(Year circa 1548)
The longest journey must always start with the First Step
Before setting out to search any official records I set out my notes, on everything that I could recall my father told me about his father Achille. My main problem was that we had never sat down and discussed his father; therefore I had to rely on my own memory of comments made to me by my father. I recalled that Achille had worked in Germany, was married before he met my grandmother, could speak several languages, could read and write, had sisters in USA and Canada, came from near Cassino, was a terrazzo worker with the original Toffolo Jackson firm in Edinburgh.
My father also regularly mentioned, usually as we passed the Saughtonhall Café at Western Corner, Saughtonhall, Edinburgh, that Yolande Coppola, an elderly spinster who owned and ran the café was his cousin. Unfortunately he did not go into any detail on this.
Having exhausted my recollection of my father’s comments I then turned my attention to my aunt Betty, my father’s sister who lives in Coventry, England. As she is the only person that I could speak to who had known Achille, I questioned her to ascertain as much information as possible about her father. She furnished me with many other items such as, he lived above a village, he was educated by the priests, his first wife died in childbirth, he worked in Germany, he was photographed circa 1900 in uniform (National Service?) he had a cousin Domenic Gizzi who regularly visited the house, and he stood guarantor for Nancy Gizzi, Domenic’s sister when she entered the country. My aunt Betty also corresponded with her cousins in USA, losing touch with them in the mid 1950s. The last known address that she remembers sending letters to Angelina Capaldi was Racine Avenue, Chicago. The only photograph of Achille Capaldi is on this site, all other pictures were lost.
Checking out the official records at Scotland’s People Edinburgh
On my first visit to the Scottish Records Office I spent the whole day engrossed in my search checking and double checking my family records ensuring that I was reading the correct records. I of course, could find all records on my Scottish line, but Achille information was limited, his marriage certificates and death certificate only giving me the names of his parents Sante Capaldi and Angela Maria Fusco. No record of his entry to Scotland, where he was born or date of birth.
I checked with the supervisor at the Scottish Records Office and was informed that they did not have any immigration records for the period in question. I therefore have no exact date when Achille entered into the country or why he arrived in Edinburgh and where he worked and lived prior to him settling in Scotland. These questions, as at January 2010, remain unanswered; however I hope that this site and my continuing search may assist me in getting the answers. My next stop was to go to the Italian Consulate in Edinburgh, who in one way were not too helpful, and asked that I put my request for information in writing, but they did not have staff to carry out any specific search. However at the desk the assistant asked the name I was looking for and immediately replied that Capaldi would more than likely have come from Picinisco.
At least I had narrowed my search down to a specific place in Italy. I was later to discover that the reason for her confidence in the location of Picinisco, was because an exceptional number of Italians now living in Edinburgh who had emigrated from Italy over the past 130 years came from Picinisco, Villa Latina, Atina all commune in the Val di Comino situated in the mountains north east of Cassino. Also I recalled my father mentioning that Achille came from a place near Cassino.
Having discovered a location I then used the internet to find Picinisco on the map and also discovered various web sites all dedicated to Picinisco and generations looking for their family ancestors. I used the forums on these sites and received invaluable help from many of the subscribers. The sites I have had excellent assistance from are:
Internet Forums, Genealogy Sites and LDS Family History Centres
I also visited the Family History Centre of my local LDS Church in Colinton Road, Edinburgh. All the volunteers were extremely helpful. I ordered the microfiches of Picinisco, births deaths and marriages. A small charge was made to send them from Salt Lake City. Then over a three week period I scanned the files for all the names that I could link to. More difficult than imagined as of course all documents were in Italian. However once I had mastered the set layout, along with a few words of Italian, I traced my ancestors back to 1670.
All the names that I have discovered with dates and place of birth can be downloaded from My Italian Names page on this site.
Please check them out and if you have any information or queries please contact me at my capaldi-clan address by clicking on the address at the bottom of the Home page.
Luckily I had been in touch with Michele Vacca, who divides his time between his homes in Belgium and Picinisco and he knows everything about Picinisco family records and he was able to confirm my findings. Unfortunately he does not keep records outside of the Picinisco Commune. On my visits to Picinisco I always seem to miss him but he is one of the most helpful people with regards to any family connections to Picinisco.
