Study of the families who influenced Canterbury, Kent, England in the 13th century through the Early Modern Era. Photo of Canterbury Cathedral which houses the Canterbury Archives by Matthew Larcinese
14th century document demonstrating land transactions in 14th century Italy. Photo by Matthew Larcinese
14th century Celestine Order monastery rediscovery in Italy. Photo by Matthew Larcinese
While we are concentrating on the many cultures that settled and thrived in the Val di Sangro, our primary focus is rediscovering the Jewish culture which thrived for centuries in the various cities of Abruzzo, settling in these towns perhaps direct from the Levant or a later immigration from England, France, Spain, Greece, and Germany. Like so many things we see in history, this has been buried, lost and forgotten--no person in the area can recall any Jewish presence or the fact their lineage may have come from Jewish ancestry aside from "local traditions" which parallel Jewish customs. With the "mystery of Roccascalengna" (the displaced Menorah stones) present at an entrance of a 13th century Lombardy castle in the neighboring town (4 miles) from Gessopalena, to the medieval Jewish settlements in Guardiagrele and Lanciano just 15 and 25 miles away, respectfully, there was a prolific culture here waiting to be rediscovered. The Jewish culture appears in the writings in Guardiagrele in the year 1269, and in Lanciano, the Jewish population has been reported by historian, Ludovico Antinori, to have lived in the "Judaica" part of the city prior to the year 1000. Their presence is recorded even earlier in the town of Ortona where they have been mentioned in the archival documents as being present in the 6th century ACE.
After searching the Abruzzese archives for the last 16 years, I started the Y-DNA Project in 2018 in the towns of Gessopalena, Roccascalenga, Lanciano, Guardiagrele, in Abruzzo, Italy to gain a better understanding of the isolated genetics of the families who settled here. These projects will continue through 2019 and I will be adding DNA and archival research in the Roman Jewish Ghetto, Lazio with the hope of connecting the two areas with common ancestry. As always, I am looking for volunteers who have documented lineage to any of the above cities to take a Y-DNA test. I can assist in the research per the Abruzzo or Roman archives if you are not certain.
I have currently collected 30 samples from the residents of Gessopalena and the surrounding villages and analyzing the Y-DNA to understand the individual family origins as they parallel documents from the 16th century. In the case of my family and a few others, we are continuing to analyze the Y-DNA and uncover the Jewish lineages in this town and to collect further evidence of the particular settlements for these families.
The Jewish neighborhood was mentioned in the archives of Guardiagrele in the 13th century. Although the families who once lived here remain in the area, their Jewish lineage is unknown to them as their families continued on as converso or "new Christians" as a result of the Inquisition in Italy.
Surnames and specific Y-DNA test results of participants from Gessopalena, Guardiagrele, Roccascalegna, Lanciano, and Rome, Italy.
*Di Loreto (J-Z1297+, J-BY185356+, Big Y)
De Gregorio (J-Z1297+)
*Melchiorre (J-Z1297+, Z631+)
*Melchiorre (Marchionne etc...) (J-Z1297, Z631+)
De Lucia (R-Z72+)
Cavaliere (Cavaliero) (R-M12149+, Big Y)
Tiberini ( J-PH185+, Big Y testing)
*Larcinese (Jacobi, J-PH185+, J-BY76232+, Big Y )
Zeni (PF5456+) (unknown origins, Como area, Italy)
De Cecco (J-PH2725+) (branch from Fara San Martino)
Cecchini (J-M267+, J-L1189+)
Bozzi, Bochio, Bozzius, Batis (J-M267+, J-FGC5230+, Full Chromosome)
Innaurato, Naurato (J-M267+, J-FGC11+, Big Y)
Turco (Turchi) (J-M267+, J-FGC11+)
Sirolli J-M267+, FGC11+)
Troilo (J-M267+, J-FGC11+)
Persiani (J-M267+, J-FGC11+)
Caporella (J-M267+, J-FGC11+)
Di Yenno (Ienno) (J-M267+)
Italiano (Taliano) (G-PF3378+)
D'Amelio (de Emilio) (J-M172)
D'Orazio (Horatio) J-M267)
Dell Bello (testing)
* indicates 16th-century money lenders/tax collectors
While the Y-DNA tests have provided us with undeniable common male ancestry and origins of some of these families, we are still conducting and searching for participants in the Abruzzo area who would like to test their Y DNA and understand their origins. While the main premise of this study is to discover and recover the Jewish origins of families who once existed here, we are also researching many lineages who could be from a Persian, German, Norman, Slavic, Greek descent-- to name a few. Please contact us for more information.
