POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - May 7, 2005

POINTers In Person
Chapter 15
Northern New Jersey

P.O. Box 636
Totowa, New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

May 7, 2005

Albert Marotta (#1018)

The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on May 7, 2005 at the
Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-one people attended.

Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by taking a vote in which the membership approved the revised by-laws.  The major changes included an increase of dues and a change in our fiscal calendar, which made the chapter’s year begin in February.  A member mentioned that researchers could join the Godfrey Scholar Library (www.godfrey.org ) for a modest annual fee which allows them to access many excellent genealogical resources online, including the U.S. Census 1790-1930, Heritage Quest online databases and a fully searchable newspaper archive of over 400 historic newspapers across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.  It also has every word searchable backfiles of the New York Times (1851-2001), Los Angeles Times (1881-1984) and the Washington Post (1877-1988).  Another member alerted the chapter that the local public libraries in Ridgewood and Wayne subscribes to the Ancestry.com database.

Also Maria urged members to contact the sponsors of New Jersey Assembly Bill 3806, which provides that vital records will not be deemed to be public records in order to protect against identity theft and terrorism.  Letters or phone calls to the bill’s sponsors should request them to amend the bill to provide genealogists with non-certified copies of these records after a prescribed time has elapsed.   See www.njleg.state.nj.us for details.

 Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.  The chapter has 87 members;
46 of them have kept their dues current.

Albert Zani (#1479) gave an enthusiastic and interesting presentation, “History of Sicily:
An Historical Overview from Antiquity to 1860”.  He began by telling members that although neither side of his family has Sicilian roots, he found that while researching the topic, this unique island fascinated him.  Albert believed that it was an impossible task to present the very long and complex history of Sicily in such a brief presentation.  Yet he managed to clearly summarize the whole of Sicily in a nutshell and in a very enjoyable and complete manner.

 Members were reminded that in mythology, Aeneas, Demeter and Persephone, Vulcanus and Odysseus/Ulysses each had a vital connection to Sicily.

Albert began by showing us the importance of Sicily’s geography and its relationship to its history.  Then he divided its history into Pre-Roman, Roman, Middle Ages, Norman, Swabian, Anjou, Aragon, and Modern Times.  The pre-Roman era featured the original people: Sicani of western Sicily; Siculi, Indo-European settlers in the east; and the Elymians, of Trojan origin from the far northwest.  Also, there were Phoenicians settlers in the west and Greeks (8th-6th centuries BC), with their first colonies of Taormina, Catania and Messina in the east and Syracuse.  Sicily was the first province of Rome (3rd   century BC) and although it became the “center of civilization”, it remained a provincial backwater and there was no mass migration of Latin speakers and thus little Romanization.

During the Middle Ages the Vandals and Ostrogoths preceded the Byzantines (500s-800s) and the Arabs (827-1091).  It was during Arab rule that Sicily’s first Golden Age took place and the island became extremely prosperous.  Water towers, reservoirs, rice, cotton, sugar cane, oranges, lemons and mulberries were introduced. By the 1060s, half the population was Muslim.  Syracuse became a major center.

This period was followed by the arrival of the Normans (1091-1190), who were sent by the Pope to remedy the spreading of Islam in Sicily.  This caused many Muslims to leave and they were replaced by Ligurians and Piedmontese.  However, the Normans created a tolerant society, having Latin, Greek and Arabic as official languages.  They began the “latinization” of Sicily by means of both the language and the Church.  Also they blended Romanesque and eastern art, creating a pleasing style.

The Hohenstauffen/Swabian rule of the Holy Roman Empire (1190-1268) followed.  The star of this period was Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily and enemy of Papal rule.  He encouraged the arts and the “Sicilian School” of Il Dolce Stile Novo was born and the first poetry in the Italian vernacular was written.  Then came the rule of the French House of Anjou (1268-1282) and following the episode of the “Sicilian Vespers”, the rule of the Spanish House of Aragon (1282- 1492).  An agreement was made in 1283 between Peter III of Aragon (Sicily) and Charles I of Anjou (Naples-Sicily) to create the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  “Absentee kings” led to the position of viceroy in Sicily.  This relegated Sicily to a less important position on the world stage and its fortunes began to decline.

Modern Times might be considered to begin with the founding of the University of Messina in 1548, the first university in Sicily.  A catastrophic event occurred in 1693, the devastating earthquake in eastern Sicily. It seriously damaged Catania and Syracuse, killing 60,000 in Catania and 93,000 in Naples.   In 1712, the Duke of Savoy was awarded Sicily and by 1720 the King of Naples and Sicily was the same person.  When the Napoleonic Wars caused Naples to be occupied, the King fled to Sicily.  In 1812, feudalism was abolished and the vacuum created by the loss of protection of the poor was filled by organized crime.  The Bourbons were restored in 1815, returning the king to Naples.  This was the official creation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  Sicilians began an uprising against the oppressive Neapolitan government (1820-1821).  This era is known for Napoleonic laws which required careful and detailed recording of vital records.  The modern era closed with the march of Garibaldi and his 1,000 Red Shirts at Marsala.  They took possession of Sicily in 1860, paving the way for the unification of Italy a decade later.

Albert closed his presentation by listing the various legacies for each of the groups which populated Sicily.  The eastern part of the island had strong Greek influence and the people are considered reserved while the western part, with Arab influence, has more lively residents.  The various Sicilian visitors left legacies of genetics, myths, cooking, laws, religion, architecture, literature, languages and customs.

Future meetings will be held on:

     November 5, 2005
     February 4, 2006
     May 6, 2006
     August 5, 2006

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

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