As my great grandmother was from Vallegrande, Commune of Villa Latina, I managed to obtain the services of Ann Tatangelo who lives in Sora.
I met Ann on my third visit to Picinisco and we viewed the records in Villa Latina and discovered the marriage records of my Great Grandparents.
Ann’s official web site is
However I could find no record of the birth of my grandfather Achille Capaldi in Picinisco or Villa Latina, Ann set about investigating the reason for this discrepancy, of finding Achille’s parents marriage but no sign of his birth. Some months later, Ann contacted me in Edinburgh and informed me that she had managed to trace Achille’s birth record which she sent to me by e-mail.
He was born in Monaco which she and I assumed was the Principality between France and Italy. However, during another visit to San Giuseppe in November 2007, my sister and I met several villagers and they all asked if it was “Monaco Bavaria” We then met Ann for a coffee and asked her the same question which she could not answer. Ann is English and lives in Sora with her Italian husband and has learned Italian and she immediately asked our waiter in the café and came up with the answer that Monaco Bavaria is Munich, Germany.
It was a regular occurrence for villagers to work outside the country and send money back to their families. Due to the fact that their main industry was subsistence farming, they worked in Germany, France, Belgium and even Russia, to boost their income. Achille Capaldi was born in November 1878 and it took six months for the documents to reach Picinisco from Munich in order that his birth was registered in the commune of his father Sante Capaldi. At present, I am still searching to find where they lived and what occupation did Sante have in Munich. Also how long they remained in Munich and if any of Achille’s siblings were also born there.
I have discovered that one of his sisters was born in Vallegrande, and registered in Villa Latina. It was noted that her father was not living in the Commune at the date of birth. Assunta Maria Capaldi born 1882 shows that Sante and Angela my gr. grandparents lived in Munich together from 1878 to 1882. Angela must have returned to Italy during this period. Sante must have remained in Munich to work or may have travelled between San Giuseppe and Munich to carry out seasonal employment for short periods. This common work pattern must have continued for some time, as Achille, when old enough, also worked in Germany. This was for an unknown period prior to coming to Scotland circa 1905 aged 27.
I can also confirm that Achille’s cousins Domenico and Nancy Gizzi who eventually came to Scotland worked in Germany prior to settling in Glasgow.
San Giuseppe, Commune, Picinisco
Capaldi ancestors’ House, My Search
Because all records for the village are held within the administration commune of Picinisco most of my searches were centred on Picinisco and of course I had tended, on my visits, to only visit Picinisco and the other two anagrafe offices in Villa Latina and Atina
Whilst carrying out my search of the birth records, a common entry was “strada di San Giuseppe” which assisted me in identifying the exact village where my forebears lived. Also one record had “Casa Di Monte” San Giuseppe as the birth place.
In June 2007 I once again visited Italy for my summer holidays and as usual booked a flight from Prestwick airport, Scotland to Rome, Ciampino, hired a car and travelled to Sperlonga, a beautiful town on the coast, an hour’s drive south of Rome. Sperlonga is an ideal location for a holiday with the advantage of beautiful beaches and only a 75 minute drive to Picinisco via Cassino.
On this occasion it was early June and the day that I visited the Val di Comino it was wet and cloudy up the mountains. I was determined to visit San Giuseppe as this would be my first visit to my ancestors’ village. On the road from Vallegrande heading towards San Gennaro there is a sharp left hand bend and 20metres before the bend is a right hand junction to San Giuseppe. I nearly missed it but managed to negotiate the turn and headed up the narrow, steep, winding road for the first time. An earthquake about twenty years ago has left San Giuseppe with only few residents and due to inclement weather there seemed to be no one about. I drove through the village after a couple of hair raising steep bends and onto an unmade road there seemed to be no further houses;
I turned back down through the village negotiating an extremely narrow passage between two buildings. On the other side of this lane I noticed my first person sitting in his car. I stopped and in my faltering, self taught, Italian asked his name. His reply of course was “Capaldi” as this village seems to contain so many Capaldis in my history it should not have come as a surprise but I was delighted and astonished.
