How did Lucia Terranova’s first Mafia marriage end?

How did Lucia Terranova’s first Mafia marriage end?

For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903.

Lucia Terranova is the oldest of the Terranova children, the half-sister of New York City boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello. She was born in Corleone in 1876. At sixteen, she emigrated with her parents and younger siblings to New York City. 

The financial panic of 1893 put the family in dire straits. Unable to find work, Giuseppe scouted in Louisiana among their extended kin and associates from Corleone. On this trip, he likely brokered Lucia’s marriage to a young man from a Mafia family, Antonino Saltaformaggio. Lucia married him shortly after turning eighteen.

For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903. Then I saw this census record.

The 1900 census, taken in June, shows Lucia living with her parents and unmarried siblings in New York City, and working as a cigar maker. FamilySearch has them indexed as the “Tresanobe” family, and Lucia as “Lizzie” — but Warner, Santino, and Van ‘t Riet found them, and gave the sheet number in their 2014 article in Informer (p. 45). This is definitely Lucia Terranova’s family.

This document is a considerable update on her life. Lucia Terranova married Saltaformaggio in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on 3 February 1894, Mike Dash wrote in his book, The First Family, citing private information from the family (2009, pp. 113-114). Cynthia, a descendant of Santo Calamia and Teresa Saltaformaggio wrote on an Ancestry message board in 2001, looking for members of Lucia’s family. She gave the same date and place of the marriage, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and adds they had one child named Serafino, who was known as “Joe Fino.” (Warner et al cite this message board post in their article as evidence of Lucia’s first marriage.) Teresa is Antonino Saltaformaggio’s sister. 

Santo Calamia was a gangster in New Orleans and an associate of Giuseppe Morello’s. Santo and Teresa, called “Tessie,” married in 1901. He led a bloody assault on the Luciano brothers in their grocery/saloon in the summer of 1902 on behalf of the mafioso Francesco Genova. While Calamia was in jail awaiting trial, his brother-in-law Antonino Saltaformaggio was a frequent visitor. (Calamia, in turn, visited Morello when he was imprisoned in Atlanta.)

I conversed by email with Cynthia and her brother, Ken, in 2019. They said Joe Fino was born around 1900, that Lucia’s second family with Vincenzo Salemi had no idea she’d been married once before, and that a Salemi granddaughter they’d spoken with thought Lucia might have had a daughter named Jennie while the family was living in Texas.

The document Ken sent as evidence of Joe Fino’s existence is a Social Security application for Joe Feno, born on the first day of 1901 in New Orleans to Tony Feno and “Rose Bazline,” which is not “Lucia Terranova,” even if you squint. Joe died in 1980. I haven’t been able to find him in census records from his childhood under either name, Serafino Saltaformaggio or Joseph Fino (or “Feno”) so I don’t know who raised him. When he registered for the draft for the first World War, he named Vincent Balznie, who might be related to Rose. Searches for either of them have not turned up any results so far.

Lucia appears in the census as a single woman with no children, living with her parents and siblings. She and her sister, Salvatrice, worked as cigar makers. If the reportage that Antonino left a wife and infant son in Louisiana at his death in April 1903 is correct, Lucia returned to her husband sometime after the census and they had a child. Based on Joe Feno’s self-report, he was born either two months after the census was taken, or six. (His draft card and Social Security application do not give the same date of birth.) If Joe was two or three years old, he might still have been called an infant in the newspaper.

If the documents point to the right age for Lucia’s son, she was pregnant when the census was taken. I can imagine her returning to her family (despite the long journey) to give birth to her first child. She was a young woman with no close, female blood relations in Louisiana. But would she have gone to her family and then worked in a factory while pregnant? This seems unlikely. Joe Feno’s draft card doesn’t specify a place of birth, but his Social Security application says he was born in New Orleans.

Before seeing the 1900 census, I’d assumed Lucia rejoined her family after her husband’s death, and left her son with the Saltaformaggios in New Orleans. I suppose she might have left and rejoined her husband, or been erroneously reported in the 1900 census, but neither seems as likely as that she left him in Louisiana sometime between their marriage in February 1894 and the 1900 census in June. 

Within a year after her marriage, Lucia’s parents and siblings moved on to Bryan, Texas, where they fell ill with malaria. They moved back to New York early in 1897. It seems probable that of all the times Lucia might have rejoined her family, it would be on their way out of the South. As for the rumor that she had a daughter named Jennie while living in Texas, this doesn’t match up with the fact that she was married to Antonino Saltaformaggio at the time. By the traditions of both their families, a daughter should have been named Caterina, after Antonino’s mother. If the child’s father didn’t claim her, she would have been named after Lucia’s mother. I’ve seen Jennie as a nickname for Giovanna and even for Vincenza, but not for Angelina.

We don’t know for sure, but it’s been theorized that Saltaformaggio was killed in retaliation for Santo Calamia’s attack on the Luciano brothers. Coincidentally, Saltaformaggio was killed the same month as Benedetto Madonia, the “Barrel Murder” victim of Morello’s counterfeiting gang, in New York City. If Saltaformaggio was having marital problems with the sister of the most powerful mafioso in the entire United States, that could have shortened his life, too.

As for Joe Feno, what if Antonino Saltaformaggio was his father, and “Rose Bazline” was a woman he lived with in the years after Lucia left him: the unnamed wife from the newspapers? The scenarios in which Lucia leaves Antonino and then returns seem less probable than one in which she remains with her family in New York. 

The man she would marry next, Vincenzo Salemi, was a member of her brothers’ gang. Dash’s account of the double in-law marriage between the Morello-Terranova and Salemi families differs from the story the records tell. Giuseppe Morello, a widower since 1898, had a child out of wedlock in 1901. This prompted his mother to search for an appropriate wife for him. Dash says Marietta, Giuseppe’s sister, was dispatched to Corleone to bring back the Salemi sister Giuseppe had chosen from a couple of photos. With them came Vincenzo, their brother.

According to a 1910 emigration record, Vincenzo Salemi first arrived in New York City in 1901. I haven’t yet found a record for Vincenzo’s arrival before his marriage in New York. Five months after her husband’s murder, Lucia Terranova appears on the Sardegna, coming back from Sicily with her older half-sister Marietta, Marietta’s young daughter, and both Salemi sisters. The Salemis say they’re joining their cousin Sebastiano Di Palermo, a known Morello gangster, at the same address where the Terranova family lives. Vincenzo is not on this voyage. And Sebastiano Di Palermo is not a cousin of the Salemi sisters.

It would seem that Giuseppe did not pre-select his bride, since both sisters made the voyage. Nicolena’s older sister, Francesca, returned to Corleone and married in 1905.

Lucia and Vincenzo married right after Christmas in 1903, the same month in which Nicolena married Giuseppe. Lucia and Vincenzo’s marriage record indicates this was a first marriage for them both. They had six children together before Vincenzo was killed in a gang war in 1923.

