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


A Letter From Our Cousin

by  Phyllis Zeck


Elvira Ciolli Del Principe died on December 24, 1939.  Since it was Christmas Eve Elvira wanted my grandfather Gilbert to take her to church to see the Nativity Scene.  My mother Corinne and my aunt Phyllis were with Elvira.  Grandpa was pulling the car to the front of the church when Elvira collapsed.

Elivra’s first born child Antonio died on Dec 7, 1941.  This is the morning that Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.  Antonio suffered internal injuries when he fell from a ladder a few months before his death.

Elvira is in the center in this photo.  Her arm is linked around Antonio’s.  We don’t know who the woman on Elvira’s right is.  I  suspect she felt close to Elvira, notice that her hand is on Elvira’s shoulder.  We also do not know who the person is in front of Elvira.  If you are able to help identify the two unknown people, please leave a comment or email me.

Antonio had a daughter named Elvira.  Elvira’s granddaughter Mary sent this photo to me along with the letter below.  Thank you so much for sharing Mary!  The letter is from a cousin named Leonard Del Principe dated Dec 10, 1941.  He lists his address as 1211 W. Lead Ave in Albuquerque New Mexico.  The letter is addressed to Antonio’s brother John at 2244 W. Harrison St in Chicago.  

I believe Pietro had 3 brothers: Vincenzo, Antonio, and Gerardo.  Leonardo was the son of Vincenzo.  Leonardo married Alimarinta and they had two children; Frederico born in 1907 and Lucrezia was born in 1912.  Leonardo had a brother named Giuseppe Donato.  The 1910 census show Donato living with his wife Marie Concetta Diaddezio and their 4 children as well as his brother Leonardo in Pennsylvania. In the 1940 census Leonardo, age 74, lived at 2224 Polk St in Chicago with his son Frederick age 32, Frederick’s wife Esta, and their 7 year old daughter Dolores.  

I have tried to decifer the text of the letter below.

“To John Del Principe brothers and families

Nearly two years on Dec 24, ’39 while I laid in bed I heard a rap at the door.  I said what is it?  Oh Pa, Zia Elvira is dead!  I exclaimed oh God, what Christmas greeting are those given me!  There I came into the house that should be in gay and happy, enjoying the festivity of the Baby Jesus, and the families, of old and young with heart filled with joy and happiness I found?  I found the scene all changed, the house, from gay & happiness, to a mournful and the families young and old from a happiness and contentment, to a sorrowful heart and tearing eyes, crying the death of dearest mother!  Yes Zia Elvira was dead!!

On Dec 8, 1941 the day of the immaculate conception, a rap at the door came, and the voice of my daughter said Pa, here is a telegram for you; what is it?  John says his brother Anthony died!  Oh God, I cried what Christmas greeting is this?  Is the same fatal change falling on that misfortunate family?  Oh God, yes is identical the same!

The first being the dearest Mother, now is the first link of her golden chain, that broke loose and fell dead, and cause the remaining eight brothers and families, old and young to change the festival of the coming Merry Christmas to a sorrowful house, into mourn & tears & crying the death of their dearest brother Antonio Del Prinicpe!  Yes he is passed away.  

May I hope and pray God to let enter the kingdom of Heaven and sit by his dearest Mother!  With my breaking heart and tears from my eyes I am writing yours this letter to express my deepest sympathy to the deceased family, the brothers, and all their families & relatives of my dear cousin Antonio Del Principe.  

Forgive me for not being present at the wake among yours my dearest ones to share the sorrowful time or pay a better respect than this, but hope that God will bless all of yours and give you courage and comfort.  

