Mitterando History Notes

by Carm Mitterando

I can only relate what I remember my Mother (Aunt Antonette) telling me. She was known for having a fantastic memory for names, dates and family history. She married very young, age 18, and for the first few years of their marriage they lived close to Grandma and Grandpa Mitterando (Lugi and Marietta Mitterando). Since my Mother came to America at age 11, her native language was Italian and she was able to communicate directly with Grandma Mitterando. My Mother (who was a fabulous cook) spent a great deal of time with Grandma Mitterando, learning much about cooking, and at the same time learning about the history of the Mitterando family.

Grandma Mitterando (Marietta DiNicola Mitterando) came from a family of five sisters

They were orphaned at a young age and she took charge of her sisters, with the help of an Uncle. This Uncle was the same man that Grandma Mitterando (Marietta) left my father, (Uncle Ralph), with when she came to America. Grandma was an accomplished seamstress, and she and her sisters made their living from this.

Of the five sisters, two sisters became nuns in the same religious order and moved to Paris, France. One eventually became a Sister Superior. Two sisters stayed in Italy and we presume married, but we have no record of what their names were. Only Grandma Mitterando (Marietta) came to America. However, there was a cousin, Margarita, who came to America and lived with Grandma and Grandpa Mitterando (Marietta and Lugi) in Newark, NJ.

She might have been the daughter of one of Grandma's sisters in Italy, or of one of Grandpa's (Lugi's) sibling still in Italy. This cousin (Margarita) is the person who was responsible for introducing my Father (Ralph), to my Mother, (Aunt Antonette). I think this happened because Margarita married and lived close to where my Mother (Antonette) lived in another section of Newark, not very far away from the Mitterando family.

An interesting event took place in May of 1985. Just months prior to Papa's (Ralph's) death. This woman named "Margaretta" came to visit us here in Middlesex. Both Mama (Antonette) and Papa (Ralph) kept assuring me that I would know her, and I remember not being able to place the name. Well, as she emerged from the car (her daughter drove her up here) It was instant recognition for me. I knew her immediately as a face from my childhood.

She was always at my Grandmother's house (my Mother's Mother) and came frequently to our house as well. She had the most beautiful white hair, just like I remember Grandma Mitterando (Marietta). She was then over ninety years of age, and still so full of life, very small in statue, pretty face. Her daughter said visiting Papa (Ralph) was all her Mother kept asking for. She wanted see Papa before she passed on. Well, she got her wish. She was so happy to see Papa they spent hours just talking and laughing. They obviously had such a genuine bond of respect and love for each other. It was as if both knew that their time here on earth was coming to a close. They both cried when she left but were so thankful for having been able to visit with each other after so many years.

Ralph's Story

When Marietta and Luigi made the decision to come to America, they had three sons. Approximate ages were John age 6, Raphael age 3 and Joseph less than one year old. They could not afford the passage for everyone. They depended on John the eldest to help them, and they could not leave infant Joseph, so they had to leave son #2, Raphael with Grandma's Uncle. In his later years, when I asked Papa his Uncle's name, he could not remember.

This uncle was married, owned a farm, and had no children of his own. When I learned more about the hard life my father had growing up, I think he just put everything unpleasant out of his memory. He spoke very seldom about his childhood. For those who remember my Father, Uncle Ralph, he was always a gentleman and would never say a bad word about anyone. He was a loving and very quiet person who especially loved children, and children just automatically gravitated to him. I remember asking him about his Uncle, he said, "he and his wife had a heavy hand, they did not understand children very well" "they were always quick to hit and slap".Knowing Papa, this was a kind way of saying his Uncle and wife were not very nice people. Every once in a while when he would make a comment or relate an incident about his boyhood years on the farm in Italy, I always got the feeling this was a terribly lonely and unhappy time in his life. For instance, schooling.......

Papa only went to school if it rained all day. He still had to do his morning chores on the farm first, and then he could go to school for a few hours. He was self-taught here in the US and could read English very well. He was only able to write his name, nothing more.

He always appreciated everything he had in life in America and never wanted to go back to Italy for a visit. He would simply say, "there is nothing to go back to, there is everything here to see and stay for."

I loved to hear the story about his Donkey. He would speak about this Donkey as though it was his only friend. Papa's donkey was used to pull the wagon to take the produce to the market in Bari, some 20 miles away. Once, something upset the donkey and the donkey actually bit Papa said he bit the Donkey back, I think on his ear. Papa's Uncle was very angry with Papa since the donkey was a prized possession and their means of transportation, but Papa won out, the Donkey never bit Papa again!

As Papa's schooling was so sporadic, no letters were exchanged with his siblings in America. He had no news of his immediate family other than when someone would come to visit from the US. This was not very often, and since Papa was a very quiet, shy person, I think he had a very difficult and lonely childhood.

