucano, Pugliese, and Calabrese, etc. It can be accepted that way back in the past, Filomena Napolitano had a male ancestor that was at one point a Romani that settled in the Naples region, right?
Some other things to ponder while looking at my other suspected Romani surnames in Campania –
One of the surnames that is a known as a Romani surname in the U.K. is Smith. I was informed that the surname Ferraro (because it means smith) is a known Romani surname in Italy. Okay.
About the surname Barbarino in my tree – Vito Barbarino was my 7th great grandfather on two different lines. See: If Vito Barbarino and Angela Nicolino Are In Your Tree Twice It Means…Uh Oh.
Vito Barbarino was from Roccarainola and lived there in the 1600s. He moved his immediate family to San Felice a Cancello in the 1600s. That the family was mobile and it is a known Romani surname “might” mean something.
Petillo is also a surname in my Sirico ancestry on Filomena’s mother’s side. My 5th great grandmother was named Paolina Petillo – married to Michele di Conza. She appears in my Sirico ancestry but she was from a place called San Valentino di Sarno in Salerno. That family moved too. I have had no luck finding other members of the Di Conza – Petillo family in the Salerno records. Nor do I know which San Valentino in Salerno it is. Hmmm… “Might” that mean anything? “Might” it mean nothing?
Petillo also appears way back in my San Felice a Cancello ancestry.
How I wish I was not the only one of my siblings to take a DNA test…because really that may solve part of this challenge.