Sources

Babin II, D. (2015, April 28). Bumped off on the bayou: the macaroni wars. Retrieved 2 February 2019 from https://louisianamafia.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/bumped-off-on-the-bayou-the-macaroni-wars/  

Critchley, D. (2009). The origin of organized crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931. Routledge.

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Manifest of the Konigin Luise. (1910, October 22). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T3-YGKT?cc=1368704&wc=4XBX-3J7%3A1600412417 : 26 January 2018), Roll 1588, vol 3499-3501, 3 Nov 1910 > image 788 of 1303; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Manifest of the Sardegna. (1903, September 23). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G16T-KLP?cc=1368704&wc=4FMB-7NB%3A1600272377 : 26 January 2018), Roll 396, vol 718-719, 22 Sep 1903-23 Sep 1903 > image 578 of 683; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Marriage of Vincenzo Salemi and Lucia Terranova. (1904). Certificate no. 249. NYC DORIS website. Retrieved 29 March 2022 from https://a860-historicalvitalrecords.nyc.gov/view/4571088  

The Murdered Italian Found at Whitecastle. (1903, May 7). Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA).

Terranova household. (1900, June 12). Lines 52-59. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6S7W-S88?cc=1325221&wc=9B7R-HZG%3A1030551901%2C1035804001%2C1036212201 : 5 August 2014), New York > New York County > ED 907 Borough of Manhattan, Election District 21 New York City Ward 32 > image 56 of 92; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Warner, R., Santino, A., and Van ‘t Riet, L. (2014, May). The early New York mafia: an alternative theory. Informer Journal. Pp. 4+. 

Did the Mafia begin with the Sicilian Vespers?

Did the Mafia begin with the Sicilian Vespers?

A commonly told origin myth of the Sicilian Mafia would make the secret, criminal organization over 700 years old. But is it true?

By the oldest claims, the Mafia is more than seven hundred years old, dating back to Norman rule and the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, or even earlier, to the Emirate of Sicily, in the 9th Century. 

What was the Sicilian Vespers?

In 1266, the younger brother of France’s King Louis IX, Charles I of Anjou, took Sicily from the Swabian dynasty. The new Angevin king increased taxes on Sicilian subjects, and this coupled with abuse by French soldiers, sparked a peasant revolt called the Sicilian Vespers. Anyone who looked or sounded French was killed by the Sicilians.

The result of the Sicilian Vespers was not self-rule, but the division of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. After Charles was ousted from the island of Sicily, he retained the mainland Kingdom of Sicily while Peter III of Aragón was crowned King of Sicily beyond the Lighthouse, or the Kingdom of Trinacria, by the island’s barons. The Aragonese dynasty held Sicily for the next four hundred years. 

Beginning with Peter III, Sicily was ruled from Palermo by the Sicilian branch of the Aragonese dynasty, with a strong parliament in which the Sicilian language was spoken. A period of relative independence, in the 14th century, forged a Sicilian national identity, distinct from their ethnic heritage, or the lands from which their rulers came.

This golden age for the island of Sicily is the time that Mafia propaganda reaches back to for nostalgia. They try to take credit for forcing out a foreign monarch, and the “good old days” when the king ruled from Palermo, and Sicilian was spoken with pride. The Mafia’s version of history glosses over the next five hundred years, in which Spanish kings held Sicily and ruled its people into misery with neglect and taxation. 

Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led the successful revolution against the Bourbons

The Mafia has attached itself, when convenient, to independence movements for Sicily. Its power was decisive in the revolutionary movement which united Italy, for the first time ever, in 1860, after several failed attempts. But it followed this coup by supporting a Sicilian independence movement, briefly, before settling into a cozy arrangement with the Christian Democratic party. The Mafia’s wild political swings betray its true purpose: to bring about circumstances from which Mafia bosses could materially benefit.

A timeline of Sicilian foreign rule

The time frame during which the Vespers origins camp requires belief in a Mafia—with no evidence to support its existence—is truly vast. “Proof” in the form of 19th Century mafiosi who claim the Mafia’s origins were in the Sicilian Vespers is not a primary form of evidence, coming as it does 600 years after the fact, but only tells us how old the legend is. 

Most theories of Mafia formation cluster in the early-to-mid-1800s. If you had to pick a year when the Mafia began, it might be 1838: the year Luca Patti, son of Giuseppe, a gabellotto from Corleone, was said to be leading a cattle-rustling ring which stretched to Messoiuso and Termini Imerese (Hess, 1973/1998, p. 98; Dash, 2009, p. 83).

In discussing Mafia origins, the question of “when” might be resolved with a mean or average of proposed start dates. For other aspects of Mafia formation—who, how, with what resources, and why—a longer, qualitative discussion is in order. To continue exploring an array of theories on how the Mafia began in Sicily, follow this link to the Mafia Genealogy blog at Patreon. Associates who support Mafia Genealogy have access to this and other exclusive content.

Introduction to my work on Patreon

Sources

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Hess, H. (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth. (E. Osers, Trans.). London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. (Original work published 1973)

Title image:  I vespri siciliani, by Michele Rapisardi

Finding endogamy through Social Network Analysis

Finding endogamy through Social Network Analysis

Family trees are like Ore graphs: everyone has two parents, and no one is their own ancestor.

In my most recent post here on Mafia Genealogy, about the hierarchy of a Mafia “Family,” or cosca, I briefly demonstrated the utility of network science in understanding how the Mafia is organized. 

Looking at the hierarchy from above, and privileging connections over status, fundamentally alter our perspective on the Mafia Family’s organization.

An extended family can be understood as a kind of social network, one that operates under special limitations. For example, while in many kinds of social networks, people can have an unlimited number of relationships of any sort, in a network diagram of a 19th Century person’s ancestors, each person has two and only two parents (though one or both may be unknown to us). In most social network visualizations there is the understanding that it is a snapshot in time, and everyone in the network is in stable, synchronous contact, whereas in most family trees there is a chronological axis, with generations being the rough and overlapping unit of time. 

For an endogamy and pedigree collapse experiment I’m conducting, one of the tests I’m running on both the Mafia and control subjects is to look for the shortest paths between two (and among three or more) members through direct descent. I hypothesize that Mafia subjects are more closely related to one another than a random set of people born in Corleone in the same years. To measure that, I’m creating family trees and counting the people in them.

Rendering a family tree as a kind of graph with special rules is both complicated and limited. Converting family trees to data sets lets you take really big sets of relationships and perform calculations on them. There is social network analysis software that lets you visually analyze your data, calculate and rank shortest paths, and find clusters and central figures. I’m working with a relatively small data set, and wanted to understand how the SNA apps do what they do, in this case, to know if I’m counting nodes correctly. My intuition told me that I needed to include the parents of each node in a path, but I didn’t know why that was the right answer.