On return from my holiday I spoke with my aunt Betty and to my regret she informed me that Achille had informed her that he lived above the village and he had to “come down” to the church and village. If I had known I would have continued up the winding road above the village to find my Capaldi ancestors’ house.
As luck would have it, I had also managed to make contact through Genes Reunited with a Capaldi in England who still visited San Giuseppe. He informed me that indeed there were a couple of houses above the village and I pinpointed them on “Google Earth”
The Gizzi Connection
Totally exasperated that “I had come so near and yet so far” from what I believed was the home of my ancestors, I continued making contact with many people on the various forums especially in search of any descendants of Dominic Gizzi my grandfather’s cousin who lived in Glasgow and his other cousins Coppola who lived in Edinburgh. The Gizzi connection was important in the quest for the house in San Giuseppe, in that my aunt Betty recalled that when Dominic visited my grandfather there was always discussions about the house and if I could find Dominic’s descendants I would also have a verifiable link to the property in Italy.
Through Scottish records I managed to get information on Dominic’s marriage however this marriage only lasted a few months. His wife Ann Estero had died suddenly in Glasgow where he owned and ran a café. I also managed to get the death certificate of Nancy Gizzi and noted that it was signed by her nephew Joseph Gizzi which I thought would be the son of Domenic. But could not track anyone down and I was still smarting from not visiting the house above the village.
In October 2007, five months since I visited San Giuseppe for the first time, I noticed a cheap flight to
Rome leaving on 1st November. I persuaded my sister Gail that she would really like a visit to San Giuseppe and this time visit the house above the village. Gail’s previous visit in 2005 only took in Picinisco and the Preta di Mezzo for a day, this time we would remain in the Val Di Comino for 5 days staying in San Donato.
On the first day, we went to San Giuseppe and drove passed the first row of houses and not wishing to drive up the unmade road, we decided to park the car at the last house next to the fountain and what was a rather spartan outside laundry area. This was a steep road leading to the church and there was someone working in the field adjacent to the last house.
We asked her if she spoke English and she said that as a young teenage she lived in Ireland before returning to Italy to marry her husband. We were to meet her several times during our visit. We enquired about the houses above the village and who owned or lived in them however, quite understandably, she and all the villagers that we met during our visit were reluctant to divulge details of the houses’ owners, especially to two complete strangers from Scotland.
We visited the two separate buildings and fields that were all boarded up, as it was November and the owners seemingly only visited in the summer months. At the edge of the field that contained the small house the road took a sharp bend further up the mountain and in a clearing there was a young man transporting logs by mule train from further up the mountain and storing them in the clearing.
We then met a couple walking up the road and spoke with them, both Italians, retired in Picinisco, the wife from Belgium and the husband from Picinisco and his name? “Capaldi”.
Delighted that I had possibly seen the house of my ancestors we returned to the car and spoke with Teresa Porrelli. She explained her background, her brother-in-law was in Glasgow and ran “Porrelli ice cream” business she had the address in Stepps Road, Glasgow. She did not come from Picinisco but from another village further down the valley and her maiden mane was Vettriano. Any relation to Jack? I do not know. She tended the crops in the field opposite the house and also kept pigs which were fattened for their consumption; her husband worked in a factory in Cassino, not much change from my own ancestors some 125 years ago except my great grandfather worked in Munich, whilst his family remained in San Giuseppe and Vallegrande
The Glasgow Connections and early journeys by families to and from the val di Comino
During my last months prior to retiring from East Renfrewshire Council I spent some time in “Boaters Café” at Rouken Glen Park and always spoke with Marco Pacitti and his father who came originally from San Gennaro a village directly across the valley from San Giuseppe. He advised me to visit his aunt, in San Gennaro, one of the last inhabitants living in the old square of San Gennaro. We visited her, just missing some relatives who were returning to Wales. She told us about living in Glasgow where she worked as a driver and then retired to San Gennaro.
