by Phyllis Zeck
Last year I sent an email to cousin Salvatore in Pescasseroli, Italy. I wondered if he would take a photo of Filomena Ursitti and her husband Don Pietrantonio Amabile Ciolli’s head stones (my GG grandparents) who were married 05 Sep 1854 in Opi. Salvatore told me “That will be very hard to do. Back then people were buried under the ground. After 10 or 15 years they were exhumed and their bones were put in a big hole inside a chapel or cemetery with other bones. This hole is called an “Ossario” osso=bone. Roughly till the last decades of 1800 the ossario was inside the parish church of San Pietro e Paolo of Pescasseroli”. Salvatore said “Some families had a private chapel with some stone or concrete cells (loculi) where they put the coffins”.
I have to tell you I was shocked to hear this. In America we place such an emphasis on burying our ancestors and tending to their graves, this was hard for me to comprehend. Kathy Kirkpatrick (from GenTracer) and I had some time set aside to meet for coffee in Salt Lake City last month. She was the perfect person to ask more about this.
Kathy told me that Italian families lease grave sites. If no one pays the lease, the body is moved to a communal site and the grave site is leased to someone else. The cemetery may keep the headstone of the name and photo of the dead, even though the skeletal remains have been moved, or the headstone might simply get tossed somewhere. Cremation is not done often in Italy, families prefer to bury their ancestors.
Kathy explained that the Italian government donated land for cemeteries in Italy for our fallen hero’s from World War II. Click on the following links for a brief video and some stunning photographs. Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial. Florence American Cemetery and Memorial.
You will all be happy to know that I plan to live until I’m 99 years old! When I pass away I will be cremated and I want Ashley and my grandchildren to sprinkle some of my ashes around the homeland of my ancestors, in the foothills of Pescasseroli.