I found a recent, scholarly article by Bokhare and Zainon (referenced below) that reviews family tree visualization software and describes the three kinds of graphs that are used: the Ore graph, the p graph, and the bipartite p graph. To get a sense of what they capture and how they differ, I converted this family tree into three kinds of graphs.

Family tree of the most closely related Mafia subjects in an endogamy study
This Ore graph is of the same family tree as pictured just above

The same family tree rendered as a p graph. Nodes can contain a single person or a married couple. In both kinds of p graphs, the arcs are gender coded. Note that they run in the opposite direction in this p graph as they do in the Ore graph.

The horizontal bar that links parents to their children in a typical family tree can be considered a node, and in some graphing methods, it is. One way or the other, you have to solve for the problem of where nodes come from. Where do babies come from in flatland, where babies are vertices in a graph? A node doesn’t come directly from another node; it comes from the union of two nodes, which is itself a different kind of node, or you construct the universe such that every node has two ancestral arcs (one of the conditions of an Ore graph). 

A bipartite p graph has two kinds of nodes, one for marriages and one for people

Between the two methods of turning a family tree into a process graph (or p graph), one of them treats a reproductive union as a node which contains the parents, and the other creates two different kinds of nodes, one for each of the parents and one for the union that gives rise to their descendants. Parents and children are related to the unions with arcs going in different directions: pointing into the marriages they create, and pointing out of the marriages from which they were born. 

There are more nodes in a bipartite p graph than in any of the other models, but I don’t think it aids understanding of distances between people in a social network to include them. An Ore graph has the same number of nodes as a family tree, but it doesn’t have an orientation corresponding to generations. Ore graphs and family trees have the same number of nodes, provided I follow the rule that each node in a path I measure has to include both parents of the node. With that caveat, I can treat a family tree as a kind of Ore graph. 

This is a family tree containing 23 nodes, which includes seven Mafia subjects, six of them related through direct descent. A subset of this tree containing just nine nodes has three Mafia subjects. Another subset of this tree with ten nodes has four Mafia subjects.

A family tree with 23 nodes, of whom seven are Mafia subjects

Not counting subjects related through marriage, the smallest tree containing two Mafia subjects has six nodes. 

Out of 15 controls born in Corleone in the same years as my Mafia subjects, the smallest tree connecting the two most closely related subjects from the control group contains fourteen nodes.

The smallest family tree that includes more than one control group member is of second cousins, once removed. 

Finding the smallest possible tree containing three control group members is more of a challenge. The only other control group member with a duplicate great-grandparent isn’t related to either of the two most closely related members. The next closest ancestor links the same two control group members. 

Instead of focusing on the shortest distances to a common ancestor, I looked for other controls who shared an ancestor with either of the two most closely related controls, Lanza and Zabbia. Antonia Valenza-7 is the 3GG of both Zabbia-22 and Jannazzo-158. The smallest tree connecting Lanza, Zabbia, and Jannazzo has thirty nodes, more than three times the size of a comparable tree for Mafia subjects.

The smallest tree connecting three subjects from the control group through direct descent has thirty nodes.

The smallest tree containing Buccheri, Lanza, and Zabbia has 31 nodes. 

This is the smallest tree containing four control subjects and their relationships through direct descent.

I’ve known for some time that I could draw a family tree that includes many of the most important mafiosi from Corleone. What my experiment demonstrates is that the family tree containing two, three, or four members of Corleone’s Mafia elite is much smaller than a comparable tree drawn for randomly selected subjects born in Corleone. 

The high degree of relation that binds Mafia members and their wives in Corleone is not typical among their unaffiliated peers. Close blood ties through direct descent link the highest levels of Mafia membership in Corleone: to one another and to their wives. Their families have been choosing one another for generations. The result is an endogamous Mafia clan within Corleone.

Acknowledgment

Thom L. Jones tells me that Dr. Michele Navarra’s will named his wife, Tommasa, but no children among his beneficiaries.

Reference

Bokhare, S.F., Zainon, W.M.N.W. (2019, Jan 15). A review on tools and techniques for family tree data visualization. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, 96 (1), pp. 121-132.

How is the Mafia organized?

How is the Mafia organized?

What is the internal structure of a Mafia Family? Does it resemble a corporation or a quasi-military body?

An institutional model of the Mafia

The image above is from the FBI website, and is based on the testimony of Joseph Valachi, and the work of Donald Cressey, whose book Theft of a Nation (1969) influenced a generation of criminologists and law enforcement professionals (Kelley, 1987). Terms like boss, capofamiglia, captain, lieutenant, soldier, and “made man” tell us that associates of a Mafia Family are stratified. But not every Mafia writer uses a similar taxonomy.

A Mafia cosca is like an artichoke, designed to defend the heart

Another popular model of the Family is the metaphor of the cosca (Blok, 1974, p. 137). A cosca is literally anything that is shaped like an artichoke. All of the hard, spiny leaves are connected to the heart and curve around to protect it, like the members of a Mafia cosca around its leader.

Further complicating the question of Mafia organization, for more than a hundred years, Italian authors have described a High Mafia composed of politicians, judges, and industrialists, and a Low Mafia of murderers, extortionists, and thieves. How do the cosca and High/Low models interact? If the boss is at the top of the hierarchy, where do the politicians they influence appear? What roles do non-members play in the Mafia?

The FBI’s Mafia Org Chart is the most familiar picture of Mafia organization, but it’s not the model most scholars have used in the past forty years, because it doesn’t do an adequate job of explaining how the Mafia works over time and in a variety of scenarios.

“Form follows function.”

Form follows function. Organization—how the Mafia is structured—is interdependent with facts on the ground, and the Mafia’s other essential qualities, such as membership, purpose, and methodology. Organizational models should inform answers to such critical questions as:

  • How did the Mafia’s culture and challenges lead to the organization it has today?
  • What are the organizational model’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does the Mafia change its structure in response to new opportunities and threats?
  • Where do new members come from?
  • How is a member’s value determined?
  • How are new laws ratified?

The hierarchy can be flattened to reveal the network

If we rotate our view of the hierarchy so it’s flattened into concentric circles, the most critical members are in the center: the mafioso, or a small clique of mafia chiefs, and their closest family members. Who takes on the secondary, tertiary, and so on positions in the model can inform us as to the organization’s goals and membership roles.

Hess envisions a landscape in which new mafiosi compete with more established ones, and non-members are farthest from the center of the cosca (Hess, 1973/1998, pp. 80, 94-5, 187; Hess, 2011, p. 5).

Mafia scholars have described the Mafia as having a highly regimented structure, as having no structure at all, and every point in between. They disagree as to exactly when and how the Mafia originated: among revolutionary soldiers, on the inland estates, in the citrus orchards, or at the port of Palermo. They have different theories as to the Mafia’s core function: whether it’s to get respect or wealth, to engage in crime or violence, for mutual aid or state-making. There is similarly a lack of agreement as to the Mafia’s essential attributes: whether it is dependent upon a modern state or its absence, if it resembles any other institution, is premodern or transnational, modeled on a biological family, or none of these things.

