This is the
family of Cris Swetye. Cris' great grandparents were Prospero diTella
and Maria Bambina Colaianni.
Cris and I are related two ways:
1. common ancestors are Giovanni Nicola Colajanni and Loreta Rotoli.
2. common ancestors are Donato Musillo and Lucia diTella.
Tree diTella-Colaianni Family Tree
(0.6+Mb JPG File).
In Mar of 2004, Cris wrote:
"I just looked at
your website and found it very interesting. I, too, am a
descendant of a Colaianni/DiTella family from San
Pietro, Avellana. My great grandfather was Prospero DiTella
(1857-1928). He came to the US in 1883. While still
Pietro, he married Maria (Bambina) Colaianni (1853-1923), daughter of
Giovanni Colaianni and Maria Morelli. Maria Bambina came to the US
to join Prospero in 1890, bringing their daughter, Maria Cristina
(1882-1950), my grandmother.
I know little more about this family, but find it quite coincidental
that the names and places are so similar. Should you
come across these given names in your research, I would love to hear
"I knew that Prospero
sisters. Caravita (who was named for her grandmother,
Ciotoli) married Giuseppe Colarosa. They moved to Denver
in 1900. Nicolina Giovanna (she went by Giovanna)
Bernardo di Croce in SPA (1872) and had two sons (one died at
birth). Bernardo died at the age of 36 and Giovanna died in
50's. That son joined Prospero in Salem, Ohio in
name diTella was changed to Detell and the name diCroce was changed to
DeCrow once they got to Salem."
In the years since, we have helped each other find out much more about
In Mar of 2005, she wrote:
"I take a look at
from time to time to see what's new. I do love the history of
Pietro A. Hope the project is going well. I got to
where the author speaks of the large group who first emigrated in 1881
and it reminded me of what I found. I am attaching
the spreadsheet of
passengers on the Ferdinand de Lesseps
that arrived in New York in Feb of 1882. It isn't quite 60
but the list reads like a San Pietro phone book. I haven't
time to check the names against the microfilm, yet. I thought
might like to see this."
Mark's note: Oct 2006 - I've expanded this spreadsheet into a web page
about the 1882 arrival of the Ferdinand
In May of 2005, Cris wrote:
"I was just looking
at your website again (I always see something I missed. Your site is
like a wonderful labyrinth of information).
Most of my family from SPA changed their names. While they
admitted it, it was because they were the
first Italians and didn't want to seem too foreign. The name
Prospero di Tella became Joe Detell. Giuseppe di Croce (son of Giovanna di Tella and
Bernardo di Croce) changed his name to Joe DeCrow. Emiddio
Colaianni (son of Giovanni Colaianni and Caterina di
Tella) changed his name to Meady Colon, but his brother Nunzio
Colaianni changed his to Joe Colian. Coliann was
also used by family in Wooster. The rule of thumb in the
family seemed to be if a name was not translatable, then use
Joe. Mary if it was a woman."
"I agree with you
that most people didn't change their names. I didn't mean to imply that. I only know of
my family-or at least the ones who settled in Salem, Ohio.
Prospero was one of the earliest Italians in that small town in 1898. He changed
his name. Several cousins and a nephew from SPA joined him there. They
also changed their names. They didn't want to be foreigners."
"As for changes made
at Ellis Island, I have never seen that either. I have an excellent example of how
that myth got started. Giuseppe di Croce came to the US early in
1900. He first lived in Ambridge, PA. The 1900
taken not long after he got here and his name was listed as Giuseppe di
When he moved to Salem, Ohio he changed his name to Joe
DeCrow. I have several intention papers
that show his name spelled differently. His last Intention paper,in 1938,
was for Giuseppe Di Croce (Joe Decrow). When his grown grandchildren took
an interest in their Italian heritage, they asked him what the name was
back in Italy. He told them he didn't know. He said the name had been
changed at Ellis Island. It hadn't. Ship's roster says di Croce, US census says
di Croce, even his intention paper says di Croce. His
grandchildren had no idea what the name had been originally until I started looking for
it. My own mother had a similar situation with the name Detell (di Tella)."
"I think name changes
mostly occurred when there were no other Italians in the town they moved to.
Had there been a large group of them, they would have had a support group and not
felt so foreign and out of place. I've noticed that those Italians who went
to Salem after 1905, with the exception of those who were from SPA (and
related to Prospero), kept their original names."
"The only reason I
mention any of this is that I can't believe that I'm the only one dealing with name
changes. It is very difficult to do family history if your family has
forgotten their original name."
|From Cris Swetye,
"Thought I'd send you
a photo of
Prospero di Tella and Bambina Colaianni. The photo was taken about 1895
or 1896. The couple seated are Prospero (Joe Detell) and
Bambina Colaianni. In front are their two sons, Louis and
Detell. Standing in the back is their daughter (my
Maria Cristina di Tella and her "intended" Antonio Volpe."
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