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


Italy’s Alpine Soldiers

by  Phyllis Zeck

Pescasseroli alpine soldiersSeveral years about I wrote a post about Italy’s Alpine Soldiers (click link to read). Last November I received a message from Francesco Gentile who lives in Pescasseroli. He wanted to share the news that there was to be a special ceremony for the fallen soldiers of World War I. Medals were given to the soldiers heirs. The photo above was taken at the town hall where 43 medals were laid out in preparation for the ceremony. There are about 15 medals that Francesco and the community are unable to find relatives for.

One of the soldiers Pasquale Di Nella is a great uncle to my cousin Vickie. Vickie’s great grandmother, Bibbiana Celestina Ciolli, was the sister of my great grandmother Elvira. Another soldier Giuseppe D’Addezio is the brother of Francesco’s grandmother.  A third soldier who was honored is Paolo Del Principe. Francesco doesn’t know who Paolo Del Principe’s heirs are and I’ve not been able to find a link to Paolo in my research. Pasquale Di Nella

The medal to the right honors Pasquale Di Nella. He was killed about 1918. It’s wonderful that Pescasseroli honored the soldiers who lost their lives for our freedom 100 years ago.



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.

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The Ciolli Family Crest

by  Phyllis Zeck

As I was saying in my previous blog, one of the highlights of my visit to Chicago in May was the day my sister Lori and I joined our cousins Allen Adezio and his wife Marie, and Vickie Di Nella for lunch at Allen & Marie’s beautiful home in southern Illinois.

How are we connected?  Elvira Ciolli is Lori and my great grandmother.  Speranza (Mary) Ciolli is Allen’s great grandmother.  Bibbiana Celestina is Vickie’s great grandmother.  Elvira, Speranza, and Bibbiana were sisters.

This stunning painting is hanging in the entry hallway of Allen & Marie’s home.  It was painted by a relative of Allen’s from a snap shot that was taken a few years ago when Allen and his brother Ron went to Italy with their wives.  The photograph is Allen (on the right) and Ron in front of the Adezio family home in Italy.   The writing on the photograph says D’Addezio House, 2 Vico Corto, Pescassoreli, Italy. 

This was the home of Allen and Ron’s father Cesidio (Jesse) Adezio, who was a Shepard as a little boy.   Cesidio’s parents were Luigi D’Addezio and Carmela Testa.  Their children were Guiseppi (Joseph), Antonio (Babe), Cesidio (Jesse), Guilia, and Lucia.  Allen’s last name is now Adezio so somewhere along the way the family name was changed.  Unfortunately no family members currently live in the home.

This is our Ciolli Family Crest.  Some people refer to this as a Coat of Arms; they are basically the same thing.   Allen’s cousin said that her father was given the “plans” for the Ciolli Crest from Frank DePirro.  (Frank was married to Ann who was the daughter of Gemma Nicolina Ciolli and Giacomo Leone).

Below is a photo taken last May of my sister Lori, Allen is behind her, Vickie is next to Allen, and I’m in front of Vickie.  As you can see the Ciolli Crest is hanging on the wall.  Beneath it is a wine press.  Allen’s father used the press to actually make wine, Allen and his brother assisted their father.  Allen tells the story of  “driving his dad to the markets to get crates of grapes, and putting all the grapes in the trunk of his car.  That’s when the trunks of cars were big!!!”

Now let me introduce Barbara.  Barbara found our family website and emailed me that she was one of my long lost relatives.  I love it when that happens!  Barbara’s grandfather was Carmino (Charles) Ciolli, brother to my great grandmother Elvira. (Check back later for more info, because of course I will have to write a blog about Barbara’s family.)  Allen’s wife Marie, Barbara, Joe and I sent several emails back and forth.  It turns out that Barbara has the very same Crest hanging in her home.   Barbara agreed to copy a black and white version of her Crest and mail it to Marie and I.

Barbara knows that her Crest was done and researched by a commercial company in Italy in the 1930’s.  Her crest bears the stamp: Archivio Araldivo Cimino.   We assume this is the company that made the Crest.

Since this is the very same family Crest we thought it was time to take this investigation one step further.

I turned once again to Kathy from GenTracer to ask her to research her archives and see if she could find any records of a family Crest for the Ciolli family.  Oh and by the way – would she look for record of a Crest for the Del Principe family?  I scanned the copy of the Crest that I received from Barbara to Kathy because there was some text below the Crest.  Kathy didn’t find any record that an official Crest was made for the Ciolli family or the Del Principe family but she did give us an explanation of the text below the Ciolli Crest.  Click on the Crest to see a larger version, click the back button to return to this blog.

Kathy writes:  The brief translation on the Crest is that the family is from Tuscany and Memorialized in the town archives of Pisa in the magistrate of Siena until 1408 and patrons in Florence.

Valerio was a sculptor in the 15th century, born at Settignano.  Andrea was a senator of Florence in the 15th century.  Michele was born at Settignano in the 16th century and a scupturer in Siena. Raffaele and Simone were sculptors.  

Of course, there is no documentation of any of the above. There is also no clear connection to your family.      



My brother shared this Del Principe Crest with me.  It is an example of what our crest might look like.  It is not authentic.






If you have an interest in the origin of Family Crests and a Coat of Arms click on the links above and check out the websites that were sent to me from Kathy.




Victoria Di Nella’s Family

by  Phyllis Zeck

Victoria Di Nella is my 3rd cousin, she lives in Illinois.  In fact she now lives about 2 miles from the home where I was raised.  She joined Lori and I for lunch at Allen & Marie’s home in May.  Her great grandmother is Bibbiana Celestina Ciolli born on Jan 19, 1865 in Pescasseroli, Italy.  She was delivered by a mid wife named Gemma Di Nella.  My great grandmother Elvira and  Bibbiana Celestina were sisters.

Bibbiano Celestina Ciolli DiNella 1914 – 1915

This photo was taken about 1914 – 1915.  Bibbiano Celestina is seated.  The baby on her lap is Vickie’s father Emilio (Emil) who was born in 1914.  The woman standing is Maria Grazia De Rubeis Di Nella, her husband is Vito Di Nella.   The boy standing is Vickie’s uncle Carmello (Carl), born in 1910.  The little girl is Vickie’s aunt Anna Maria Antonia (Mary) Di Nella born in 1912.

The photo below is the passport photo of  Maria Grazia De Rubeis Di Nella (Vito’s wife) and their children; Emilio, Carmello, and Anna Maria Antonia. The same three children appear in both photos.

Maria Grazia DeRubeis DiNella 1920.

Bibbiana Celestina married Basilio Di Nella on Aug 18, 1883 and they had three sons; Vito, Pasquale, and Nicholas.

Vito (Vickie’s grandfather) was born in 1886, he married Maria Grace De Rubeis in 1910.  They had ten children. Vito arrived in the USA on June 20, 1913 aboard the ship Italia. When he left Italy his wife was pregnant with Vickie’s father. His wife and three children came to the USA in 1920.

Pasquale came to Chicago but returned to Italy to serve in WWI.  He was an Alpine soldier and was killed approx 1918.  His name can be found on the statue in the town square in Pescasseroli.

The Alpini are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian army.  Formed in 1872 they are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world.  Their original mission was to protect Italy’s northern mountain border with France and Austria.  

The soldiers were recruited from the local people who were used to the conditions and already had both good local knowledge as well as specialized skills for living and surviving in the mountains.

They also adopted the famous Cappello Alpino (Alpino hat) which included a white eagle feather for officers and a black raven feather for the men.

They distinguished themselves during World War I when they fought a three year long campaign in the Alps against Austro-Hungarian and the German Alpenkorps in what has since become knows as the “War in snow and ice”.  The Alpini saw heavy combat in the mountains and glaciers of the Alps suffering many casualties on both sides with over 12,000 Alpini casualties out of a total force of about 40,000.

Click on the memorial below to read it, then click the back arrow to return to the blog.

Pasquale Di Nella Memorial Plaque

Giuseppe D’Addezio Memorial Plaque

Paolo Del Principe Memorial Plaque







Nicholas lived in Pescasseroli his entire life. He had one child named Celestina.  She married N. Siciliano and lives in Varessa, northeast of Florence.

Vickie’s father was Emilio Alberto Di Nella and was born on Feb 13, 1914 in Pescasseroli, Italy.  He married Helen Zak and they had three children; Gerald, Victoria, and Joanna.

Vickie’s uncle Carmello (Carl) was in Pescasseroli Italy in February 1956.  He was an artist and was working on a painting when a terrible snow storm crippled the town.  Carl called his family in Chicago and asked for help for the town.  The photo above shows the relief truck that was sent to the village with the funds donated by Carl’s Chicago friends and relatives.

The Chicago Daily News printed the article and photo above on Feb 24, 1956. The arrow is pointing at the truck.  The text in the box says “Villagers of Pescaressoli, in the mountains of central Italy, gather around the first Red Cross truck (arrow) to arrive with relief food and first-aid supplies in many days.  The village is among hundreds in the region isolated by the heavy snows and the fierce European cold wave.”

Below are three pages from a memorial book for Maria Grazia De Rubeis Di Nella.  She died on Easter Sunday April 17, 1949.  Click on the pages to enlarge them, then click on the back arrow to return to the blog.  You may recongize many of the names, my grandfather Gilbert signed the guest book.













Thank you Vickie for all of the information and wonderful photographs that you’ve shared.  It was a true pleasure to meet you.  I look forward to much more correspondence between us as we continue to grow our family tree.