In Paoli’s model, a layer of non-members form the closest ring around the nucleus, with members, affiliates, and the community at large in progressively more distant rings (Paoli, 2003, pp. 78, 106-8).

Since the 1980s, network and enterprise models of the Mafia have been developed to answer the fundamental questions of precisely what the Mafia does and how. Instead of concentric circles of influence and trust, individuals are considered as nodes in a network. The lines of social connection can be of different types and degrees of intensity, but what has turned out to be important are the distances between nodes—the degrees of separation between two people—the tendency to introduce our friends to one another, and to find popularity attractive. There are also the seeming paradoxes of networks, like the power of weak ties to bring in new information (Hogan, 2018). The difference between having followers, and bringing people together, is not a metaphysical one, but an objective fact that can be demonstrated with network diagrams.

In network models of the Mafia, hierarchies and boundaries disappear and are replaced with clusters and cliques. Bosses, members, their friends and family members, business associates, fraternity brothers, and so on, become points in a network. The cosca’s leaves, as it turns out, are more interconnected than an artichoke’s. The extent of Mafia is revealed to be something far beyond its membership, revealing its true resilience.

In this network of pallbearers, relationships to the deceased have been removed to reveal clusters of his associates who are related to one another.

A magnifying lens turned upon the “spirit” of the Mafia reveals transactions and a web of densely connected actors. We can zoom out and see trends: by occupation, geographical, chronological. The confusions of high and low, capo and associate, are replaced with something measurable in networks of business associations, votes, phone calls, neighborhoods, and every other piece of data on organized crime that we can quantify. Questions of how Mafia cosche interact with one another, how they recover after a loss of key personnel, and the relationships among enterprise, cosca, and kin, can all be studied using network analysis.

Network analysis is a tool that changes our model of the Mafia, partly by getting us out of our own way. The FBI model is still popular because people who read true crime think they know this much is true, that the Mafia is made up of bosses and captains and soldiers. Mafia scholars can hold biased views, too, only seeing what fits their preconceived notion of what the Mafia is and does. Network models can be helpful in taking that bias out of the picture.

When the organizational model proposed isn’t a good fit for the environment, personnel, activities, and goals of the organization as we know them from direct observation, we know it isn’t accurate. As I discussed above, every fundamental trait of the Mafia has been argued, and the where, when, what, and why of the Mafia are not exceptions, which means that for every model of Mafia organization, there is a framework of theory that goes along with it of how that model arose, how it works, and how it can change. A strictly hierarchical model proponent may claim, for example, that their greater stratification provides an advantage in fighting the state, and fail to note the vulnerability of long command chains in a criminal organization. One school of Mafia theorists posit the Mafia is a business enterprise operating in a marketplace like any other. Variations on this theme point out how the market for Mafia business is different, that the conditions and products and basis for competition in organized crime are fundamentally unique; or acknowledge a continuity of Mafia far beyond the life cycle of an enterprise.

Inter-cosca relations need to be explained in a Mafia theory framework. Early in the 20th Century, a prevailing view was that the Mafia was one, single, hierarchical organization, with a capo di tutti capi somewhere that directed the cosche bosses of the world, like a huge army or international corporation. At the low end of the institutionalization continuum, a sociological theory of inter-cosca organization is that members of different cosche recognize one another as being the same, and that mutual respect and cooperation proceed from this.

A theory of knowledge transfer in corporations holds that the hierarchical structure of executives, administrators, and associates that we see in a modern company tells you practically nothing about how the company gets things done (Stephenson, 2013). The same can be said for the Mafia. In both legitimate and illegal job markets, people get job offers based on referrals, they freelance and change companies, they form critical friendships and mentorships that make them more efficient at their jobs: in other words, hierarchical and enterprise-driven organizational theories don’t explain what makes associates good at what they do, but network models do. Trust-based ties form durable, informal, heterogeneous networks of expertise that can last beyond the lifetime of an individual member. Catanzaro proposes layers of organization, with the enterprise distinct from a mostly kinship-based network from which the Mafia most directly emanates (1988/1992, p. 213).

The data I’ve collected and analyzed from Corleone, Sicily, reveals dense networks of kinship which connect the families from whom Mafia membership has been drawn, in Sicily and in the United States, for over a hundred years. Nothing creates trust and loyalty like family, and the Mafia has hijacked family-reproducing structures like a virus. Mafiosi don’t learn to do their jobs well in school, or by attending a human resources seminar. The values that make Mafia distinct and effective are not simply taught, but are ingrained from earliest childhood, altering the psychology of everyone involved: victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. It takes a village to raise a Mafia.

Sources
Blok, A. (1974). The mafia of a Sicilian village, 1860-1960: a study of violent peasant entrepreneurs. Harper Torchbooks.

Catanzaro, R. (1992). Men of respect: a social history of the Sicilian Mafia. Translation by Raymond Rosenthal. The Free Press (A Division of Macmillan, Inc.) New York. (Original work published 1988)

Hess, H. (1998). Mafia & mafiosi: origin, power and myth. (E. Osers, Trans.). London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. (Original work published 1973)

Hess, H. (2011). Approaching and explaining the mafia phenomenon: attempts of a sociologist. Sociology. Available online at https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Approaching-and-Explaining-the-Mafia-Phenomenon.-of-Hess/fd679b86a76dcd86a8dd412245ec93db37c7a3aa

Hogan, B. (2018, March 13). Social network analysis – Introduction to structural thinking . Retrieved 13 July from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZHuj8uBinM

Kelley, R. J. (1987, September). The nature of organized crime and its operations. Chapter in Major issues in organized crime control (H. Edelhertz, Ed.) Pp. 5+. Retrieved 30 May 2021 from https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/106775NCJRS.pdf

Paoli, L. (2003). Mafia brotherhoods: organized crime, Italian style. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stephenson, K. (2013, August 12). Trafficking in trust: The art and science of human Knowledge networks. In L. Coughlin, E. Wingard, and K. Hollihan. (Eds.). Enlightened power: How women are transforming the practice of leadership (pp. 243-264). Jossey-Bass. Retrieved 20 July 2020 from http://www.drkaren.us/pdfs/chapter15.pdf

Is the Mafia a cult?

Is the Mafia a cult?

Godfather-RingCults, gangs, and the Mafia are very similar. 

“Cults” and “Mafia” are just like religions and the state, without the widespread acceptance.

Cults are simply new religious movements. If they stick around long enough, they stop being persecuted in the same way, and are accorded the respect we give to mainstream religions. Likewise, the Mafia is a quasi-state which, if it were to overtake a whole country, would lose its “quasi” status as citizens, regional governments, and other nations were forced to deal with the Mafia to get things done.