In addition to the Y-DNA testing, DIG studied the documents for Gessopalena from the 14th century (Digestum Scripturarum Coelestinae Congregationis, II, II,30/1) which provides us with evidence of the Jewish culture already present in the town and demonstrates that they owned lands. The notary, Claudio Paglione (1580-1604) and the 1747 Catasto (census) identify a common area where most of the surnames, families (above) lived. Using these land coordinates, we have also identified an area just outside the main city of Gessopalena, an area which may have been specifically set-up for the Jewish or conversos. On-site analysis of the homes, searching for clues from the old stone or destroyed provided us with more details and helped restructure the Jewish past in Gessopalena, and the surrounding environs in the Val di Sangro area. The collections of all and any documents, the archaeology of the area, on-site interviews of the cultural past produced enough evidence to know there was a Jewish presence here-- continuous research, cultural engagement, DNA testing is ongoing at this time.
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Guardiagrele, Abruzzo Ancient Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish community in Guardiagrele existed already in the 13th century with its maximum growth from 1300 through the 1500s (money lenders. merchants, and artisans. The area was defined by three specific roads-- Strada del Ghetto, Strada degli Ebrei (the road of the Hebrews) and Via/Piazza Morena--with the Strada del Ghetto and Via Morena still existing today, and the other road, Strada degli Ebrei still existed with the new name, Via Amorosa.
There are several families listed in the archival documents living here from 1600 through the late 19th century, some of the names include: dell'Osa, Ricci (different than the branch from the noble branch from Casoli etc..), Salamone, Taraburrello, De Santis, Capuzzo, Di Crescenzo, Carrozza, Bucciarelli (form of Jacobi), Cacciavillano, Rastelli, Bianco (white), di Martino (also listed as Civitella-- this family was also from Civitella Messer Raimondo a town nearby which is why we see the name listed both ways), De Luca, Burrello, Vassetta, Aurito, De Fino, de Lucia, De Nardis, Farina, Sciubba, Dammiano, Caramanico (from Caramanico), Perluigi, Di Cesare, Carabello, Picciotto, Pellicciotto, Primavera, Stella, di Cocco, Iezzi, Colasanti, Pascucci, Della Viola, Palmiero, Durante.
If anyone from this area with any of the family names listed above would like to join the Y-DNA program and understand and know their lineage, you can contact Matthew Larcinese at Matthew@diggingthepast.org to learn more details. The Jewish presence in Guardiagrele is very old but is disappearing from memory as time moves on.
We were able to visit the ghetto and get a tour of the area with Professor Mario Palmiero who wrote about the ghetto and its history-- he is also participating in the Y-DNA program and I have traced the Palmiero surname in Guarde back to since at least the year 1351. Mario's knowledge of Guardiagrele and the ghetto is very valuable and much needed. Walking through the village with Mario we were able to visit the site of the one-time synagogue, the old roads and get an understanding of the conditions they lived under. The best we can hope for is the continued participation of the Jewish ancestors from Guardiagrele so we can understand their contribution to the socioeconomic growth of the area and find new ways to preserve and celebrate their history.
Gessopalena, Abruzzo, Italy. Photo by Matthew Larcinese