In 1908, Grandpa Mitterando (Lugi) took a trip back to Italy. Papa was 12 years old. This was now the first time Papa met his Father (I don't think he remembered him at all from age 3) and he learned about his other siblings living in America. When Grandpa asked Papa if he would like to come to America or stay with the Uncle in Italy, Papa chose America.

His Uncle was not happy with his decision and promised Papa (Ralph) if he stayed with him he would leave him the farm and everything. Papa said he wanted to be with his Mother, Father, brothers, and sisters. His Uncle then slapped him across the face and said, "you are just like your Mother, I helped raise her and she left me, and now you are doing the same thing." In 1911, when Papa was 15 years old, he came to America.

On the morning of October 2,1911, Papa arrived in New York, on Ellis Island. He spoke not a word of English and waited to be picked up.

No visitors were allowed in the great hall on Ellis Island. The US Customs Officers would go through the great room calling out the names of the individuals. They were calling out for "Raphael Mitterando". There was no response for most of the day! I know Grandpa (Luigi) and John were there to meet him. Now, obviously Papa did not know the name had been changed, and finally, Uncle John realized the problem and asked the officer to call out the name in Italian, "MITAROTONDO". .They finally connected with Papa!

At last, Papa was introduced to all his siblings at home. John, Joseph, Carmen, Angelo, Molly and of course his Mother. He was considered too old to go to school so he went immediately to work on the Ice route with Grandpa (Luigi), with a horse and wagon. I remember Papa saying he thought everyone here in the US was so very rich and was very impressed with his younger siblings who were able to go to school every day. He was self-taught in speaking and reading English and he loved to read!

Papa was spared from having to be drafted for WWI because he became very ill when he was 17. He was near death and confined to bed for approximately one year. It was feared he would never walk again, but he recovered, did walk again and always had a slight limp from his left leg. I believe the illness was thought to be Rheumatic fever.

Grandpa Mitterando (Lugi) did have two sisters that lived here in the US.

This is the information I got from Commara Mary DiGeorge (wife of Willie DiGeorge).

One sister lived in Jersey City, NJ and the other in Hoboken, NJ. Their married names were "Vero" and "Catero". Each sister had children and Papa (Ralph) was very close to these cousins and kept in touch through the years. One sister was Zia LuCrezia and the other was Zia Angelina. I am not sure which last name belonged to whom.

Their children were Raphael Vero, Jack Vero, Ralph Catero, and John Catero. Daughters of Zia Angelina were Carmella and Chiana. Chiana lived in Hoboken, NJ and had two daughters. Raphael Vero a barber lived in Elizabeth, NJ died in an automobile accident on June 15, 1947. He had two young, daughters. A brother Jack Vero, a jeweler lived in the Bronx. The son of one of the Catero brothers, became a Doctor. I remember that Mama and Papa went to a big celebration when he graduated from Medical School. They also went to his wedding, and he had five children from this marriage. He set up medical practice in New York.

Now for the name of DiGeorge..

John DiGeorge was the only brother of Carmella DiGeorge Mitarotondo. Carmella was Grandpa Luigi Mitterandos Mother. John DiGeorge and Carmella DiGeorge Mitarotondo came from a family of around eight children. John DiGeorge also came here to America. He had three sons and one daughter. His sons, Willie, Joe, and Frank (Gigi) and a sister Carmella (Molly) were first cousins with Grandpa Luigi Mitterando. However, his children were all born in Italy and were closer in ages to Grandpa Mitterando's children (John, Ralph, Joe, Nuchi, Julie and Molly). They became close cousins, especially with my Father, Uncle Ralph.

One in particular, Willie DiGeorge, son of John DiGeorge, Uncle to Grandpa (Lugi) Mitterando was to become best friends with Papa for life! Willie's Father, John DiGeorge was actually my Fathers' Great Uncle. Now, Willie DiGeorge had two daughters and one son. My brothers and sisters were raised with these cousins and we are still very close. Commara Mary, Compara Willies' wife is Godmother to my sister Katie. By visiting her I got the information about that side of the family. She passed away only a few years ago. Their children are Phyllis (DiGeorge) Vehiky of Lavallette, NJ, Theresa (DiGeorge) Nidds of Lakewood, NJ and John DiGeorge of Toms River, NJ.

The other children of John DiGeorge married and had children. Joe DiGeorge had four children, two sons, and two daughters. Frank (Gigi) DiGeorge had three daughters. Molly DiGeorge married Joe Giancaspro and had several children. . The only one I still see is the daughter of Frank (Gigi) DiGeorge, (Phyllis (DiGeorge) DelRusso of Cranford, NJ who I went to school with.

So as you can see, on Grandpa's Mitterando side, the family is extensive. I have heard of other Mitarotondo and Mitterando families here in NJ, but have not attempted to find the connection.

Conclusion is that the names of Vero, Catero, DiGeorge, Giancaspro and many, many more through marriages are all related somehow to the family name of "Mitarotondo".and/or Mitterando.

The search goes on..........

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