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November 17, 2019

From the late eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries, the village of Pacentro boasted a population of more than 4000, but today there are approximately 1200 inhabitants. This reduction in population can be explained by two significant modern day population shifts. The first occurred at the beginning of the 20th century and the next occurred following WW II, when poor socioeconomic conditions caused the emigration of many Pacentrani to other parts of Italy, the United States, Canada, Australia and South America. Outside of the village, significant enclaves of Pacentrani can be found in Welland (Ontario) Canada, Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI, Paterson, NJ, Youngstown, OH, and West Aliquippa and Coraopolis, PA.

While exploring passenger manifests, I discovered two manifests with significant numbers of Pacentrani men who departed from Italy for distant lands. Each reflected the migration cycles discussed above. One was in 1899, when seventeen (17) Pacentrani sailed from the Port of Naples a...

February 5, 2019

While conducting research on the village of Pacentro, some of the following stories were uncovered to demonstrate the difficult life of villagers during the 19th century:

Women and Childbearing

In March of 1834, Brigida Carmina Caraccia, a filatrice (spinner) from Strada Rua Cacchiarella, married Donato Giuseppe (Marinaccia) Cercone, a muratore (bricklayer) from Strada Della Rava. Their first child was born in March of 1835, another child was born in 1836, two children were born in 1837 (one in January and one in October!!), then the remaining 13 children were born between 1839 and 1861 (i.e, 1839, 1841, 1842, 1844, 1846, 1848, 1850, 1851, 1853, 1854, 1856, 1858,  and 1861). Eight of the 17 died as infants or young children, which wasn't unusual given the difficult living conditions with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and poor diets. Is it any wonder that this poor woman died on 10 May 1862, which was only 8-months after the birth of her 17th child!  The following year on 24 Sept 1863, D...

May 3, 2017

The S. S. Moravia, a vessel owned and operated by the Hamburg America Line, was built in Glasgow, Scotland on 1883 and launched on its first voyage in November of that same year. Weighing 3,739 gross tons and containing one funnel and two masts, the ship accommodated 100 - 1st class passengers and 1,200 - 2nd class passengers (Norway Heritage, 2017).

On April 15, 1890, the S.S. Moravia sailed from the Ports of Hamburg, Germany and LeHavre, France on its journey to New York City. Included among the names on the ship's manifest were 62 men from the village of Pacentro, all of whom were listed as 'workmen' bound for the "United States of America" (, 2017).  While the men are not identified as being from Pacentro, the manifest provides a column with the heading "The country from which one is a citizen" and a line of '62 dittos' under the word "Italian". Reading the first ten names of this list was the major clue that each of these men emigrated from the village of Pacentro. Then...

October 21, 2016

Built during the 16th and 17th centuries, the antico lavatoio pubblico (the ancient public washing basin) is still located along the street behind the large circular stone tower of the Castle of the Caldoro. Fed by water flowing from mountain streams, the gray stone masonry walls form a boat-shaped basin along which the village women congregated to wash their clothes. For centuries, women carried family laundry within copper basins (uaccile) perched atop their heads and walked from all areas of the village up the steep and windy streets to the lavatoio. Then, in the 20th century, the reduced flow from the mountain stream to the basin resulted in the abandonment of the lavataio. While the basin is now overgrown with weeds, the historic structure is still intact. Visitors can close their eyes and picture the Pacentrani women congregating around the basin, beating their clothes on the stones and sharing gossip. Wash day involved hard work, but it was also a time for camaraderie among the...

July 16, 2016

Pacentrani frequently referred to each other by their clan or nickname (soprannome) rather than their family surname. At times, official documents were recorded with a villager’s surname plus his nickname or simply his nickname (alias Bartocchia). The following are examples of some common soprannomi (surnames are in italics) uncovered on civil and ecclesiastic documents: Bartocchia Cercone, Marinaccia Cercone, Mastredatte Cercone, Peperato Lucci, Casale Lucci, Amechizze Silvestri, Cacchiarelle Silvestri, Pescine Silvestri, and Pezzotte Silvestri. Each of these soprannomi differentiated individual family members within a clan.

It should be noted that all documents contain the maiden names of all female villagers, as a woman did not take the surname of her spouse. All progeny bore the surname of the father, unless a child was born out-of-wedlock and the father’s identity was not revealed, then the child was given the surname of the mother. If a child was abandoned, then a contrived su...

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