Researching the Italians in our Family

Every now and then I like to take a look at my MIL’s families and see what information I can find, lately its been her Italian family. They have never been a focus in my research, but I do like to dig into them to see what new records can be found.

Two weeks back I did just this. My goal was to see if I can find any source that will name the area they were from. We have the family story, but I wanted to confirm that with a record or two.

The family names I was researching, Vassallo and Sibilio.

Giuseppe Vassallo married Rose Sibilio. Rose had a few siblings that we knew of: Jenny, Luigi, and Mary, to name a few.

I knew that one of Rose’s  siblings had married a DeFelitta. From that marriage was the child Frank DeFelitta, author of Audrey Rose, The Entity and others. I knew of the DeFelitta connection since I met the family when I was in high school. I had actually considered doing my junior year term paper on the movie Audrey Rose. Of course, none of my high school work has nothing to do with the research except to explain that I knew of the family connection and that Frank DeFelitta was first cousin to my MIL’s mother.

As I went through all the information on my family tree trying to see what new information could be found on the family, I came across Genevive (Jenny) Sibilio. Looking at all the hints for Jenny I found a Petition for Naturalization for Genevieve DeFelitta, formerly known as Genevieve Sibilio. It also gave the information on her journey to the United States. She sailed on the SS Prinz Adalbert, leaving Naples and arriving in New York on March 18, 1904.1

Giorgio Sommer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Other facts gleaned from this record:

  • Genevieve married Pasquale DeFelitta on April 27, 1916
  • She had three children, Grace, Donato and Frank.
    • Grace b. June 4, 1917.
    • Donato b. January 19, 1919.
    • Frank b. August 3, 1921 and was in the US Army.
  • She was born September 1894.
  • She was born in Salerno, Italy.
  • Her address was 212 Jensen Ave., Mamaroneck, Westchester, New York.
  • Information on her husband’s birth and when he arrived in the United States.

You can see how much one record can help your research. With this record, I was able to find the ship manifest which gave us the maiden name of her mother. M. Gratia Citero. (Gratia is the latin version of Grace).2

By Bain News Service, New York [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Other facts gleaned from this record:

  • They were traveling to Fordham, NY.
  • Tickets were paid for by the husband / father.
  • They were traveling to meet Nicola Sibilio.
  • His address was 2389 Hoffman Street, Fordham, NY.

With this information, I think I have enough information to start looking at the Italian records on FamilySearch to see what I can find. The bit of research I did on this family proves that you cannot always go back in a straight line, sometimes the collaterals hold the key to what you are looking for. Before finding Jenny’s Petition for Naturalization we had not been able to find the family on a ship manifest together. Only individuals with the same names traveling separately.

Though I have not reached the goal I set of finding the exact town in the records, I was able to find information that puts the family in the area we have been told they come from. Digging deep into the Italian records will be the next step to see if we can find them, where we are told they come from.


  1. Petition for Naturalization, New York, Naturalization Records, 1882-1944, Genevieve DeFelitta, [accessed 3 April 2017] 

  2. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 for Genoveffa Sebilia, [accessed 3 April 2017] 



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