"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."

Apr22nd2018

Our Lady of the Angels Fire

by  Phyllis Zeck

On December 1, 1958 a fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic grade school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.  92 children and 3 nuns were killed. The fire started in the basement and spread quickly through the school reaching many combustable substances which accelerated the fire. Jean Gallo, one of my mother’s best friends, had two children who survived this fire.

My mother had two close friends in high school who were sisters.  Their names were Jean & Teresa Spotts.  Teresa married August (Gus) Russo and they had two children, Barbara and Michael.  They lived near Berwyn.  Jean married Frank Ernest Gallo and they had four or five children; Frank Jr, Sam (Sandy), Anthony, and Theresa.  

My brother Tom told me the following details about mom’s close friends.  “Aunite Jean lived in the Del Principe apartment building at Harrison & Oakley while her husband served in the military. Everyone in the family loved Jean and Theresa’s father. The last time we saw the Gallo family was probably Christmas 1970.  We took 2 cars to their house in the south suburbs.  Rob & Janie took one car and mom took most of us kids in the other car.  Uncle Frank had a split level in a very nice neighborhood.  He stayed in the kitchen cooking Italian food the whole time.” Frank Sr passed away in 1973.

Tom continued, “Jean and Frank’s oldest son Frank Jr and his brother Sam survived the horrible school fire at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic school. Frank was 9 and in the 4th grade. Sam was 7 and in the 2nd grade. The boy’s father was a paratrooper in the Army Air Force and he had taught Frank Jr and Sam how to jump from trees and roofs, which is why Frank as able to survive the fire”.

If you click this link and scroll to Room 210 you will read the following:

Frankie was hospitalized overnight with minor burns and for observation of minor injuries. “A kid in my room jumped up out of his seat and hollered, ‘smoke.’ And smoke started coming through the cracks in the door. Our nun was writing on the blackboard. She told us to open the windows and start praying. Then everybody started running toward the windows because they couldn’t breathe. She just stood there, cool as a cucumber.” Frank said that after seeing several boys jump, he pulled himself onto the window sill, sat down and slid off, falling 25 feet to the hard ground below. “I felt like my back was broken. I crawled along a while and then got up. A lot of them couldn’t get up.” Firemen found Frankie sitting on a curb in shock, and had him taken to the hospital. Frank passed away on May 8, 2011.

Brother Sam Gallo age 7. Sam escaped without injury from his first floor classroom.  Neighbor Alice Tarsa took him into her home until his parents could get him. 

Tom also remembers “The church was rebuilt and is still open.  It’s 3 miles from the house where mom and Auntie Phyllis grew up.  The last Del Principe to live in the house was Uncle John and his wife Jeanette.  One of the most painful memories of Our Lady of Angels tragedy is that most of the children were taken directly to the county morgue which is where Jeanette worked. 65 children were taken directly to the morgue.”

Jean Spotts and Frank Gallo Gus RussoThe photo to the left is Auntie Jean and Frank Gallo’s wedding photo. My mother Corinne is second from the left.  Jean’s sister Teresa is between Jean and my mother.  I have two more photos of the bride and would love to forward these three photos, which are in excellent condition, to Jean or Theresa descendants.  Unfortunately we’ve lost touch with the Gallo and Russo families.  

 
 

Apr7th2018

Chicago Panhandling in 1914

by  Phyllis Zeck

del principe, ciolliI have a subscription to Newspapers.com and every so often I jump onto the website to search for articles about our Del Principe and Ciolli relatives.  I found a very interesting one page article from the Chicago Tribune dated Sunday April 19, 1914 which contained my great grandfather Pietro (Peter) Del Principe’s name. The photos are amazing however the author’s writing skills are certainly different from what we would read in todays news stories. There are 2 photos of the author playing Pietro’s hand organ.

You can read the whole article by clicking the pdf here Chicago Tribune Apr 19, 1914 however it can be hard on the old eyes. Zoom in to read the text.  

This is what the author wrote about my great grandfather. The section titled No One Cared for the Music says: “There are several reason why hand organ begging has its drawbacks. In the first place it is hard to get hold of a hand organ in Chicago. The art seems to be passé. Finally I got a tip through one of the big music houses that an Italian over at Harrison and Jefferson streets might have one of the instruments.  Peter del Principe had one, I found, and he promised to loan it to me. But when I went back the next day, dressed for the job (as a begger), there was nothing doing. He merely shook his head and muttered. It took a $20 deposit to get hold of a the battered affair. Afterward, when I asked Signor del Principe to explain, he grunted, “No lika da elo’s!”  