A cult has three main features: a charismatic, authoritarian leader; a program of indoctrination or mind control; and exploitation. While the exploitation doesn’t seem obviously part of the cult, to the outsider, it is the feature that makes cults harmful. Idealism can very quickly turn to authoritarianism. The only difference between my infallible authority and yours, is that I agree with mine.

A mafia is very much like a cult, although you might reverse the order of its descriptors. The Mafia’s most fundamental trait is that it uses violence and threats of violence to achieve its aims. Those aims have changed over time: the traditional Sicilian Mafia sought control over a territory and personal respect, both more powerful currencies in the society where the Mafia arose. The Americanized “new Mafia” seen since the 1940s focuses on wealth and conspicuous displays of social status, and consequently, the two mafias reveal themselves through different methods: the original mafiosi modeled themselves on nobility, while the more modern version imitates American capitalism’s exemplars of success: the businessman, the Hollywood star, or the politician. 

All mafias—and gangs—have authoritarian leaders who rule on the strength of their personal traits—most especially, their reputation for violence. A gang is like a Mafia without ethnicity, or a cult without ideology. What all three share is the sense of belonging they offer to members. This is a powerful feeling for any of us, but particularly for people who are poor, marginalized, or in a tumultuous period in their lives. 

This takes us to the other defining attribute of both Mafia and cults, which is a program of indoctrination. The Mafia has belief systems that are widely disseminated through the subculture that gives it strength. The most widely known is omertà, most often interpreted as “silence,” but having its root, in fact, in a different concept: that of how to be a man. In the indoctrination system of the Mafia, a “real man” is tough and self-sufficient. He handles his own problems, and never turns to the state. You might say that other gangs have a similar ideology, known to the general public through the adage, “Snitches get stitches.”

Cults, like the Mafia, find fertile ground in the beliefs already held by the broader culture that they target for enrollment. Just as many successful cults are offshoots of Christianity, the Mafia’s values are rooted in the Sicilian(-American) subculture. Agricultural workers in central-western Sicily shared experiences—working on large plantation estates, having few police and an incessant banditry problem—that generated some of their distinctive cultural traits. Sicilians put their trust in family first, before neighbors, politicians, or employers. They are also strongly bound together by the Catholic Church, whose institutions were second only to the family for their permanence in Sicilian life.

The dangers of cult membership are becoming a more widespread problem. The ease of creating isolated communities of the like-minded online, greater penetration power of false messages through social media, and anonymity of the internet, have breathed life into hate groups. These online rage circles cause real violence, through harassment campaigns conducted online, and in the real world, including murder.

Even the old cult of the Mafia lives online. Communities that share stories and memes about the Mafia, both real and in popular culture, send messages that range from the relatively neutral, i.e. that the Mafia is newsworthy, to the cultish, such as polls of membership as to their “favorite” mobsters. The Mafia is undoubtedly a fascinating subject, and I’m hardly unbiased in saying so. The danger in the fascination, is in falling victim to their messages: excusing and justifying Mafia violence, and thereby weakening pressure for its prosecution. The Mafia is no more an honorable society than cults are made up of the anointed. If enough of us forget that, we make room for the quasi-state to rule, and the cult to become dogma. While the “strong man” leader might look good now, the time will inevitably come when you and he will disagree.

October is Italian-American Heritage Month

October is Italian-American Heritage Month

We celebrate Italian-American heritage in October to coincide with Columbus Day. The date of his landfall in the Americas has been observed since at least the 150th anniversary, and has been a fixed date in the federal calendar since 1971. While recent proclamations tend to focus not on Christopher Columbus* but on more contemporary Italians and Italian-Americans who have shaped our nation, I would like to look at our immigrant heritage

* A exception can be found on this site, on the festivities put on by their committee in Boston on 1 October; they recognize the ambivalence around certain unnamed figures and ask for “people of goodwill” to participate in “vigorous debate” on their legacies. The Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York supports the same mission in that city, this year focusing the month’s observance on women, and other celebrations are planned in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

As organization president Basil M. Russo suggested two years ago in addressing the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, we as Italian-Americans should consider the stories of how we arrived and helped build the country we call our home. Even more urgently, as President Barack Obama asked us to do in his 2010 address, we ought to compare our ancestor’s trials with those of today’s immigrants.

When you learn about the hurdles that today’s immigrants face in coming here, ask yourself: How would I feel if the story of my family was like the stories on the news right now?

My Italian ancestors came during the Great Migration, around 1900, joining the United States in time to reap the benefits of the Roaring Twenties. Not that they were unaffected by immigration restrictions, as few as there were in those years. My twice great grandfather, who was blind, was not permitted to enter the country. His widow, had she not had a male relative willing to support her, would also been barred from entering the United States.

But neither was my twice great grandmother subject to being deported for a misdemeanor, or her children taken from her and locked in cages like animals. She’d made it to the United States and the worst was behind her. That wouldn’t be true, if she came today, from a country that many Americans regard with the same contempt as we once viewed Sicily.

Since we, immigrants and their descendants, are part of what makes America great, let us ask ourselves: how can we ensure the promise of America’s greatness in the future? Do we want to preserve the prejudice that greeted our ancestors, or the opportunities they found here, for future generations?

And what stories do we want to tell about our family’s struggles and achievements? Stereotypes about Italian-American gangsters and roughnecks abound. So do the tired hagiographies in which our ancestors “worked hard, and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” The real history of our families—and this country—is more complicated. Future generations deserve to know as much of the truth as we can tell.

Featured image: The author’s twice-great grandmother, Angela Grizzaffi, and two of her daughters

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 3

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 3

Do members of the Mafia share more common ancestors with their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone? To answer this question, I created a study of Mafia marriages with a control group of randomly selected marriages performed in Corleone. I hypothesized that the control group would have a rate of consanguineous marriage close to that found throughout Sicily by Cavalli-Sforza et al (2004), and that the study group would have a higher rate than the control.

See Part 1 of this series here, and Part 2 here.

Control Group Selection

For each marriage in the study group, a marriage was randomly selected from those performed by the Catholic Church in Corleone in the same year. On average, there were 115 marriages per year. To generate one or more random record numbers for the control group, the range of record numbers used in the year a Mafia couple married was entered into an online random series generator, random.org, and the number of records needed for the control group from that year (either one or two) were returned. None of the random numbers generated matched the marriage record number of a Mafia couple already being studied.