Your Affectionate Cousin

Leonard Del Principe”

Letter from Cousin Leonard Del Principe Front

Letter from Cousin Leonard Del Principe Back



Our Family Tree is Growing

by  Phyllis Zeck

I’ve made some changes to our GEDCOM reports and have added a new page to the website where you will find the GEDCOM reports.  I’ve changed the birth year in Ancestry.com for Elvira Ciolli to 1867.  Elvira’s death record indicates her birth year is 1874.  Kathy from Gen Tracer was unable to find a birth record for her.  I’ve reviewed the census from 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930.  The information on the census records and the date that is engraved in her head stone led me to believe Elvira’s birth year is 1867.

Bigstock FAMILY Word collage on white 13243772

Also, thank you to Mary for the detailed information about Antonio’s daughter Elvira and Elvira’s descendants.  I’ve added names and birth years along with other information.  In the new GEDCOM reports you’ll see that information has been added about the ships that Elvira and Pietro were on when they arrived from Italy.  The last few pages of the reports contain my source documents if you are trying to reference something and want to know where I got my information from.



Breaking Through The Brickwalls

by  Phyllis Zeck

Roy and Elvira Weber

There is a saying in the genealogy world when we have searched and searched for an item or a family member and can’t find what or who we are looking for; we have hit a brick wall.

This is what happened to me as I searched for any trace of Antonio Del Principe’s descendants.  Antonio was the oldest of the Del Principe brothers.  I am now in contact with the descendants of Giuseppe, Amelio, Serafino (John), Octavio, Paulo, and Francesco.  I just had to find the descendants of Antonio!

In May of 2011 I went to Chicago to visit my family and friends.  In between activities (when I was supposed to be relaxing), I drove my sister Lori crazy by dragging box after box out of the basement and went through them in an effort to find some of my “missing” relatives.  I was particularly driven to find a descendant of Antonio’s.  He had two daughters but I could find no trace of them.  My quest was to find Elvira and Eileen’s married names.  I looked through grandpa’s address books and through the obituaries grandpa had cut and saved.  I looked on the back of photographs for clues.  No luck!

Imagine my complete delight when one day in mid July I received an email from Mary, the granddaughter of Elvira!  Antonio had two daughters.  Elvira (Snookie) Antoinette was born in 1920 and Eileen (Turk) Lucille was born in 1921.  I thought Elvira had only one child but Mary informed me that Elvira and her husband Roy had four children: Margaret, Antoinette, Greg, and Madeleine.  Mary is the daughter of Greg.  Eileen married and had one son named Ron.

Mary and I have sent many emails flying back and forth and she has generously shared some stories and photos which I will share in future blog posts.  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this beautiful photograph of Elvira and Roy Weber on their wedding day.



Family Heirlooms

by  Phyllis Zeck

I have added a new page to my geneaology website that is devoted to our family heirlooms; a very important part of genealogy.  Family treasures help connect us all in a personal way.  Whether you’re sharing or viewing an item, photos and stories help link us all together.  When my grandparents were young they were able to share their heirlooms in person by running across the street to visit with family.  New generations have spread out across the world so we need to share via photos and stories.

Family heirlooms past and current belong in this website.  We have to think about the generations yet to be born.  An item doesn’t have to be “old” to be a family heirloom.  For example, if you are a collector send me a photo of an item in your collection so that your great grandchildren will know a little about you.  If you have a photo of an heirloom that you would like to display, please  email it to me (along with a comment) and help this new page grow!



The Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste by Susan

by  Phyllis Zeck

One of the first blogs that I wrote (see post from Oct 30, 2010) about was the town that my great, great grandmother Filomena Ursitti was born in on May 8, 1837; the town of Opi, Italy.  Susan stumbled upon my website in her search for information about the Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste (the patron saint of Opi).  Susan was planning a trip to Italy in 2012 to participate in the festival.  She would be traveling with her daughter, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, and friend.  

