The History of the descendents of Rocco Caggiano, and related families
These pages were developed by Jeff Donofrio, and they contain information that I have collected over the last 20 years on the family history of the Caggiano family from Potenza, Italy. Anyone who has additional information on any of these family members is encouraged to contact me. I am interested in any information that is available such as photographs, old documents, or corrections.
Graphical Family Charts
Biographies of Ancestors
- This pdf shows the known generations back from Lucia Catherine Caggiano Donofrio.
Five Generations Back:
Four Generations Back:
Three Generations Back:
Two Generations Back:
Caggiano daughters, from left to right: Anna Caggiano Mongiovi, Louise Brindisi DeGiovine (half sister), Rose Caggiano Sottilare and Lucy Caggiano Donofrio. Picture was taken during WWII, between 1941 and 1945.
Meanings of the Family Names
1. Caggiano: Southern Italian. Habitational name from a place in Salerno province named Caggiano, from the Latin personal name Cavius.
Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4
2. Caggiani - means seagull in the Vastese area.
Source: Our Italian Surnames. Joseph G. Fucilla. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore. 1987. (St. Louis Public Library) Page 121.
3. Caggiano - It is indeed not surprising that one of the first Western European countries, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to institute hereditary surnames was Italy. There is documentary evidence to show that hereditary names were employed among the patricians of the the Republic of Venice in the tenth and eleventh centuries. As among the Romans, where a gens-name, derived from the founder of the family-tree, was added to the praenomen, or first name, so to among the Venetians the "cognomen", a "family name" was derived from a name applied to an early ancestor. This name was itself derived from a number of very diverse sources.
In this instance, the surname Caggiano is of toponymic origin. Toponymic names are those surnames which derive their origin from a particular place name near which the original bearer resided or held land. In this instance, the surname Caggiano is derived from the place name Caggiano and therefore signifies "descendant of or son of one who hails from Caggiano". Caggiano is the name of a place located in the province of Salento. As a surname, Caggiano is also found in Forenza, Irsina, San Rufo and is widely found in Calabria, Naples and of course in the province of Salento itself.
It is also possible that in some instances this name, along with its variants Caggiani and Caggio, may be of nickname origin, being derived from a dialect word for a seagull. In this instance, the name derives from "caggiano" which in Vastese, Abruzzi, means "a seagull". (Ref. 10)
Coat of arms information:
BLAZON OF ARMS: Argent; a cross gules (red), surmounted by a mullet (star) of the same (this means a silver shield, or "escutcheon", with a red cross, with a star of the same color).
Translation: The mullet (star) denotes Military Honour.
CREST: The star of the arms.
Source: The Historical Research Center, Inc. c 1993. Purchased from European Heritage Company, Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118. (619) 435-3909.
Surname Maps for Caggiano & related families
Emmigration, Immigration, and Ships
Residences in the United States
Variations include CERRA, CERRETELLI, CERRETI, CERRETO, CERRETTI, CERRI, CERRINA, CERRINO CERRIO, CERRIONE, CERRONE, CERRONI.
From "cerro" meaning steep rock, used in many names of places.
Source: Italy World Club website, http://www.italyworldclub.com/genealogy/surnames/c.htm
Variations include PALMIERI, PALMERO, PALMIERO, PALMERINO, PALMARINO, PALMERUCCI.
From the old French first name Palmiere, derived from Palma; nickname given, during the Middle Ages, to the pilgrims to the Holy Land
The Comune di Satriano di Lucania was once called "Pietrafesa". So the last name of Pietrafesa is someone who came from this town.
This village (Satriano di Lucania) was built on the high part of the Melandro Valley. In 1420 it was destroyed by the mercenary troops of Queen Giovanna II. The survivors found refuge near Tito, where they built the village called ‘Pietrafixa', nowadays called Satriano di Lucania. What remains of the old village are the Tower and some ruins.
Source: La Basilicata Turistica website. http://www.aptbasilicata.it/a_inglese/pg567.html
"La denominazione Pietrafesa deriva dall'aspetto fessurato della montagna su cui sorgeva." In English, "The derivation of the name Pietrafesa comes from the cracked aspect of the mountain on which it rose."
