Two young people met in New Orleans. They became friends, over time fell in love, and got married. What are the chances that this couple, who met randomly in the “Big Easy,” have Italian roots from the same tiny island off the coast of Sicily? Are their two families connected?
On the January 13, 2015 episode (S2 E1) of “Genealogy Roadshow,” ORIGINS ITALY Founder Mary M. Tedesco, a Roadshow Host, revealed a family connection between the Italian-American couple, Domenic and Katie (née Spizale, originally Speziale) Giardina, of New Orleans, LA. As it turned out, members of the Giardina and Speziale families immigrated to the USA together; shared some civil record witnesses back in Ustica; and even lived near each other in Ustica!
Research of the Giardina and Speziale families began in New Orleans. An 1883 passenger manifest revealed some familiar surnames — Speziale and Picone (a maternal line of Domenic Giardina). Italian genealogical research confirmed that members of both families were on the ship to America together, making the 1883 passenger manifest genealogical gold! But research did not stop there. Attention to detail and thinking outside the box are of the utmost importance when conducting family history research, which is exactly what the “Genealogy Roadshow” research team did.
Historically, at least two witnesses were needed to register an Italian civil birth, marriage or death. Careful examination of Italian records revealed that a man named Michelangelo Caravella was a witness on the records of both sides of the family, thus connecting Domenic’s and Katie’s families in Ustica.
In addition to connecting the Giardina and Speziale families on the ship to America and through Michalangelo Caravella in Ustica, the records also reveal that the families lived less than 500 meters apart in Ustica before they came to America. Ustica is quite a small island, so it’s entirely possible the families knew each other before immigrating to America. At the very least, Michalangelo Caravella was probably a mutual friend or acquaintance of both families, and a timeless link back to Ustica. Moral of the story – don’t overlook any name or detail when conducting genealogical research. Connections are found in the most unexpected places!
Katie and Domenic – you’re “A Match Made in Ustica!”
Watch “Genealogy Roadshow” Season 2, Episode 1 @ PBS.
Learn more about “Tracing your Italian Ancestors.”
-Mary M. Tedesco, ORIGINS ITALY.
Photo: Pat Garin