10 April 2020

Is This Name a Coincidence? I Aim to Find Out

Her last name makes me think Dad's childhood crush was a distant cousin.

I sent my dad a photo from my late aunt's collection. "Do you know these women with your mother?" I knew the background was his Bronx apartment house.

I wanted to know about one particularly beautiful young woman. I have another photo of her in a different location. Someone wrote on the bottom "Amelia and me," and this pretty lady was on the right. I assumed she was the "me."

This photo triggered lots of memories for Dad. "The older woman on the right is Mrs. Pozzuto, who lived across the street from my grandmother [in Girard, Ohio]. The three women are her daughters, Amelia, Marie and Margaret. The one you pointed out is Amelia. I was in love with her when I was about 9 or 10. Marie married Tony who taught me how to drive at 12 or 15 years old in Girard. That might be me in the picture with my grandmother on the extreme left."

Way to go, Dad! Pozzuto is a last name from my ancestral hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy. It's a key name in our family tree. I had to investigate.

The 4 women were named Pozzuto. If you knew my family, you'd know that's no coincidence.
The 4 women were named Pozzuto. If you knew my family, you'd know that's no coincidence.

Starting the Search

The first thing I did was pull up my great grandparent's 1930 census from Girard, Ohio. I wanted to see their neighbors. Two families down from my Iamarino family, I found the Pozzuto family!
  • John Pozzuto, 35 years old, born in Italy, arrived in 1916, married for 10 years
  • wife Agnes, 26 years old, born in Italy, arrived in 1906 (so I know they married in America)
  • daughter Marie, 9 years old, born in Ohio
  • daughter Amelia, 6 years old, born in Ohio
  • daughter Marguerite, 4 years old, born in Ohio
Wouldn't it be great if John Pozzuto was our relative? I'm sure it was no coincidence. A Pozzuto living across the street from my Colle Sannita-born great grandfather?

I knew what I needed to search for:
  • an immigration record for John (Giovanni) Pozzuto, born in 1895, coming to America in 1916
  • an 1895 birth record for him from my collection of Colle Sannita vital records
  • a 1920 Ohio (most likely) marriage record for Giovanni and Agnes
  • Giovanni in America before his marriage
The first solid result I found was for Margherita Pozzuto's Ohio marriage. It lists her parents as John Pozzuto and Agnes Natale. Now I have a maiden name for Mrs. Pozzuto.

On Ancestry.com, this record had several leads in the Suggested Records column. From those records I learned that:
  • John Pozzuto died in Girard, Ohio in 1959.
  • Marie Pozzuto's middle name was Julia and she married Tony Dellagnena in Ohio in 1946. So it was Tony Dellagnena who taught my under-aged dad to drive.
  • Amelia's middle name was Rose, and she married Nicholas Victor Basciano in Ohio in 1950.
  • Margaret's birth name was Margherita, and she married George Bella in Ohio in 1951.
Narrowing the Scope

I needed to know more about the father of the family, Giovanni Pozzuto. I searched for World War I and II draft cards and found 2 possibilities. The World War I card was for a Giovanni Pozzuto born in 1896 in Colle Sannita. When I looked at his birth record in my collection, it said he married a girl named Angela Martuccio in Italy in 1920. That rules him out.

The World War II draft registration card is right on the money. His wife is Agnes and his address is the one I know on Dearborn Street. This card says he was born on 24 Jan 1895. I checked my Italian vital record collection. There is a Giovanni Pozzuto born in Colle Sannita who is a match. He was born on 24 Jan 1895 to Antonio Pozzuto and Annamaria Zeolla.

OMG, when the names Pozzuto and Zeolla come together, I get chills. Those 2 names combined hold the secret to the DNA relationship between my mother and my father. I've worked nearly every Pozzuto vital record into my family tree, and plan to do the Zeolla records next.

But this particular Pozzuto birth record is not in my tree yet. I had trouble positively identifying his parents, Antonio and Annamaria. There's a couple in my tree that seems like a good match. But they had a son named Giovanni in 1901, so they couldn't have had a Giovanni in 1895 who lived beyond 1901.

Finding a Good Fit

I began searching for any variations of Antonio Pozzuto in my tree, born around 1870. Giovannantonio, Giuseppantonio, Francesantonio, anything.

I found a Giuseppe Antonio Pozzuto born in 1871. His wife is not Annamaria Zeolla, but she is Maria Zeolla. They married in 1891. I already found 5 children born to them between 1893 and 1899.

This looks like a good fit for Giovanni, but more research is needed.
This looks like a good fit for Giovanni, but more research is needed.

The husband's father was Saverio, and that is the name of the couple's 1st son. The wife's father was Giovanni Vincenzo. I already had their son Vincenzo, born in 1899—after the Giovanni I'm trying to place in their home.

It does fit for my Giovanni from Ohio to be this couple's son. And one of the other children in the family was born at the same address as Giovanni: Vico Selice, 5.

I'm going to place Giovanni in this family with a big old asterisk. In Family Tree Maker, I'll add a bookmark to his name. This tells me to look at his notes to see if I can resolve any problems.

If I did put him in the right family, Dad's boyhood crush was his 4th cousin Amelia. How fun is that?

Dear readers, I love doing this. I've been working with my parents to name all the old neighborhood people in my late aunt's photos. Everyone knew everyone else who lived there.

And in my small ancestral hometowns, nearly everyone was related. It seems if I dig long enough, I find a connection.

Now I must do what I can to eliminate Giovanni's asterisk.


  1. My great grandmother Maria Giacchi was born in 1867. In 1880 her parents had another daughter and they named her..... Maria Giacchi. Why I don't know. My great grandmother was still very much alive.

    1. Each Maria may have had a different middle name, like Maria Rosa and Maria Grazia. My great grandmother was born Marianna, but she later went by the name of her deceased older sister, Mariangela. That one stumps me.