POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - February 1, 2003

POINTers In Person
Chapter 15
Northern New Jersey

P.O. Box 636
Totowa, New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

 February 1, 2003

Albert Marotta (#1018)

     The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on February 1, 2003, at the
Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-six people attended.

     Annita Zalenski (#39) opened the meeting by alerting members that the Italian Genealogical Group was looking to establish local chapters in New York City, northern NJ and CT.  She also provided a comprehensive listing by The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Italian heritage and cultural events. Geri Mola mentioned that the Ridgewood Public Library has The New York Times Backfile: Pro Quest Historical Newspapers.  This database offers full-image articles with searchable ASCII text for the New York Times covering 1851-1999.  Maria Carparelli (#2100) presented members with the second, updated edition of Northern NJ chapter of POINTers In Person database in booklet form.  She took book orders for those interested.  Also, she distributed La Notizia Italiana, the chapter newsletter.  It featured the history of St. Lucy's Italian parish in Newark and the sad notation that the three-month-old completed church plaza, filled with statues imported from Italy, was destroyed by vandals in January.  The plaza and statues are now being repaired and soon will be back to their original beauty.  Such is the undying spirit of the people of this parish!  The newsletter and database are both possible due to the effort and creative talents of Maria.  Members are grateful.  Phil Oddo (#774) asked the chapter how it will decide who gets a certificate of honor.  Will it be awarded to those who successfully research their line back five generations or more?  A Nominating Committee consisting of Tony Desiderioscioli, Maria Carparelli and Al Marotta was selected.

     Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer's report.  Only twenty-four people have kept their membership current by dues payment.  The chapter has 74 members.

     Albert Zani (#1479) gave an informative and enthusiastic presentation on Italians in America.  His family's roots are in the provinces of Trento, Salerno, and Campobasso and he has lived and traveled in Italy extensively.  First, he gave a brief history of Italy.  A mosaic of states and peoples (Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Italic tribes, Celtic/Gauls, the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies, Papal States, etc.) became unified 1860-1870.  Next, he gave an interesting overview of Italians in the U.S.  The Italian immigrant was full of paradoxes: he respected authority, but was rebellious; he emphasized the importance of the family, yet cherished individuality; he was devout and anticlerical.  Albert mentioned the lens of campanilisimo through which the Italian viewed his world.  One's family was most important, then one's village.  He didn't seem to care what happened beyond what he could see from his "bell tower".  Italians believed in taking advantage of opportunities and emphasized a pragmatic education.  Religions, with their various traditions, also played a major part in their lives, especially the striking of deals with the saints and God Himself.

     Then, Albert traced the influence of Italians throughout the history of the U.S.  The Age of Exploration featured Columbus, Cabot, Verazzano and Vespucci who were all Italian, but  none of them sailed and explored for Italy.  Perhaps this was true because Italy was not yet a unified country and, thus, didn't have the wealth necessary for exploration.  Also, Italy didn't have direct access to the ocean.  During the Colonial Period, many Italians settled in the Catholic French and Spanish territories.  Small groups of Italians could be found in the English colonies of Jamestown and in Georgia and Maryland.  Three men with Italian ancestry either signed the Declaration of Independence or influenced its wording.

There were Italian-Americans who fought in the American Civil War.  Many Italian immigrants came to the U.S. during the Golden Era (1880-1930), when over four million (97% through New York City) arrived.  Some early immigrants ("swallows") went back and forth between the U.S. and Italy.  Money made in the U.S. was used to improve life in Italy.  Others settled in the northeastern industrial belt, in agricultural states or in areas where they could continue the trade they practiced in Italy, such as miners in the mining communities of Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

     Albert concluded by focusing on Italians in New Jersey.  Currently, Italians make up the largest ancestry group in NJ and the state is the second largest "Italian State" numerically, after NY.  There were numerous large Italian colonies throughout the state.  William Albertus (born 1652) is considered
New Jersey's earliest Italian resident.  He lived near Princeton.  Giovanni Battista Sartori was instrumental in the founding of the first regular Catholic parish in NJ, St. John's Parish in Trenton.  Between 1811 and 1814, Mass was said in Sartori's house.  In 1814, he and a few others purchased land and, with the approval of the Bishop of Philadelphia, erected a small church.  Today, this parish is known as
Sacred Heart Church in Trenton.

     Albert Zani also shared with members the superstitious sayings and behaviors which were well used by Italians.

 Future meetings will be held on:
                                 May 3, 2003
                                 August 2, 2003
                                 November 1, 2003
                                 February 7, 2004

For more information,  see our website: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~njpoint/


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