The Contessa Family
of San Marcos in Lamis, Foggia, Puglia, Italy
My Great-Grandfather Leonardo Contessa was born on the 7th of January, 1892 in S. Marco in Lamis, Foggia, Puglia, Italy to Antonio Contessa and Marie Emanuella Rendina. He was the only son of seven children.
He arrived at Ellis Island at age 15 (see Contessa...partII) with his father Antonio on 05 March, 1907 on the SS. Romatica. His father got him safely to relatives in Chicago and then returned home to his wife and children still in Italy; where he and the rest of the family remained, married and died.
By 1914 he was living and working on the Railroad in Mandan, Morton County, North Dakota. There he met a young, not so happily married Alma Trautman. They fell in love and she became pregnant with my grandfather Benjamin who was born on 27 February, 1913 Bismarck, ND. A short time after his birth it was obvious the child was not of her husband Alfred Casper. To make the story short she wanted to leave Alfred and take the child with her and Leo to WA state, but Alfred wasn't going to allow that. Alma then made a choice to leave him anyways and come back for her child later. It never happened. By the time Alfred would finally sign the divorce papers my grandfather was getting old enough that Alma (in my thinking) thought it would have been better for him to stay where he was until he was old enough to understand. It wasn't until he was about 18 that he was finally told about his natural father because he started asking questions. It was Aunt Hattie Casper he went to for answers and she told him the whole story. All that time the only father he knew was Alfred and it was him who was listed as the father on his birth certificate. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather was writing and receiving letters from his mother and siblings he never knew. His father died on 07 January, 1961 in WA state and he went to the funeral where he met for the first time in person his brothers and sisters. His sisters told him that their father had kept in his bureau, a lock of his baby hair for all these years. His mother Alma died on 28 August, 1940, Tacoma, Pierce County, Wa.
He married in 1943 to Marguerite Mae Casper, daughter of James Arthur Casper (brother of Alfred) and Carrie A. McClearn. They married in St. Paul, MN because they figured they better run-away to be married fearing the family wouldn't approve. After all they were raised as 1st cousins!
Antonio Contessa was born in S. Marco in Lamis on 26 Oct., 1865 and was married on 23 Nov., 1889 to Marie Emanuela Rendina. She was born in S. Marco in Lamis on 18 June, 1870. Their parents are not know at this time, but I will be sending away for the Stato di Famiglia (State of the Family) papers in the near future for both Antonio and Emanuela so their parents and siblings can be discoverd. These documents are historical records that the individual communities collected and documented over the years. They include birth/death/marriage information for all members of the household. I suppose the Italian system was to file records as family units, rather than to file records in an alphabetical/date style system. It's a great tool for genealogical research, because when you are looking for parental/sibling information of an individual for whom you know the exact date of birth, this document gives you everything at once!
I ordered the Stato di Famiglia in 2001 for Leonardo Contessa born 07 Jan., 1892 and within 5 weeks I received the document, including an abstract marriage record for his parents. I would supply a copy for you to see, but I'm afraid it's just too big and would take up too much space! Here is the info from that document:
Si certifica che la famiglia di Antonio Contessa
(All members of household were born in S. Marco in Lamis)
.Contessa, Antonio, born 26 Oct., 1865; died 31 Jan., 1932 S. Marco in Lamis
Marie Emanuela (Rendina), wife, born 18 June, 1870; died 01 Sept., 1967 S. Marco in Lamis
1. Marie Luigia, born 13 Aug., 1887; married Guiseppe Antonio VILLANI on 16 Sept., 1906
2. Antoniella, born 29 July, 1890; married Nicole CIAVARELLA on 18 Nov., 1909
3. Leonardo, born 07 Jan., 1892, Stato Uniti 1931 (says he went to US in 1931....we know he came in 1907; it's assumed he went back to visit his family in 1931)
4. Angela, born 11 July, 1895, married Guiseppe CENTOLE in 1921
5. Marie Teresa, born 03 June, 1898, married Luigi LOMBARDOZZI on 29 June, 1920
6. Carmela, born and died 09 July, 1900
7. Raffaela, born 10 June, 1903, married Antonio COCO on 20 May, 1933
8. Marie Carolina, born 10 Nov., 1905; died November, 1906
Contessa Part II