I was fascinated by her account of returning to visit San Gennaro when she was a girl. It gives some idea of how our Italian ancestors thought little about travelling from and to their villages. She would leave Glasgow by train, crossing the channel and continued by train to Rome and onto Cassino. From Cassino she took a bus up the mountain to Vallegrande where the road stopped. The last leg of the journey from Vallegrande to San Gennaro required her to wait for four hours in Vallegrande whilst a messenger went to San Gennaro and informed her relatives. They then came down the mountain with mules and then walked up to San Gennaro.
A journey that we now do in several hours took a number of days. However it is not the hours and days of the journey but the fact that having emigrated to Scotland the link with their home village in Italy remained strong. After the interesting visit to San Gennaro we headed down the mountain, taking some photos of the house in San Giuseppe from the road which was directly opposite.
We travelled to Villa Latina, situated in the valley and the town in which all records for Vallegrande the home of my great grandmother Angelo Fusco were held. We were going to see Anthony Valente who runs a jewellers shop in the main street. I had met Anthony several times on my previous visits and also on line and he is always very helpful.
Anthony comes originally from Alexandria near Loch Lomond, Scotland, his father originally emigrating to Scotland and Anthony returning to his father’s homeland. It was a pleasant sunny afternoon and business was clearly quiet in November and we found Anthony sitting outside a café opposite his shop. We joined him and some friends and chatted for a while, one friend had recently returned to Villa Latina from London to retire and set up a small restaurant.
We also spotted Mr. Crolla strolling along the road (the Crollas have an exceptional number of cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh). On my visit in October 2009 I spoke with Mr Colla and found out that he had owned and ran the chip shop on the corner of Gorgie Road and Westfield in Edinburgh.
I then went into the café to order a round of drinks, asking for them in my faltering heavily Scottish accented Italian. There were several other customers in the café/bar and I was well aware of them listening, as one does, when a stranger enters a hostelry. One of them spoke to me in Italian and I hesitated with a reply until he then repeated the question in English with a west of Scotland accent. It transpired that half the customers in the place were from Glasgow, Paisley and various other parts of Scotland.
In the remaining days we visited Teresa Porrelli and her family several times ands also visited the San Giuseppe church which is slowly being restored. However we never found out who the owners were of the two houses above the village, even with our prompting that it could be a Capaldi or a Gizzi.
We then flew home to Scotland happy that the house had been seen and photos taken. The Gizzi connection would now become vital and on my return to Edinburgh I continued my search and on 11 December 2007 only a month after visiting San Giuseppe I received an e-mail from Angela Gizzi the granddaughter of Domenic Gizzi.
Clearly the villagers had contacted Angela about my visit and I was delighted to speak with her. Her father Giuseppe Gizzi is still alive and she put me in touch with him and we have corresponded passing on many family stories and facts. The houses are owned by the Gizzi family and Luigi Capaldi from Paris, France and also Giuseppe’s brother-in-law who surname is Boni. Giuseppe still had Luigi’s address on Paris and Giuseppe still made several visits to Italy each year. I was now satisfied that I had made the connections and confirmed that these could be the houses of my ancestors.
However, never totally satisfied I still wanted to go into the house as I had only been able to view from the outside. Once again I headed for Italy in June 2008 for a ten day holiday, taking in Pisa, Picinisco and Sperlonga. I visited San Giuseppe and of course met Teresa Porrelli again and headed up the road to visit the house and to my delight discovered that the house was open and an elderly couple were sitting in the garden area.
I introduced myself and he confirmed that he was Luigi Capaldi from Paris. We had a pleasant couple of hours chatting. We managed to understand each other, as he only spoke French and Italian and my language skills in Italian are self taught and my “O” Grade French was achieved over 46 years ago.
I also managed to go into the house and you can view my photograph with him and his wife in the Photo Gallery on this site.
Is this a successful outcome?
I am not sure as I returned to San Giuseppe in October 2009 and searched further up the path above the village to discover a derelict house and also some clearings in the trees which may have been cultivated and also signs that families may have built houses there.
I am now attempting to obtain from the Ufficio Techno in Picinisco the land registers for all areas above the village in order that I can pinpoint the exact location of my ancestors’ house.
Please contact me with any information or queries.