The author continued “I located in front of a saloon on the west side with a “please help the blind” sign pinned to my coat and placed my hat on the wheezy organ to catch the flow of gold.  Peeking out of the corner of one eye, I could see that I wasn’t “making good” at all. It seemed so easy for the pedestrians – men, women, and children, old and young – to pass me by. Every third note on the organ was flat, and the tune was of the “Don’t Turn Away, Madge, I am Still Your Friend” vintage. Just about when the thing was repeating the chorus for the fifth time the owner of the saloon came and tapped on the window. When I tried my luck farther up the street two Italians came along and one of them bent over me with a gutteral something about “Americano” butting in on somebody else’s trade.”

The rest of the article is interesting and I was able to create a visual for myself of what downtown Chicago was like in 1914 based on the photos and the authors narration. This was a fun find for me and I hope I can turn up more newspaper articles about our ancestors.

 
 

Jan3rd2018

Christmas Cards

by  Phyllis Zeck

Carl DiNella c 1960I love receiving Christmas cards. In the “old” days the cards started arriving the day after Thanksgiving and were hung across the window frames and lined the entrance doors to my house covering the doors like wallpaper.  My favorites were the cards that had glitter glued on them, they looked so elegant.

In the past 10-15 years the cards I receive have dwindled significantly. The religious tone of the season’s message was replaced by photos of family on some of the cards.  Digital cards have also become popular as they send messages of holiday cheer via music and magical animation.  

This year the beautiful card above was sent to me by my 3rd cousin Victoria Di Nella. Vickie lives about 2 miles from the house I was raised in. Her great grandmother is Bibbiana Celestina Ciolli.  My great grandmother Elvira and Bibbiana were sisters. I had the pleasure of meeting Vickie in 2011 at the home of another cousin, Allen Adezio. Allen and his wife Marie hosted a lunch for Vickie, myself and my sister Lori. You can read about our fun day by clicking here. If you click on the card to enlarge it, you will see the name DiNella in lower left corner. Inside the card was a lovely holiday message and text which says “The artist of this original watercolor was Carl DiNella. c 1960”.  

Me being me, I wanted to find out more about the card and Carl so I emailed Vickie.  Vickie explained that her father Emilio had an older brother named Carmello (Carl). Carl was an artist and Vickie took a photo of a watercolor Carl painted, then made it into the Christmas card. Carl has passed away but Vickie has created a wonderful way to keep his memory alive and share Carl’s talent. The painting to the right (click to enlarge) is a watercolor that Carl painted in 1952 which was the year that he visited Pescasseroli, Italy.

Below are a few more photos of watercolor paintings that Vickie has shared. Thank you Vickie, your uncle was very talented.

 

 
 

Dec16th2017

Digital Gifts from Francesco Gentile

by  Phyllis Zeck

The last 7 years of genealogy research have bought so many wonderful new relatives and friends into my life. Thanks to email, the internet and facebook I’ve been able to deepen these friendships and I  hope that one day I will meet these wonderful people in person. This year  Francesco Gentile was kind enough to send me some amazing images and a genealogy pedigree PDF chart that I want to share with family today.

Non Solo Pizza

Francesco and his wife Hala live in Pescasseroli Italy, the birth place of many of my ancestors. Hala and Francesco own a restaurant called Non Solo Pizza. The photo above was taken of Francesco and Hala by my cousin Joe Del Principe when Joe and his wife visited Italy in 2011. I have a few ancestors with the last name of Gentile in my family tree and although we are related, I have not yet found my genetic connection to Francesco. Antonio Gentile born in 1753 is my 4th great grandfather and his daughter Maria Domenica Gentile born in 1780 is my 3rd great grandmother.

The jpg images below are official birth records from our family church in Pescasseroli. I was thrilled to find among them for the first time a record of my maternal great grandmother Elvira!  Perhaps the reason that I have not been able to find the record in the past is that her full given name was Cesidia Elvira Tranquilla Ciolli which I did not know until Francesco generously supplied the record. 

