Search the Database

Gionti family

stellacilento-mapStella Cilento is a town in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of south-western Italy. Stella has been home to the Lippi family for about nine generations.

While there are many blanks in the history of the family, the one that most interests me has to do with my paternal great grandfather, Giuseppe Maria Pasquale Lippi, databaseflagborn 8 September 1842. The Lippi family was probably the wealthiest in the village. Like his father before him, Giuseppe became podestà.1This title is long out of use and fashion, but it is on my great grandfather’s business card, a copy of which came to me with a lot of family ...continue

po·des·ta (n) The chief magistrate in any of the republics of medieval Italy. Italian podestà, from Old Italian podestate, from Latin potests: power; potis: powerful, able

On 10 June l879 Giuseppe appeared before the notary public to officially claim paternity of two boys, Federico and Luigi Alfonso Gionti, referred to as his figlii naturali, natural (illegitimate) sons. The mother of the boys was given as Caterina (sometimes spelled Catarina) Gionti. Giuseppe’s own wife, Carmela Massanova, was childless.

The first question: Was Caterina’s maiden name Gionti, or was she married to someone with that name previously? Unfortunately I don’t have an answer to this question. Looking at other Gionti family members in Stella Cilento hasn’t helped much at all.

There was a Ulisse Gionti born in 1888 who left Stella Cilento to settle in Williamsburg, New Jersey with a wife and three children.   This Ulisse might have been another of Catherina’s sons, or a nephew, or cousin.

Caterina left Stella Cilento and immigrated to America in 1893; traveling with her was her son, listed on the ship’s manifest as Federico Gionti, aka Federico Lippi, my grandfather. Why he traveled under her name rather than his father’s name is unknown. You can see the manifest here.

Things that are known about Caterina:

  1. She lived in Newburgh with her son until she died at the age 72 on 17 Jan 1912, and is buried in the family plot.
  2. Her death certificate provides no useful information; her obituary says she was the wife of Giuseppe Lippi (which she was not).
  3. I was able to ask two aunts about Caterina, and neither of them had any memory of her or of talk about her
  4. Luigi Alfonso visited his brother in Newburgh, and during that time he wrote home to Stella. In his letters he refers to Carmela Massanova (his father’s legal wife) as Mama and Caterina Gionti (his biological mother) as Zia (aunt).

This may never get sorted out, but it isn’t hard to imagine how a small village in rural southern Italy reacted to the fact that the Podesta’s son had a wife who had never had children, but two sons by Catherina Gionti.


Notes   [ + ]

1. This title is long out of use and fashion, but it is on my great grandfather’s business card, a copy of which came to me with a lot of family papers.

Comments are closed.