The grooms from the control set of marriages appear in the table below:

Control grooms with profile IDs

Groom Wikitree ID Year of Marriage
Sebastiano Ciravolo Ciravolo-38 1815
Salvatore Fratello Fratello-66 1834
Mariano Cutrone Cutrone-76 1843
Biagio Saporito Saporito-34 1852
Luciano Provenzano Provenzano-178 1859
Giovanni Catania Catania-80 1862
Biagio Provenzano Provenzano-191 1870
Antonio Ala Ala-4 1872
Giovanni Costantino Costantino-41 1873
Carmelo d’Anna D’Anna-50 1880
Matteo Mangiameli Mangiameli-67 1880
Domenico Zangara Zangara-39 1881
Francesco di Puma Di_Puma-1 1883
Antonino Grizzaffi Grizzaffi-182 1884
Antonio Sartella Sartella-1 1884
Giuseppe Cimino Cimino-84 1887
Pietro d’Anna D’Anna-74 1889
Giuseppe Trombaturi Trombaturi-11 1889
Giuseppe la Cava La_Cava-2 1893
Salvatore Pomilla Pomilla-60 1893
Leoluca Morello Morello-72 1894
Giuseppe Carlino Carlino-37 1895
Bernardo Cutrone Cutrone-79 1897
Nicolo’ di Gregorio Di_Gregorio-26 1897
Mariano Provenzano Provenzano-192 1898
Calogero Pecoraro Pecoraro-32 1900
Silvestre Vajana Vajana-1 1902
Giuseppe Verro Verro-46 1902
Onofrio Azzara Azzara-3 1903
Gaetano Mangano Mangano-57 1904
Giuseppe Labruzzo Labruzzo-39 1906
Rocco Rao Rao-299 1906
Giuseppe di Vita Di_Vita-2 1908
Andrea Coniglio Coniglio-67 1909

Although some of these men and their brides married multiple times, for the purposes of this study, only one of their marriages is being compared to the study group.

Of note, Leoluca Morello (Morello-72) is a third cousin of gang leader Giuseppe Morello (Morello-35), whose two marriages are both included in the study group. Giuseppe Verro (Verro-46) is a third cousin of the trade unionist, Bernardino Verro (Verro-22), who did not marry before his assassination in 1915, and so is not a part of this study.

Family Trees

The next challenge was to create family trees for the bride and groom in each marriage being studied, in both the study and control groups. Typically a family’s genealogy is only traced 3-4 generations to determine the coefficient of relationship, a convention initially established for reasons of convenience. (Vogel and Motulsky 2010) Dispensations for marriage between closely related individuals were only required out to the degree of second cousins, who share great-grandparents, three generations back. Cavalli-Sforza et al (2004) note that the Church’s documentation, used to determine degree of consanguinity, would typically only chart family trees going back three generations. However, their published results combine all consanguineous marriages out to the degree of third cousins, who share a common ancestor four generations back, among their twice-great grandparents (great-great grandparents, or 2GG).

For each marriage in this study, family trees were built for the bride and the groom, to the fourth generation, in order to match the results of Cavalli-Sforza. Using vital records, primarily marriage records kept by the Catholic Church, individual profiles for brides, grooms, and their ancestors, have been maintained on Wikitree.com, an open source genealogy website. The Wikitree Relationship Finder was used to find common lines of descent.

Limitations

Not all family trees could be completed. The supporting documentation that Cavalli-Sforza et al used for their study are unindexed, making them unsuitable for this research project. Instead, matrimonial records for Corleone, which are indexed (and which were presumably consulted in constructing the supporting documentation), were the primary resource. Other records consulted include a Church census, baptismal and death records, immigration records, contemporary newspapers of record, and the Italian Senate and trial records mentioned in Part 2.

In some cases, the bride, groom, or one of their direct ancestors is officially illegitimate, or has moved to Corleone from another town. In other cases, the parents of the bride, groom, or one of their direct ancestors, cannot be identified, because their vital records have not been found in a diligent search.

Parents % known Grandparents % known G-Grandparents % known 2GG % known
Mafia couples 1.000 0.868 0.790 0.680
Control couples 0.971 0.827 0.733 0.594
Difference 0.029 0.040 0.057 0.086
Average 0.985 0.847 0.762 0.637

In theory, 100% completion of this study, as designed, would mean finding 1,050 marriage records: fifteen ancestral marriages for of each of the seventy marriages in the study. In reality, that number is somewhat lower than 1,050, because some of the individuals in the study share common ancestors.

Overall, 98.5% of parents, and close to two-thirds of great-great grandparents are known.The rate of completion is slightly higher for the family trees of Mafia couples compared with the control group. The most common reason for an ancestor being unknown was because they were born outside of Corleone. The other two reasons were formal illegitimacy and other genealogical “brick walls.”

Next week, I will share the results.

Sources:

  1. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Antonio Moroni, and Gianna Zei. Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  2. Michael Speicher et al, Eds. Vogel and Motulsky’s Human Genetics: Problems and Approaches. 4th Ed. Springer, 2010.

Image credit: Il Pozzoserrato, Pleasure garden with a maze

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 2

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 2

To study mafia marriages, first, you need to find the mafiosi.

See Part 1 of this series.

To study the marriages of Mafia members requires several steps. First, there is the identification of members of a secret, criminal organization. A few, like members of Giuseppe Morello’s family, and the bosses of Corleone, have been written about many times, and a wealth of biographical information is available on them.

The identities of some members of the Mafia are unambiguous: they are named in trial records that give the defendants’ birthdates, hometowns, and parents’ names. Adding to the names of known members are Mafia historians Dino Paternostro, John Alcorn, and Richard Warner, and others, who have named dozens of mafiosi from Corleone, and the time periods during which they were active, both in Sicily and in the United States.

Following accepted genealogical standards, I have built cases for the identities of over a hundred individuals named in connection to the mafia in Corleone. You can find them on Wikitree, categorized as “Corleone Mafia.” Occasionally, my work overlaps with that of other “Arborists” on the site. I am not the only one who has done genealogical research on, and written biographies for, the many thousands of people from Corleone on Wikitree, but I have done a lot of it. Each profile has a history, so if you’re curious, and a Wikitree member (it’s free to join), you can find out exactly what I contributed and when on the “Changes” tab of any profile. You can also see what I’ve been doing most recently on Wikitree, on my activity feed. For the last several months, much of my activity has been the genealogical research for this consanguinity study.

Of the Mafia members who were either born or married in Corleone, thirty-five of their marriages, performed between 1815 and 1909, were selected for this study. I cut off the study at 1909 because after that year, full marriage records are not available online, making the selection of controls a degree more difficult. The earliest marriages come from the first documented, organized criminals from Corleone that I’ve yet found.

The median year of marriage is 1889. Three of the mafiosi (Nicolo’ Ciravolo, Marco Maggiore, and Giuseppe Morello) married twice, and in each case, both of their marriages are included, so they each appear twice in the test group, below.

