The Marriage of Salvatore Maggio and Maria Grazia Mortillaro

One of the hardest branches of my tree to research, I’ve found, is the Italians. Tracing them from the late 1800s in Baltimore isn’t a problem; it’s the immigration records and Italian records that give me trouble. Partly, it’s because I don’t speak Italian and partly because the records aren’t online or they aren’t indexed. The spelling of names is also inconsistent; names tend to become Americanized over time. Linking a Mary to a Maria is simple enough, but DiPaula…we know that it most likely was changed at the time of immigration, but what was it originally? DiPaola? DePaola? DePaolo? DiPaulis? Space or no space?

Cefalù, Italy

Cefalu, Italy

The one thing I do know is that most of my Italian ancestors came from Cefalù, Sicily. Recently, I discovered that the civil records for Cefalù were available online through Family Search. The problem is most aren’t indexed, the handwriting is hard to read, and they’re in Italian. It’s going to be a long process, but I was able to find the civil marriage record for one couple because I knew the year they were married and there was an index available luckily.

I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more new information in the record I didn’t already have, but I was elated nonetheless. Thanks to a couple of reference pages (Italian Genealogical Word List and Italian Marriage Document Translation), I was able to translate most of the marriage record.

Marriage record for Salvatore Maggio and Maria Grazia Mortillaro

Marriage record for Salvatore Maggio and Maria Grazia Mortillaro

In the year 1890, on the 15th of October, at 7:15 PM in the city hall of Cefalù, open to the public.

Before me [name of official, usually the mayor] an official of the civil registration, officially appeared personally:

1st Salvatore Maggio, unmarried, age 24, cobbler, born in Cefalù, resident of Cefalù, son of Vincenzo, resident of Cefalù, and Maria Culotta, resident of Cefalù.

2nd Maria Grazia Mortillaro, unmarried, age 18, housewife, born in Cefalù, resident of Cefalù, daughter of Luigi, resident of Cefalù, and Rosa Carnaggio, resident of Cefalù.

[block of text; formalities]

Baimondo Vaccaro, 21, decorator
Matteo Marsiglia, 24, cobbler

[script; hard to read handwriting]

The new information I was able to gleam from this (other than beginning a hobby of learning Italian) was the date and location of the marriage, that Salvatore’s father’s name was Vincenzo, and (most importantly) everyone was from Cefalù, including the parents. So now I know to keep looking for more records from Cefalù.

Salvatore and Maria Maggio

EDIT: I have just found out that the picture I had up is actual of a different couple, not the Maggios. I will have another post later about that couple and repost the picture then.

This is one of my favorite photos, and probably the oldest. Judging by the clothes, we can determine is falls into the Victorian era, specifically the bustle era, the 1880s. It is clearly a wedding photograph, with the bride wearing a long veil. While Queen Victoria did make it fashionable to where a white wedding dress, many women still wore the customary dark dress. This was a practical choice – their best dress, if dark, could be worn both at their wedding and when in morning (plus, my personal opinion, it hides dirt better).

Judging by the time period, the occasion, and knowing it comes from my mother’s side of the family, our best guess is that this is a picture of Salvatore Maggio and Maria Grazia Mortillaro. They were married in 1890, at the end of the bustle period. Most people could not afford to buy new clothes when fashions changed, so it is not unusual for the bustle style to be lingering. Clothes were made to last then, and this dress could have been a hand-me-down as well. The man is wearing a typical Prince Albert coat of the period.

Salvatore Maggio (1866-1928) and Maria (1872-1913) were both born in Italy. They were married in 1890, most likely while still living there, had their first child, then immigrated to Baltimore, MD (though it is possible they immigrated first, then married; the details are a but hazy here). Salvatore was a cobbler and then the owner of a confectionery shop while Maria was a homemaker. Together they had seven children, six of which were girls.