Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Our very own Impossible Girl

It is the 7th of July 1893. Early morning in the historic fishing town of Mola .

Close to the Cathederal of St Nicholas of Bari, Vito Dottari is working in the Town Hall.

Around 09.00 he adds a record to the notes, corrections & omissions section of the Atte di Nascita for the day before:

Atto di nascita for Maria written by Vito Dottari

Luckily for us, 124 years later, thanks to social media bringing together some of the most lovely people on the planet, a volunteer named Ligia Cavallari of the Facebook Group 'Genealogy Translations' very kindly translated it for us:

"1893,July 7th in the Town Hall...appeared Furio Palma,53 years,housewife,who presented a baby, male sex,seeming to have few hours of age and declared that this morning at six AM ,I say (dico )of female sex,appearing only few hours of age and declared that this morning ,I say,yesterday at six hours AM was delivered to her the foretold girl wrapped in four cotton rags,without any signal or monogram;to the foretold girl I gave the name of Maria and surname Giacinto and entrusted her to the wet nurse Viciliano Margherita,wife of Taseo Francesco Paolo,who has promissed to take on the breeding and to give account to each request of the authority.Witnesses Bizzi Giuseppe ,50 y,leather craftsman and Didonna Giuseppe,57 y.pasta maker."

It doesn't read well because our hero makes a couple of pretty fundamental errors and has to correct himself. In fact, the foundling presented by Palma Furio is a baby girl born, left, and then found around 06.00 the day before.

On behalf of the town he gives the child the name Maria Giacinto. At this point, if the parentage of a child was unknown, the custom was to give the child a family name that does not belong to any other family in the area so that this child's descendants have a name, but the child could not be confused as the natural child and heir of any community member.

Thus the foundling baby roughly one day old embarked on the best start that her town could offer her. Entrusted to the care of a wet nurse, Margherita Viciliano and her husband Francesco Paolo Taseo.

So the legend goes (the document at this point cannot be found), 19 years and 10 days later, on 17th July 1916, Maria married her sweetheart, Michele Lombardi. They are said to have adored each other. At some stage (again the document at present cannot be found), Maria became pregnant, but sadly it was not meant to be. Both Maria and her baby passed away during childbirth.

While uniquely horrible, this was by no means an uncommon thing 100 years ago. Time moves on and so do people. Michele found love again with Loreta Sassano They married 16th Nov 1926 and built a family.

Today, 124 years after her birth, by chance Maria's Atto di nascita still exists in a collection immortalised in photographs. It could well be that some of her family somewhere are researching their family history and taking DNA tests to find other relatives. It is extremely unlikely though, unless her first family secretly kept knowledge of her alive, that anyone will have her name recorded anywhere in their family tree. Possibly, they mightn't even know where to look. Effectively, though she lived, loved and died, she has been lifted out of time and space as though she was never there.

However, it is because of her absence that Michele went on to gather: 

8 children
12 grandchildren
10 great-grandchildren

That's 30 people to date who exist because she no longer does.

In recognition of what she meant to my husband's Nonno and the fact that there is very likely no-one else to claim her, we have kept everything we know in our tree.
Some day, perhaps we'll find another document for her - her marriage lines, or death certificate. There's always an outside chance that perhaps a photo survives, but until then, we've given her a portrait in our tree. We found it in a "free to use" Google clipart search: