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


Gilbert & Bertha

by  Phyllis Zeck

Gilbert Del Principe and Bertha Reher were my grandparents.  They met when grandpa was driving a taxi and he’d stop by the restaurant where grandma worked to have coffee.  After dating for 2 weeks they were married!

Bertha was born on April 22, 1901 in Hamburg, Germany.  She arrived in New York on November 30, 1904  on board the ship “The Blucher” with her mother Caroline and her brother Henry.  I can’t find any record that her father, August, ever joined the family in the U.S.   After Bertha’s mother died Bertha went to live with her Uncle Henry and his wife Hattie.




Opi, Italy

by  Phyllis Zeck


My great grandmother was Elvira Ciolli.  Her mother was Filomena Ursitti and Filomena was born in the town of Opi.

Opi is about 5 miles south of Pescasseroli.  The current population is 459 and the town’s Patron Saint is San Giovanni Battista.  The surname of Ursitti is one of the top 5 common family names in the town, and records indicate there are 17 people still living in Opi with the name Ursitti.




Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery

by  Phyllis Zeck

Many of our ancestors graves will be found at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.  My grandfather Gilbert is buried here.

Del Prinicpe Headstone

Mount Carmel Cemetery is maintained by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.   In 1901 Mount Carmel Cemetery was consecrated.  The cemetery is currently 214 acres. There are over 226,275 people buried at Mount Carmel.

Bishops Mausoleum

Mount Carmel is the site of the Bishops’ Mausoleum where seven Bishops, Archbishops and auxiliary Bishops are entombed, including most recently, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was entombed in 1996. Also on the cemetery grounds are the final resting places of a number of local organized crime figures such as Al Capone.  There are over 400 family mausoleums located on the cemetery grounds.



The Music Store

by  Phyllis Zeck

When my great grandfather Pietro immigrated from Italy to Chicago he opened a music store probably in the late 1890’s.  The store may have been called the Oakley Music House, it was on the corner of Oakley and Harrison.  

S OakleyEventually the store was named the Del Principe Accordion Company and was the Chicago agent for Dallape Accordions.  I recently spoke with one of the employees of the Italo-American Store in Chicago named Pompi.  He knew of the Del Principe brothers.  He repairs accordions for the Italo-American store but did not do repairs for us.  He did say that the brothers imported accordions from The Polverini Brothers in Italy.   There is a Polverini store in Chicago.  I spoke with the owner’s daughter.  She said her uncle came to America to open a store but changed the store name from Polverini to Alywind Inc. 

Chromatic Accordion

Chromatic Accordion

The music store address was 2244 W Harrison St in Chicago.  The building had 3 floors.  In the 1920 census Pietro and Elvira were living at this address with Antonio, Hank, Otto, Paul, Gilbert, Frank, Emil, along with 2 daughters-in-law Margaret and Rose.  Also living here were grandchildren Bernie, Anne, Willie, and Eleanor.  Wow, can you imagine the happy noise in that structure!?

In the 1930 census Elvria was living in the home with Hank and Paul.  The apartment on the third floor was split into two apartments.  My grandfather Gilbert, his wife Bertha, and my aunt Phyllis are listed in the upstairs apartment and Antonio, Margaret, Elvira, and Eileen are listed in the other upstairs apartment.  The apartments were shuffled between one or another brother and his family for many, many years.  The property was eventually sold to the city of Chicago and the land is now part of the University of Illinois campus.

Uncle Otto in front of the store on North Ave.

Uncle Otto in front of the Del Principe Music House at 5516 W. North Ave.

Frank, Otto, John, Joe, and Tony all participated in running additional stores.  Other addresses I have for the stores are: 29 S. Cicero Ave, 307 S. Wabash Ave, 5220 W. North Ave, 5222 W. North Ave, and 5600 W. North Ave (all in Chicago).

Eventually one store was passed from Otto to his sons Phil and Pete to run.   Phil’s business card lists the store as Del Principe Accordion Co.
(312) 656-2848 at 6129 W. Cermak Road in Cicero.  

The store was sold to new owners when the brothers passed away.  

        Uncle Otto

  Pete, Elvira (Snookie), and Phil                               Uncle Otto


One of my husband’s was favorite shows on the science channel is called “How It’s Made”.  Check out this 3 minute video explaining how an Accordion is made.



                     Bobby Winike                               Del Principe Accordion

Last week my brother Tony drove downtown to run an errand and offered to drive by the block of Harrison where the apartments used to be and take a photograph for me.  The photo below is of Tony at the University of Illinois at Chicago at 2242 W Harrison.  

Anthony Winike

Anthony Winike

Now I’m on a mission to find a photo of the three story home at 2244 W Harrison that Elvira and Pietro shared with their children and was also home to the first music store.  As you know, when I’m on a mission I am relentless.  If anyone has a photo will you pretty please email it me or mail me a copy?  I will be forever in your debt! 

UPDATE 2013 
Please click this link to see a photo of what the music store looked like in the 1930’s.




The Ships

by  Phyllis Zeck

Pietro Del Principe arrived in New York on the passenger ship called the Belgravia on May 21, 1891.

The Belgravia

He arrived with someone named M. Del Principe according to the ships manifest.

Who was M. Del Principe?  There are rumors that Pietro had a son before he married Elvira.  Was this his son?  Was he a cousin or brother?  I don’t find any record of him in the census, if only I knew his full first name! (more…)