When my sister and I began looking into our roots years ago, we were given information by various family members. Someone–perhaps it was our grandmother or one of her brothers–gave us the name of our great great grandparents: Pasquale Arcuri and his wife, “Nugenzie”.
I had not yet studied the Italian language or visited Italy, but Nugenzie seemed a strange and unlikely name for an Italian great-great-grandmother. However nothing more came to light on that branch of the family, and we turned our attention to other roots and branches.
Recently, because I’ll be in Calabria this year, I hired Roots in the Boot to research my Italian ancestors. In the course of that research, the names of these same great-great grandparents were found: Pasquale Arcuri and Maria Innocenza Perri.
You know how pronunciation and spelling become scrambled between languages? I’m betting that ‘Innocenza’ morphed as the double “N” caused the “I” to be all but dropped, and that “C”–pronounced like “Ch” because it is followed by an ‘e’–also sounded to someone’s ear like a soft “G”, so that’s what was written down. However when my sister and I read it, we thought it was a hard “G” and couldn’t make any sense of Nugenzie. Innocenza.
I wish I had a photograph of her. Her son was born in 1846, and she died before he married in 1900.
Now I have hired Roots in the Boot to follow up with more research on the Arcuri family line, and perhaps I’ll discover distant cousins still in Italy who can tell me more about Maria Innocenza Perri. There are several Perri names listed in the current Italian White Pages in Bianchi, where her son was born.
Readers, have you found mixed up Italian names in your family research?
I have German ancestors named Bushong. They were from the Alcase region, so there was a strong French influence, and evidently the name originally was Beauchamps.
Interesting! I have also heard that Gualtieri is a variant of Walters–maybe from the Normans who went to southern Italy? I’ll bet we’d all find some interesting “name history” if we could trace it back.
Good luck. I only went back to my great grandparents as I became more interested in finding living relatives. We have met quite a few cousins from my father’s family.
Did you have any particularly good or bad experiences in meeting the living relatives, Gil?
One of my paternal grandfather’s siblings, a brother, never came to the USA and remained in the Naples area. Also, my paternal grandmother’s brother remained in Naples. The family kept in touch through the years generation after generation. My grandparents came to NYC before WWI and the time frame wasn’t so bad.
My great-grandparents came to the US in 1900 and both died before I was born. Connections with relatives in Italy were lost, so I am essentially contacting strangers to find living family members. But in the strange way of things, it’s working!
Best of luck in your hunt.
Sandy, Thanks for your continuing exploration of our family history. I remember making fun you and Marlie for your “church and graveyard” vacations and tours! Now I’m having fun and enjoying the benefit of your years of hard work. I love my sisties! ;)
Thanks, Glenn–It’s fun for us, and I’m looking forward to seeing Scigliano with you in a few weeks!
Good work, Sherlock. I think you’ve got it!
Sandy, I am so very excited for you! Fascinating, I am enjoying your research
Thanks, Cara! Stay tuned. I’m hoping our visit to Calabria turns up more family history finds.
Hello! As Italian is my language I can confirm that Innocenza, pronounced in a southern dialect, can sound like Nugenzie. Also, do you know that there’s a famous actress in Italy with the surname Arcuri? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuela_Arcuri
Good luck with your research!
Thank you, Sara! I appreciate knowing I am on the right track in my thinking, as I’m not very familiar with the southern dialect. And now I’ll check out Ms. Arcuri.