Susan wrote “My grandparents originated from Opi.  For years, we heard about Opi and enjoyed the family, food, customs and life my grandparents lived as Italian Americans.  Our grandparents,  parents, and extended Italian relatives were part of a group called San Giovanni Battista Society.   The group was in existence for 100 years and then ended about 8 years ago.   It started in Detroit, Michigan in 1908 from Italians who immigrated from Opi, Aguila, Abruzzo, Italy. The families found strength and support from each other through the San Giovanni Battista Society. One of the eldest members died recently, Lucy Boccia.  This was our connection to family with Opi names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, DiPero, DeSantis, DeVito, DeLoro.”

Susan and I are connected through our Boccia and Gentile ancestors.  Below is a blog Susan has written and graciously allowed me to post.  Thank you Susan, I hope you are able to enjoy many more summers to come in our home land!

The view from Via Salita La Croce is beautiful, unique and narrow.  We stayed at Antica Rua B&B.  From our doorway look right and the via ends at a little hotel at the downside of the village.  Look left up the via toward the little castle at the village  square.

But there is more, higher, farther and narrower.  Nicolangelo Leone walked down the via to the B&B to welcome us and invite us to his home.

Side note:  Every step you take in Opi is either up or down, since the village is built on the top of a mountain.  Just imagine how healthy one must be to live in Opi.  Nicolangelo is 89 and he’s turning 90 on 15 January 2013.  In Italian, he told us he went to see a cardiologist for his heart.  Oh no, we were instantly worried and concerned until he quickly presented to us his prescribed medicine –  the package read for “indigestion.”  Ooohh, thank goodness.

We walked up, past the bar, past the castle through a narrow walkway, up the stairs, past the Santa Maria Assunta church, turned left onto a smaller via, and arrived at Nicolangelo’s beautiful green door.  

Welcome!  Benvenuti a cinque donne americane.  Please come in….Saluti Nicolangelo.

You are a very charming man and you stole our hearts from day one!


We were invited to meet the Officers of Opi at cappella San Giovanna Battista on Sunday, June 24, 2012, at 4:00 pm to look at documents.  We met so many people in Opi who introduced themselves and asked in Italian:  How are you related to us?  Who are your closest relatives that live in Opi?   In my best Italian, I explained our Opi heritage and how our families in the US stayed connected through San Giovanni Battista Society (SGBS).  Also, explained SGBS morto in 2008.  Yes they understood, but…   the connection.  How are you connected to us?

Cappella San Giovanna Battista

When introductions are made, Opianni’s say the last name first.  Because of the culture, it was difficult for Opi people to grasp how le cinque donne americane were connected.  In Opi, the women keep their maiden names.

Left to Right: Christine Murphy (Boccia), Padre Rossi, Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia), Georgio Cimini, Maruzio, Marilynn DuBois-Wieczorek (Boccia)

In the red bag, Maruzio brought the booklet:  Societa’ San Giovanni Battista 75th Anniversary Banquet and Dinner Dance, June 26th, 1983 at Roma Hall on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, Michigan, a letter from Orazio Paglia, and a list of Members and Sponsors of SGBS.  It’s amazing, those documents were 29 years old.   Here was the validation!  Maruzio pointed to names:  Benjamin Boccia, Gene and Susan Reetz.  Oh my Godda!  Yes, that’s us.  We pointed to relatives on the list:  Marilynn Wieczorek, Christine’s parents, our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  All the same names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, Paglia, Cimini, Ursiti, Sabatini, Ricci, DiVito, and more.  So exciting!  Everyone was talking at once.  We were happy and filled with so many more emotions.

This is Orsola Gentile hugging my daughter, Corinn. Look at how cute they are and there is a resemblance. My grandmother’s name was Grazia Gentile. Corinn and Orsola look like sisters. We were celebrating the SGB feste, listening and dancing to a live band in Opi on June 24. Very fun!

Nicolangelo and I are speaking Italian. I learned enough with Beginner I & II language classes at the Italian American Cultural Society to be able to carry on conversations. I kept telling Nicolangelo that I was married “marito” , but he took off his wedding ring and pretended to throw it away. He was very charming.











By Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia)   Pictures by Corinn VanWyck