Thursday, February 17, 2011

Progen Study Group -- Month 4, Part 1 (Research Plan -- Italian Great-grandfather)

We didn't have an assignment in December due to the holidays, so I am jumping straight to month 4 for this blog post.  The January assignment was to read Chapter 14 in the Professional Genealogy text book - Problem Analysis and Research Plans by Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL, FASG - and then develop our own research plan.

The chapter discusses preliminary and detailed analyses. Preliminary analysis aids a genealogist in deciding whether a job proposal by a potential client is a good fit. Among the list of things to consider is one's level of expertise in the area required to complete the project.  On the other hand, the detailed analysis regards the creation of a research plan:  what are the goals of the client; what questions need answers; what is known by the client; what records are available etc...

For my research plan assignment, I did a preliminary analysis and detailed plan on my Italian great-grandfather, Pasquale Ursino.  My question was: When was my Italian great-grandfather, Pasquale Ursino, born?

This plan was rather long, so this post will be a series.

Research Plan -- Part 1


According to my grandmother, my great-grandmother, Francesca Scuderi of Catania, Sicily, had a difficult childhood with a stepmother who was abusive. At age 15, in order to escape her unhappy home, she married a fisherman named Pietro Napoli. Unfortunately, her husband was also abusive. They had three children together before she “escaped” her unhappy marriage.

Francesca worked as a laundry-woman for Pasquale Ursino. He was affluent for Sicilian society at the time, owning many citrus orchards. One day, my great-grandmother showed up for work with a black eye, which deeply angered him. According to my grandmother, her father, Pasquale, was a true gentleman with a great sense of honor and chivalry. He dashed out of the house to seek out Francesca’s husband, Pietro, and defend her honor. When he spotted Pietro, he grabbed hold of him and dished out a bit of his own medicine, warning Pietro that Francesca better not appear in his home battered ever again.
Stay tuned for the next installment and the process for finding Pasquale's birth date.
Pasquale Ursino -- my great-grandfather from Catania, Sicily, Italy
Pasquale Ursino was twice-widowed with children from both marriages. My grandmother said he raised them himself. This is very telling of the kind of man he was because most widowed men of his time would have depended on female relatives or a boarding school (often an orphanage). Francesca, on the other hand, was married but very unhappy. Pasquale and Francesca fell in love with each other but also needed each other. She needed a way out of her marriage with a man’s protection, and he needed help with his children.

Soon after the altercation between Pasquale and Pietro, Francesca left her husband to live with Pasquale. They had four children together, and my grandmother was the youngest. The problem was that Pasquale and Francesca were never able to marry because the Catholic Church did not allow divorce. Pasquale hoped until his dying day that Pietro would die before him so he could make an honest woman of Francesca. It did not happen as he hoped.

Illegitimate children and “living in sin” were no small matter for Sicilian society in those days. In order to protect their children from disdain, Pasquale paid off Francesca’s legal husband, Pietro, so he would declare each child as his own. All four of Pasquale’s children carried the surname of Francesca’s husband – Napoli – on their birth certificates.

My grandmother, being an old-fashioned Sicilian woman, found this history very embarrassing. She carried the true identity of her father with her for years before divulging the truth to her children – my mother included. For this reason, although we know her father’s name and have some information about him, many details are lacking, like date of birth, death, and where he was buried when he died. I believe my grandmother never brought her children to her father’s grave because she would have had to explain why his last name was different from hers. By the time she told her children the truth, his grave was long forgotten. In fact, she may no longer have remembered where to find it.

My mother had pictures of her grandfather, Pasquale, but he had died before her birth and she was unable to ask him any questions. She did know her grandmother well, but Francesca never spoke of the details of her marital situation. My mother learned the truth many years after her grandmother had died. My mother did learn from my grandmother’s brother, her Uncle Salvatore, that until he went to middle-school, he had always believed his name to be “Salvatore Ursino.” He found out his birth certificate surname was Napoli when, on the first day of 6th grade, the teacher did roll call and called out a name he did not recognize. The teacher told him “Napoli” was his name, and he went home crying, where he was finally told the truth by his parents. My grandmother hated being a Napoli her whole life, but she had no choice but to carry this surname until she died (note: Italian women do not change their names when they marry).



  1. What an interesting story! It sounds like you have a lot of researching to do on this line.


  2. We didn't have an assignment in December due to the holidays, so I am jumping straight to month 4 for this blog post.

    pt 141
    melanotan 2