Mafia members included in study, with profile IDs on Wikitree

Mafia Member Wikitree ID Year of Marriage
Giuseppe Battaglia Battaglia-103 1870
Antonino Cascio Cascio-157 1906
Carmelo Cascio Cascio-432 1902
Biagio Ciancimino Ciancimino-10 1852
Nicolo’ Ciravolo Ciravolo-20 1815
Nicolo’ Ciravolo Ciravolo-20 1834
Mariano Colletto Colletto-38 1898
Luciano Crapisi Crapisi-12 1880
Salvatore Cutrera Cutrera-34 1859
Bernardo di Miceli Di_Miceli-100 1862
Domenico di Miceli Di_Miceli-128 1881
Angelo Gagliano Gagliano-50 1902
Calogero Gagliano Gagliano-52 1906
Luciano Gagliano Gagliano-9 1880
Michaelangelo Gennaro Gennaro-85 1884
Biagio Jannazzo Jannazzo-1 1843
Luciano Labruzzo Labruzzo-55 1897
Antonino lo Jacono Lo_Jacono-16 1872
Calogero lo Jacono Lo_Jacono-18 1884
Marco Maggiore Maggiore-8 1893
Marco Maggiore Maggiore-8 1908
Calogero Majuri Majuri-23 1893
Pietro Majuri Majuri-6 1897
Giovanni Mancuso Mancuso-307 1887
Francesco Mancuso Mancuso-313 1883
Antonio Mariano Mancuso Mancuso-77 1889
Giuseppe Morello Morello-35 1889
Giuseppe Morello Morello-35 1903
Paolino Streva Streva-64 1894
Carlo Taverna Taverna-7 1904
Bernardo Terranova Terranova-29 1873
Ciro Terranova Terranova-31 1909
Pasquale Vasi Vasi-2 1895
Francesco Zito Zito-78 1900

Of the Mafia members included in this study, the oldest are Nicolo’ Ciravolo and Biagio Jannazzo, members of Rapanzino’s gang of cattle rustlers who were nearly all killed by police in 1835. (Real 1836)

Biagio Ciancimino; Luciano Crapisi; Salvatore Cutrera; brothers Antonino and Calogero lo Jacono; Marco Maggiore and his uncle Calogero Majuri (note the two spellings of the same surname); Francesco, Giovanni, and Mariano Mancuso (all three of no known relation); first cousins Bernardo and Domenico di Miceli; and Carlo Taverna; are all named among Fratuzzi membership around 1900, by the journalist Dino Paternostro. (2004)

Giuseppe Morello, his stepfather Bernardo Terranova, and his stepbrother Ciro Terranova, all founding members of the Morello gang in New York, a predecessor of the Genovese crime family, are well documented, most famously by William J. Flynn in “The Barrel Mystery.” (Flynn 1919) Other New York City gangsters from Corleone include the counterfeiter Pasquale Vasi, who is described by Richard Warner et al (2014), and in contemporary newspapers.

The criminal activities of Carmelo Cascio, Mariano Colletto, and brothers Calogero and Luciano Gagliano, contemporaries of Bernardino Verro, have been written about by John Alcorn and Dino Paternostro.

Fratuzzi bosses Giuseppe Battaglia, Angelo Gagliano, Michaelangelo Gennaro, and Luciano Labruzzo are known from multiple sources, including Flynn (1919) and Paternostro, and from Italian Senate inquest and trial records, which also name Antonino Cascio (a distant cousin of Carmelo) and Francesco Zito. Flynn also describes the young Mafia captain, Paolino Streva, who collaborates as a cattle thief with Morello in Corleone, under Battaglia’s leadership.

Next week, this series continues with more on my methods, including selection of a control group.

Sources

  1. John Alcorn. “Revolutionary Mafiosi: Voice and Exit in the 1890s.” Accessed http://www.comune.corleone.pa.it/file%20da%20scaricare/Saggi%20palermo1_Saggi%20palermo1.pdf 5 May 2016.
  2. Archivio di Stato di Palermo, GP, aa. 1906-1925, b. 267, f. 3, Associazione per delinquere scopertosi in Corleone, 13 Agosto 1916.
  3. Dino Paternostro. «Fratuzzi», antenati di Liggio e Riina. La Sicilia: 8 August 2004.
  4. Dino Paternostro. La «punciuta» di Bernardino Verro. La Sicilia: 1 August 2004.
  5. William J. Flynn. The Barrel Mystery. The James A. McCann Co.: New York, 1919.
  6. Real Segreteria di Stato presso il Luogotenente Generale in Sicilia Ripartimento Polizia Repertorio anno 1836. Accessed http://archiviodistatodipalermo.it/files/inventari/file/1263903377anno1836.pdf 6 August 2015.
  7. Senato della Repubblica VII Legislatura. Documentazione allegata alla relazione conclusiva della commissione parlamentare d’inchiesta sul fenomeno della mafia in Sicilia. Accessed http://legislature.camera.it/_dati/leg08/lavori/stampati/pdf/023_001011.pdf 13 May 2016.
  8. Richard Warner, Angelo Santino, and Lennert Van ‘t Riet. “The Early New York Mafia: An Alternative Theory.” The Informer: May 2014. Accessed https://www.scribd.com/doc/222924210/2014-02-Informer-May-2014 11 January 2016.

Feature image: Giorgio Sommer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 1

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 1

Over the next several weeks, I will share the results of my first study, into the rates of consanguineous marriage among known members of the Mafia in Corleone, and a control group matched by year of marriage.

I’ve noticed that Mafia members in Corleone appear to marry into other known Mafia families, engage in double in law marriages, and marry close blood relations, all at higher rates than is typical for the town as a whole. A few months ago, I decided to quantify my observations beginning with a controlled study of the blood relations between members of the Fratuzzi and their wives.

Cavalli-Sforza and his co-authors have written the definitive text on consanguineous marriage in Italy, and have paid special attention to Sicily which, owing to its geography and political history, is more isolated than the Italian peninsula. I planned to use their results as a baseline for my own research.

The genealogical documentation that accompanies every marriage is created by a priest, using the baptismal and marriage records. The results were used by the Church to determine degree of relation, which it labeled in degrees I through IV. First degree is the closest relations that are ever allowed to marry, and fourth is the most distant relations still requiring dispensation to marry.

Cavalli-Sforza et al’s research is based on these marriage records created by the Church. The authors are geneticists, with different research aims, and so their categories are slightly different, but map neatly onto the Church’s:

Church degrees of relation Cavalli-Sforza
I. uncle-niece/aunt-nephew 12
II. first cousins 22
III. first cousins once removed 23
IV. second cousins 33

consanguineous-marriages-percentageIn this table from the Cavalli-Sforza text, you can see the types of consanguineous marriages are coded by number. The last two categories, “34” and “44,” are second cousins once removed and third cousins, respectively.

At first, I interpreted this table as saying that half of all marriages required dispensation, due to the bride and groom being first cousins (“22”). In fact, that column shows not the percentage of all marriages, but of all marriages requiring dispensation. The total percentage of marriages that were consanguineous is in the second to last column of this table.

rate-of-consanguineous-marriage

Overall, the incidence of marriage in Sicily between third cousins or closer relations has historically been around five percent of all marriages, according to Cavalli-Sforza’s figures, peaking at around ten percent, and returning to those levels later in the century.