I have tried to piece together the full given names and correct birth year for the children of Filomena Ursitti and Don Pietrantonio Amabile Ciolli (my great great grandparents) and have listed them below.  If you are researching your family trees I hope these records will clarify names and birth years.  Please email me if your records do not agree with the labels I’ve given to the images below.

Click below to download a file of my genealogy research from Ancestry.com of Filomena Ursitti’s descendants.
Descendants of Filomena Ursitti Dec 17, 2017

Click below to download a pdf file of Francesco’s family tree. There is a treasure trove of information in this document.  You’ll have to put on your detective hat and use google translator to figure out the clues if you don’t speak Italian though.  For starters, it looks like Pietrantonio Amabile born in 1830 had a brother named Belissario Fedele born in 1834 (see page 10). 
Francesco Gentile Ciolli Family Tree

Below are Francesco’s digital records of what I decipher names and birth years for Filomena and Pietrantonio Amabile’s children to be.  Click once on the image to view it, then click on it again to enlarge it.  Thank you so much Francesco for these priceless family records!

 
 

Oct17th2017

It Can’t Be October

by  Phyllis Zeck

Wow, has it really been 9 months since I’ve written a blog post? So much has happened this year. I know everyone has been crazy busy.  I hope you’ve reached some of the goals you set for yourselves since the New Year. l have made some amazing, wonderful strides in my personal growth. My brother Tony and his bride Gail began their life as husband and wife last month. We welcome Gail and her two daughters into our clan. The photo to the right includes Gail’s daughters Lauren and Katie (in red) and Tony’s son Robert.

My first grandchild turned 21. We’ve experienced the miracle of welcoming new babies into our world; Xander Paul (Gilberto’s great, great, great grandson) and James Eugene (Antonio’s great, great, great grandson). We’ve tried to be strong watching our loved ones deal with their health challenges. We’ve mourned the deaths of our beloved family members.

One of the year’s highlights for me was the Blended Blessing of my daughter Ashley and Ryan’s families. They eloped to the beach on a warm sunny afternoon this summer to exchange their vows. Ashley and Abby along with Ryan’s three daughters cement the fact that Ryan will forever be out numbered by females. They have purchased a home in a wonderful neighborhood just a 30 minute drive away from Nana. The photo above taken in Oceanside, Oregon includes Morgan, Arlington, Ashley, Ryan, Abigail, and Emersyn. I pray this family continues to love, respect and encourage each other as they settle into their new lives.

It has been so long since I’ve logged into Ancestry.com I though I’d check out the number of little green leaves begging for my attention. Never should have looked – 2,507 hints!

We’ll here are a few hints that I couldn’t help clicking on. The first is my maternal grandmother’s Petition for Naturalization, click here Bertha Del Principe to read the document. According to this record Bertha Marie Reher was born on 22 Apr 1901. Hmmm, this conflicted with my record of Bertha’s birth year which I had as 1902. Mom and Auntie Phyllis loved to tell us the story of how our grandmother was scandalized by the fact that she was one year older than grandpa Gilbert. Now it looks like the document that Bertha filled out stated that she’s two years older than grandpa. Poor Bertha, the things we worry about. I never knew my grandmother.  She passed away when mom and Auntie Phyllis were teenagers. The document also mentions that Bertha had a scar on her throat. I wonder why she had a scar.  It was exciting to see Bertha’s signature for the first time at the bottom of the document.

The second hint that I clicked on were photographs from the 1967 Willowbrook High School yearbook in Villa Park, Illinois. Inside I found photos of my two oldest brothers Rob and Steve.  In the first photo Rob (aka Bob) is in the lower photo, back row, fourth person from the left.  He was part of the Quill & Scroll society. Rob went on to get a journalism degree from Northwestern University and taught English for awhile.  I do envy Rob’s writing skills. He really knows how to bring his characters to life and has a very unique descriptive style that makes reading a pleasure. Please click on any photo view a large image.


Rob is in back row 4th from left

Steve 2nd row from bottom

Rob is mentioned in item 6

Rob is on left, 3rd photo down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it.  I’ve checked off two hints, only 2,505 to go. I also have some wonderful documents that family members have emailed to me that I hope to share with you very soon. The photo below was taken of Rob and Steve this summer. I imagine they are thinking high school seems like it was just yesterday.

Rob & Steve in Oregon