We begin with my father, Gaetano Voltaggio; born in 1912 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of immigrants from Calatafimi, Sicily. As a child, he wrote letters for his mother to his grandmother back in Sicily. Later, after his grandmother died, he wrote to his cousin. Time passed and he lost touch. Nevertheless, my father remembered the stories that his mother told him of the life in Sicily and how the town was very famous in Italian history; also how it had a beautiful Greek temple very closeby where tourists from all over Europe came.
Move ahead to 1963, when he and my mother decided to take a tour of Europe for the first time. He found the old address and wrote to his cousin (now married, but still living in the same town) and they arranged to meet in Sicily while my parents were on their tour. The visit was extremely emotional for my father and several more trips followed. He went to weddings, met his aunts and uncles as well as a multitude of cousins. He realized that these were his people, his family. He wanted to learn more about them, and therefore more about himself.
From that beginning, my father became more and more interested in his genealogy. His research began when he visited the Municipio (City Hall) and met a wonderful young man, named Signor Gerbino. He was able to find the record of my father's grandfather's marriage. Unfortunately, the municipal records only went back to 1822. Signor Gerbino suggested the oldest church in town, the Chiesa Madre, where he knew that records were kept for hundreds of years. My father met the priest from the church, a young man named Giulio Scavurzo. Father Scavurzo became the irreplaceable component in the search for our heritage. In the church, he had an office with a bookcase that contained all the registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths back to the early 1500s! More importantly, he agreed to search all the registers and go back generation by generation until he found the first Voltaggio (actually Vultaggio) in Calatafimi.
A word about Voltaggio and Vultaggio. While my siblings and I grew up as Voltaggio, we learned that our grandfather was named Vultaggio. Why? It seems that my father decided to change the spelling because it "looked less harsh". All through the centuries, our ancestors were Vultaggio, a fact confirmed by Father Scavurzo's research. Yet, there a town called Voltaggio in Northern Italy? Could it be the same word?
My father and I conjectured that the original name was some different name. An ancestor left the town of Voltaggio and came to Sicily and eventually Calatafimi. It is entirely possible that he was known as so and so from Voltaggio. In Italian this would be di Voltaggio. Since he probably was a peasant, he would drop the di and since many words in the Sicilian dialect change Italian o's to u's, the name could have been transformed to Vultaggio. It would take 500 years for someone (my father) to change it back to the original for totally unrelated reasons. Now I'll be the first one to admit that this is sheer conjecture and not academic proof. Nonetheless, it seems to fit a number of facts well.
Now, back to the genealogical search. Father Scavurzo found gold in those books. We were able to trace our line 13 generations back to a 1600 marriage of a Pietro Vultaggio, whose father was Bartolo. Bartolo had two other sons who were married in Calatafimi, but were not baptised there. All Vultaggios in the register were descended from that man and his three sons. We found the "traveller" (the person who came from some other place). Why not assume that Bartolo came from Voltaggio and was Bartolo di Voltaggio?
On our trip of February, 1999, we asked Father Scavurzo if he could show us the registers. He graciously agreed. Click Here to see some photos of the registers in the bookcase in the rectory of the Chiesa Madre, Father Scavurzo looking through the register from the year 1600 to find the marriage record of Pietro Vultaggio, the earliest record of our family name, and a shot of the 12th generation Voltaggios with Father Scavurzo.
Click Here to find details of the Voltaggio genealogy as constructed by Father Scavurzo and Gaetano Voltaggio
My nephew, brother and I watched with interest while my father was constructing this genealogy. I accompanied my father to Voltaggio in 1984 and spoke endlessly about his work. In 1988, I was on business in Rome and was able to spend a weekend visiting our cousins in Calatafimi. I felt those same feelings that my father did as I was greeted by my Calatafimese cousins.
Useful Links to Other Italian Genealogical Web Sites
I have added some links to pages which have been very useful to me
in our continuing genealogical research.
The first is a site which has form letters to send to authorities in Italy to ask for genealogical information.
Click Here to go to this site and click first under "resources" and then under "form letters".
Another useful tool has been a translation page. This site will translate any web page you enter from english to Italian and vice versa. Click Here to go to this site.
Addresses and Phone Numbers
I found the Italian White Pages to be a great way of finding surnames in Italy. It gives the addresses and phone numbers of all people with a given surname in any province or in all of Italy. It also has this for several other countries as well, including the USA. Click Here for this useful site.
Click Here for Gaetano Online. It's a great Italian genealogical site.
Click Here for Cyndi's list, the most comprehensive genealogical site I've come across.
Click Here for
Il Circolo Calabrese. Another fabulous site.