The root of the word Pietra is "rock", and -fesa comes from the Italian word fessura, meaning fissured or cracked.
Pietrafesa is the 7th most common name in the city of Potenza, Italy.
1. SANTANGELO: From the name of a place dedicated to the Archangel Michael, or a fusion of the two names Sante and Angelo
Source: Italy World Club website, http://www.italyworldclub.com/genealogy/surnames/s.htm
2. There are a large number of "Santangelo" villages in Italy. However, Santangelo le Fratte (Saint Angelo the Friar) is a closest one that is near Potenza. It is located about 25 kilometers southwest of Potenza, and north of the town of Brienza.
Here is a website on the story of Santangelo le Fratte, in Italian.
Vendegna is not a common Italian surname. To see how rare it is, the surname map only shows that it appears in two locations, one being Potenza, and the other (to a lesser extent) near Milan. Because of its rarity, there is no definitive meaning of the last name. However, in Italian, the word vendemmia means "vintage," and can also mean "harvest". Vendemmiare means "to gather grapes."
To look into this some more, in September 2003 I started a discussion topic on the Italian Genealogy website, and Jesse Vendegna from New York said that it meant "farmer" according to Jesse's father. Another person, “DVendegna” stated that it very loosely was translated as “keeper of the vines,” and that it made sense, since his grandfather was a vintner in New York state, and bemoaned the quality of grapes in New York versus his home country of Italy.
A final point to be made about the name is that one branch of the family migrated to the Denver, Colorado area and spelled the name “Vendegnia.” The 1920 Census for Denver Colorado lists an Angelo and Mary Vendegnia, who arrived in 1895 and 1904 respectively. It’s likely that most of the people today who spell the name with the “i” are descended from Angelo and Mary. Other branches, which settled in New York, appear to have kept the original spelling of the name “Vendegna.”
Based on this, it seems possible that this name comes from a local dialect and means "harvester or farmer of grapes." However, that is just an educated guess based on the limited information above.
Meanings of the Italian Family Names Mostly has d'Onofrio family names included.
Areas and Regions of historical interest
- Residences in Manhattan were 52 Oliver Street in 1899 for Joseph, 68 James Street for Filomena; 27 Oak St (now Monroe Street) in 1900; 70 Oliver Street in 1910; 25 Henry Street in 1920; and 56 James Street in 1927. The Caggiano's had some extended family in Morris County, NJ, where Lucy Caggiano met Joseph Donofrio and moved around the 1920s.
History of Italy & Reasons for Emmigration
History of Italy from the Italian Genealogy Web site (Local copy)
Basilicata homepage - In Italian.
History of Potenza
Another history of Potenza
Comune of Potenza, Italy homepage - In Italian
Province of Potenza homepage - In Italian
Potenza, Basilicata Some nice pictures.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
History of Denver immigrants
History of Dover, NJ From the Dover, NJ webpages.
History of Rockaway Borough, NJ by Mary Electa Robinson.
Information on the History and Royalty of the Two Sicilies
Religion & Churches
- Roman Catholic religion - Wikipedia entry on Roman Catholicism
The Old St. James Church, built in 1827. This was not the Church of the Caggiano family, but is near where the church of San Joachim once stood.
- Churches - Lucy Caggiano was married in the Chiesa di San Gioacchino, or Church of Saint Joachim, which was located at 22-24 Roosevelt Street. The church and road are no longer in existence. The church was torn down in 1961 to make way for Chatham Green Houses (public housing projects). If anyone has a picture of this church, I would really like to have a copy.
- Burial sites and graves
- Saint Gerardo della Porta (1099-1119) The patron saint of Potenza, Italy.
DNA & Genetics
For information on genealogical uses of genetics and DNA, click here.
Wars that may have involved ancestors:
Potenza database - Transcription of Birth, Marriage, and Death Records involving Caggiano and related families.
- Potenza Database (NOT YET ONLINE). Transcribed by Jeff Donofrio. These are notes on most of the Caggiano and other families. This database includes some unrelated or more distantly related Caggiano families from Potenza.
Sources & some interesting articles:
Website created by Jeff Donofrio.
Copyright 2016. Jeff Donofrio.
Last updated March 2016. Please do not distribute without permission.