Typically, 25% of your genes will also be found in any one of your aunts’ or uncles’ DNA. You share half as much of your DNA with one of your parents’ siblings as you do with one of your own brothers or sisters. If you have a half-sibling, your coefficient of relationship is also 25%. In other words, you have as much in common with a half-sibling, genetically, as you do with one of your parents’ full siblings. Half-siblings were not allowed to marry, but uncle-niece or aunt-nephew pairings were, with a dispensation from the Church.

Double first cousins are the products of double in-law marriages. When two siblings from one set of parents marry two siblings from another set of parents, the offspring of these marriages are not just first cousins, but double first cousins. They share as much in common, genetically, as half-siblings, or a man and his niece, or a woman and her nephew. While you and your first cousins share just one set of grandparents in common, double first cousins have both sets of grandparents in common. The Church does not restrict double in-law marriages.

Degree of

relationship

Relationship Coefficient of

relationship (r)

0 identical twins; clones 100%
1 parent-offspring 50% (2−1)
2 full siblings 50% (2−2+2−2)
2 3/4 siblings or sibling-cousins 37.5% (2−2+2−3)
2 grandparent-grandchild 25% (2−2)
2 half siblings 25% (2−2)
3 aunt/uncle-nephew/niece 25% (2⋅2−3)
4 double first cousins 25% (4⋅2−4)
3 great grandparent-great grandchild 12.5% (2−3)
4 first cousins 12.5% (2⋅2−4)
6 quadruple second cousins 12.5% (8⋅2−6)
6 triple second cousins 9.38% (6⋅2−6)
4 half-first cousins 6.25% (2−4)
5 first cousins once removed 6.25% (2⋅2−5)
6 double second cousins 6.25% (4⋅2−6)
6 second cousins 3.13% (2⋅2−6)
8 third cousins 0.78% (2⋅2−8)
10 fourth cousins 0.20% (2⋅2−10)

Table source: Wikipedia

Cavalli-Sforza categorize marriages between double first cousins as “Multiple,” indicating that the bride and groom are related through multiple common ancestors.

Since the priests would go back at most three or four generations to complete the documentation supporting a marriage, any common ancestors revealed by the supporting documentation are close enough relations to have a significant impact on a potential couple’s shared coefficient of relation. While discussion of the existing research has focused on the rates of marriage in the first two categories (uncle-niece and first cousin marriages, respectively), and Cavalli-Sforza describe the first category as having an unusually high number of marriages, there’s no telling how much consanguinity lies unmeasured under the heading of “Multiple,” especially if, as I have observed, double in-law marriages are common in the populations being studied.

I have hypothesized that my control group in Corleone would turn out to “marry in” at roughly the same frequency as the rest of Sicily, i.e. around 5-10%, and that Mafia marriages would prove more consanguineous, on average, than the control group. Now, the genealogical research is complete. Over the next several weeks, I will share the results.

Sources:

  1. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Antonio Moroni, and Gianna Zei. Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  2. “Coefficient of relationship.” Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_relationship Accessed 19 August 2016.

 

Featured Image: “The Olive Trees,” by Vincent Van Gogh

Cousins, many times over

Cousins, many times over

There’s a classic illustration of exponential growth, that goes something like this: a king agrees to play a chess match for a prize: a single grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, two grains on the second square, and so on, doubling the number for each of the 64 squares. The king loses the match, and soon realizes that the amount of rice he would have to pay is far higher than he imagined: 18,446,744,073,709,551,615, or more than eighteen quintillion grains of rice in total. That’s a lot of rice.

Every genealogist who has gotten very far in charting all of their own ancestors has discovered that doubled numbers get large, very quickly. We all have two parents, four grandparents, and so on: the number of ancestors grows exponentially with each generation.

My closest common ancestor with Salvatore “Toto” Riina is through his mother, Maria Concetta Rizzo. We’re both descended from Giovanni Todaro and Antonina Russo, who married in 1750. Maria Concetta is the fourth great granddaughter of their son, Filippo. Filippo’s sister, Emmanuela, married Leoluca Cascio in 1770, and they are my 5GG. Of my 128 fifth-great grandparents, thirty-two are through my paternal grandfather, and lived in Corleone.

Toto and I are also related through his father, Giovanni Riina. Michaele Giunta and Innocenza Papania, who married in 1729, are Toto’s 5GG and my 7GG. So in addition to being sixth cousins, once removed, on his mother’s side, we are also sixth cousins, twice removed, on his father’s side.

Giuseppe Sangiorgi and Filippa lo Munti, who married in 1683, are also Toto Riina’s direct ancestors and mine: they are his 6GG and my 7GG, which makes us fifth cousins, once removed. We’re also seventh cousins, twice removed, three different ways. Pietro Mannina and Gioachina Biscuso, who married in 1673, are his 6GG and my 8GG. So are Giuseppe Sciacchitano and Caterina Lanza, who married in 1703, and Giovanni Sciortino and Mattea Russo (of no known relation to Antonina), who married in 1689.

Giovanni Fruja and his wife, Giuseppa, who I estimate married sometime before 1650, are my 9GG and Toto Riina’s 7GG, making us 8th cousins, twice removed, through this pair of common ancestors. Another of our common ancestors is Tommaso Cimino (my 6GG, his 8GG), who married twice, first to Toto’s ancestor, and then to mine, making us half-seventh cousins, twice removed.

In population genetics, degree of consanguinity is measured as a percentage of one’s genetic inheritance held in common with another, called a coefficient of relationship (CoR). The more closely related you are to someone, the higher your CoR. Identical twins have a CoR of 100%. You and your mother have a coefficient of 50%, and so do you and any of your full siblings. Half siblings share a coefficient with aunt/uncle-nephew/niece relationships, of 25%.

In the same way the number of grains of rice grows exponentially larger, from one chessboard square to the next, the CoF gets exponentially smaller, the more distant the relationship. Fourth cousins share a coefficient of relationship of only 0.20%. Sixth cousins, once removed, have a CoR of 0.000061035156%

I have multiple ancestors in common with another Corleone Mafia boss, Michelangelo Gennaro. We’re second cousins, four times removed. My fifth-great grandparents, Leoluca Cascio and Emmanuela Todaro, are Michelangelo’s great grandparents.

Michelangelo and Toto are also multiply related. They’re third cousins, three times removed, both being descended from Giovanni Todaro and Antonina Russo. They are also fifth cousins, twice removed, through Domenico Saggio and Domenica Mondello, who married in 1651: they are Michelangelo Gennaro’s 4GG and Toto Riina’s 6GG. And all three of us are descended from my 9GG, Giovanni and Giuseppa Fruja, who are Gennaro’s 5GG and Riina’s 7GG.

Image credit: Giulio Campi, “The Chess Players”