Early Reseach Done on the Family Tree

Rumors of being related to Gabriel Rossetti. 1980’s


            I recall when I was in college my Uncle Joe told me the story that our family, the Pietrocola family, were related to Gabriel Rossetti and his children Dante and Christina Rossetti. I really was not too sure on who these people were, but my Uncle Joe told me that the Rossetti family was famous painters and poets. Being a history major in college and having studied western European history I figure I would look this Rossetti family and see who they were and how we were related. Photo of Gabriele Rossetti.


Finding a Pietrocola in the library. 1984-1989


            My first stop was the Ridgewood Public Library in Ridgewood, New Jersey. There was a whole section of books on the Rossetti’s and their family. I recall I started to read some of these books and looked into when and where the Rossetti’s were born and where did they come from. But, what really caught my attention was in one of the books I saw the name of a Pietrocola. The name was Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti. I could not believe that I was able to find my last name in a book because my name is not a common name. It was then and there that I knew I was hooked on family research and genealogy. Later, I would find the mother of Gabriele Rossetti who was Maria Francesca Rossetti, but whose maiden name was Pietrocola. This was the connection to my family that I was looking for, but it was just one piece of a huge puzzle.


            To get an idea how big of a puzzle I was looking at it came down to making my first family tree. I recall I wrote down the few names and birthdates and death dates I had recorded. I started with Gabriele Rossetti, Maria Francesca Pietrocola, her father Nicola Pietrocola, and their cousin Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti. Then I wrote down the birthdates and death dates of myself, my father, and my grandfather. That was all the information that I had and I started to see the whole picture. I figure that most people lived to their sixties and had children in their twenties and I estimated that number of generations between myself and Maria Francesca Pietrocola and her husband Gabriele Rossetti. I figure that was at least six to seven generations of Pietrocolas between Maria Francesca Pietrocola and me. I thought to myself that maybe it is possible to link my grandfather, Gregorio Pietrocola to Maria Francesca Pietrocola and her father Nicola Pietrocola. Photo of Maria Francesca Pietrocola.


Michele Di Pompo and the book Histonium ed Il Vasto. 1988-1989


            Back in the Bronx in New York City my grandmother Filomena Pietrocola lived on 187th street and it was here that I would find other pieces of the puzzle. My grandmother was a in her late nineties when my father and I used to visit her now and then in her little studio. My Uncle Joe would also meet us there and I recall how my father would used to meet people he knew from the old neighborhood on 187th Street and talk. One of these people was a man named Michele Di Pompo who was a nice Old Italian man from Vasto. Michele knew my grandmother and my whole family that came from the Bronx. But, it turns out he knew a lot about the history of Vasto and had a special book on Vasto. It turns out he had an old book called, Histonium ed Il Vasto which was printed back in the 1930’s. He showed me the book on day and I could not believe that the name Pietrocola was in the book few times. It turns out that a lot of historical figures from Vasto were the Pietrocola family. My Uncle Joe was able to borrow the book and I was able to add more names to the family tree. Unfortunetly, there was still no way to connect all these names together in a family tree. A lot of leaves were there, but there were no branches to connect all these names together


Grandmother’s Treasures 1990


            When my grandmother past away in 1990 I recall my Uncle Joe, my father, and I were going through here belongings. In these belongings were old addresses of relatives that lived in Italy. Nobody has seen these relatives in over twenty years. Maybe, these relatives can help me in my genealogy research? Other treasures were funeral cards of distant relatives, old letters from family members in Italy, and finally a huge pile of family photos. My uncle Joe gave me the photos and I put the photos in order. I recall I made three photo albums. One was the family that lived in New York City like my aunts, uncle, and cousins etc. The next album was of relatives that live in the United States that are mostly related to my grandmother, or Tana side of the family. But the last book I made was full of photos and letters from the family in Vasto Italy. Eventually, these addresses, photos, and letters would serve as important tools to find my family tree in Vasto.


Going to the New York Public Library. 1993


            After using up all the information at the local library my next stop was the New York Public Library in New York City. I recall looking up my name in the huge card catalogue and computer catalogue with a few results. I found the name Pietrocola in a few books, I recall a few being written in Italian, but I did find a Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti name on one book. It turns out that Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti translated the first edition of Alice in Wonderland in Italian. But, the big score at the New York Public Library came when I checked the census and genealogy section of the library. Though most records were for families in the United States it turns out they had pamphlets for people like me looking up family history. One pamphlet said, “Are you interested in finding your ancestors? You are invited to visit a branch of the largest family history center in the world”. It turns out that “The New York Family History Center” was the next step on my journey on finding my family tree. But, it turns out The New York Family History Center is a Mormon Church.


Going to the Mormon Church.1993


            It was in the Mormon Church, across the street form the Lincoln Center that I was able to get more information on my family tree. I recall going in the Mormon Church, or Church of Later Day Saints, and having Mormons helping me look up my Italian roots. It was odd having mid-westerners help me in New York City on finding distant relatives that lived in Italy. It turns out that getting information on past relatives was a lengthy process. First, you had to see if they had information on your town of origin, Vasto Italy, in their computers. It turns out they had a lot information on the birth, death, and marriage records on Vasto. Second, once you found the years you were interested in researching you had to order the microfiche film from Salt Lake City, Utah. Third, it took two weeks to get the microfiche film to be delivered from Utah to New York. Fourth, once the microfiche film came in you had to take the film and put it in a viewing machine and go through the hundreds of records that are on the microfiche to find the information you are trying to research. After finding the birth records of my grandfather, Gregorio Pietrocola, and my grandmother, Filomena Tana, it looked like I had a lot of work to do in order to find the Gabriele Rossetti and Maria Francesca Pietrocola connection. I was able to find the birth record of my great grandfather by looking up the information on my grandfather’s birth record. On my grandfather’s birth record there was the age of my grandfather’s father when my grandfather was born and the date of when my grandfather was born. By using some simple math I was able to find my great grandfather’s birth record. The only problem with Giuseppe Pietrocola’s birth record was that it was hard to read due to the handwriting. After all that work I was able to get two more pieces of the puzzle. There was still a lot more work to me done.