A Brief History of the Oliveri Family

December 7, 2010 at 12:06 am (Uncategorized)

I have very little recollection of my Oliveri ancestors. My grandmother Angela (Angelina) Carestia Oliveri passed away at age 47 ten years before I was born. Grandpa Eugenio (John) survived until 1951, when he died at age 69. I don’t recall us having much contact with my grandfather, even though he lived nearby on Long Island. I’ve heard that after Grandma passed away he married a woman named Marcelle without the blessings of his family. That could be the reason why there was a disconnect.

I do have one memory of my grandfather shortly before he passed on. I guess I was six or seven years old at the time. Grandpa was visiting Aunt Florence, Uncle Bill and Cousin Natalie across the street on Summit Avenue, and my Dad brought me over to see him. I had a loose front tooth at the time, and Grandpa wanted to take a look at it. Then, much to my shock, he snapped it right out of my mouth! Of course, I immediately burst into tears. Not a very pleasant memory to be sure, but it’s the only one I have of him.

Both Grandma Angela and Grandpa Eugenio (see photos in library) are buried in St. Mary Star of the Sea Cemetery in Lawrence, alongside my sister Carol Ann, who died in 1948 at the age of just six months.

Several years ago, I became interested in genealogy and began researching our family heritage. I didn’t find much. Then, with the help of cousins Fran Mollo DeNicolo, Lisa Mollo, and some input from Aunt Mary Mollo, I began to come up with bits of information.

Grandma and Grandpa Oliveri originally came from the village of Manoppelo in Chieti Province located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy near the Adriatic Sea. Manoppelo is a town of 5600 people located on a hillside overlooking the Pescara River. It became part of Pescara Province in 1927. Its patron saints are Pancrazio, Rocco and Nicola (more on this later).

Manoppelo is renowned as the sanctuary of the “Volto Santo” (Holy Face), a veil with an image on it of a man alleged to be Jesus Christ. It is the only religious icon where the image is visible on both sides of the cloth, and is said to have a connection to the famed Shroud of Turin, which many consider to be the burial cloth of Jesus. Also known as the “Veil of Veronica”, the icon is believed to have been created when a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus’ face with the veil during his terrible journey to Calvary. Christ’s image is said to have remained on the cloth. Residents of the Pescara area have worshipped the Volto Santo for more than 400 years, although its authenticity has never been confirmed.

The current telephone records of Manoppelo show that there are still seven OLIVIERI families living there, who are most likely our distant relatives. For some reason, Grandpa Eugenio changed the spelling of our name to OLIVERI after emigrating to America.

Eugenio Olivieri arrived in the United States on March 27th, 1907 aboard the S.S. Cretic from Naples. The records I found indicated that he had made a previous trip in 1903. According to the ship’s manifest, Grandpa was described as 23 years of age, 5 feet 3 inches in height, with brown hair and brown eyes. Apparently he traveled as a steerage passenger and had $6 on his person when he boarded the ship, leaving behind his wife Angela and infant son Italino (Uncle Tally). His destination was listed as Madison Street, Inwood, NY. There is another notation that is difficult to read, but appears to show that he had a brother, Nicola (named after one of the patron saints of Manoppelo?) living in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I have no further information on him.

Grandpa also had another brother, Michael Olivieri (he never changed the spelling of the family name), who lived in Cedarhurst, NY. Uncle Mike had five children, but I only know the names of Mary, Tootsie, Rosie and Michael. Unfortunately, Uncle Michael was killed in an accident one Christmas eve coming home from work. I never knew any of his children when I was growing up, but met Mary later when she reconnected with my parents. She was a teacher at NYU, and passed away shortly after my parents died. But despite living in close proximity to one another, the families did not communicate. Evidently Uncle Mike disapproved of Grandpa Eugenio’s lifestyle and did not regard him as a good family man. I recall my Dad telling me that Grandpa at one time was a rumrunner between Brooklyn and Long Island. In one of the stories, he told of being in a car with his father on the Belt Parkway when the police started chasing them. The police opened fire, and Dad claimed to remember being pushed to the floor of the car as bullets whizzed past. Knowing Dad, he may have embellished this tale a bit, but the pieces do seem to fit the puzzle.

Grandma Angela arrived in New York City on June 11, 1909 as a steerage passenger aboard the S.S. Antonio Lopez sailing from Naples. She is listed on the manifest as Angela Carestia, and was 24 years old upon arrival. With her was her two and a half year-old son Italino (Uncle Tally), later to be known as Italo, or Jimmy. Their residence in Manoppelo was listed as the home of Grandma’s father, Amadio Carestia, who escorted them to the ship. Angela is described in the ship’s manifest as four feet, 11 inches in height, with brown hair, blue eyes and a scar on her right temple. But if I remember correctly, I think Dad once told me that she had one blue eye and one green one. Her destination was listed as c/o Smeriglio at the corner of Mott Avenue and Madison Street in Inwood, NY.

After settling in Inwood, Grandma and Grandpa Oliveri had five more children, William, Dominick, Dinnio (who was a twin; the other child was stillborn), Augustine (my Dad) and Mary, the youngest and only girl. They all eventually married, Tally to Helen, William to Florence Suhusky, Dominick to Stella (Sally) Nastick, Dinnio to Lucille Teasdale, Augustine to Jennie Bevilacqua, and Mary to John Mollo.

Uncle Tally and Aunt Helen had several children. I only knew one, Jimmy, who lived on Long Island.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Florence were the parents of Bill Jr., who lived in upstate New York and just passed away recently, and Natalie Gordon, presently living in California.

Uncle Dominick and Aunt Stella (Sally) lived in Havre de Grace, MD, and had two children, Michael and Angelina. They later adopted a third, June Marie Oliveri Spangler, who now lives in Spout Spring, VA.

Uncle Dinnio and Aunt Lucille lived on Long Island and had two daughters, Jean McDonald and Joyce Palchynsky. Ironically, Uncle Din (my godfather) passed away in July of 2009 on my birthday.

Augustine (Augie) and Jennie, my parents, had five children: James (me), Carol Ann, Suzanne, Denise and Augie Jr.

The extended family seems to have grown quite large in recent years. We have countless cousins from the various unions listed above, many of whom, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve never met. Perhaps it’s time to think about some form of reunion where we can all become acquainted, or reacquainted as the case may be. We may all regret not having done so in the future. I’ll give that some thought and get back to you. In the meantime, if you have any information to be added to this history, I would welcome hearing from you.

8 Comments

  1. John Capobianco Jr said,

    Great job as usual. I think it’s very important to let our children know where we came from and what our grandparents did to get here. You said it perfectly as usual

  2. Suzanne Catropa said,

    You are just amazing brother!! I had forgotten many of those incidents, ( maybe intentionally!), and it was so much fun to recapture them. More to come, I hope!!

    • yeeditor said,

      Thanks guys! I’m having a lot of fun with these stories, especially since I can’t find a job doing this kind of work!

  3. Cousin Michael Mollo said,

    Gave me goosebups reading this…Thanks for the legwork. There is much here I did not know of. I in for a reunion anytime…Great job Cousin Jim..This made my day.

  4. Alannah said,

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your site for a while now and finally got the
    courage to go ahead and give you a shout out
    from Porter Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

  5. LAURA GENTILE said,

    my great grandfather was the Smiriglio you are talking about
    stareted first bank in Inwood

    • yeeditor said,

      Hi, Laura! Thank you for the information! I’m always happy to get feedback to add to the record.

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