The Addolorata courtyard

The Addolorata courtyard

Of the hundred churches of Corleone, one of the most beloved is dedicated to San Leoluca, one of the town’s two patron saints. The Church of Sorrows, the Chiesa dell’Addolorata, is in the San Nicolo’ district, built on what was called at that time “the left side trazzera of Corleone.” (A trazzera is a path for herding cattle.) Although dedicated to San Leoluca, the name refers to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. Landslides threatened the church in 1784, but it still stands.

San Leoluca was born in Corleone on the eve of the Saracen invasion, in the ninth century. The Sicilian emirate lasted until the eleventh century, and Corleone remained a Muslim-majority city for at least another hundred years. By the Middle Ages, churches had assumed the social position of mosques in the town, built in the traditional North African style, with winding alleys and communal courtyards. The largest houses of worship in Corleone have squares in front of them that have been centers of public life for centuries.

In the 18th century, Church censuses, called “state of the soul,” or “stato delle anime,” describe an old city and suburbs, still laid out along the same lines as it had been in the time of San Leoluca.

A typical “stato” begins without headings, with the name of a head of household. This appears with their age, and the first names, ages, and relationship to the head of household, of each resident in the home. A horizontal line separates one household from the next. Occasional headings or marginalia appear as clues to the census’ geographical location. The town’s many “quarters”—there are more than four—correspond to the largest churches. Some years include running totals, and most conclude with a tally of the population, broken out between the city and the suburbs.

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The priest who takes the census winds in and out of courtyards, alleys, and institutions on his rounds. As well as the private homes of Corleone there is a college, an orphanage, a marketplace/hostel, and several convents and monasteries.  “San Nicolo’ quarter,” “out,” “turn,” and “as you go up the road,” are all typical headings. There is no visual map of the census taker’s trajectory in the “stato delle anime,” only these clues, and the names of the families he records.

As a genealogist, making sense of one of these records is not the place to begin one’s search for family: there have been too many changes, and the “stato” provides too few clues.  While a few households appear on roads that still bear the same names today, the majority do not. Most of the town’s original courtyards, which were numerous in 1834, are no longer visible on maps today: they have been filled in with more houses.

From one census to the next, landmarks are renamed or disappear, people marry and die, and families move. Some of the “stati” are mislabeled as to the year they were taken: one labeled “1848” on FamilySearch appears to have been taken almost a hundred years earlier.  Ages are misreported, relations and servants appear without surnames, widows are listed under their married names, and locations cannot be exactly pinpointed, but only referred to with relation to shifting landmarks. Even people’s names skip generations, so it’s hard to know from a single page of the census, whether you’re looking at one man’s family or his grandfather’s.

Given these qualities, the “stato” is only useful for finding your relations, after you already know exactly who they are and when they lived. But if your research into the town is broader than one lineage, the census is a goldmine of information. By reviewing many years’ worth, I have mapped old Corleone onto the new, and pinpointed the locations of dozens of landmarks and family homes.

In the 1811 and 1812 censuses, there is a courtyard in the San Nicolo’ quarter called after the nearby Chiesa dell’Addolorata. In much the same way as the plazas were engineered in the time of the emirate, city planners made courtyards centers of domestic activity. 

Among the families living in the Addolorata courtyard in 1812 are those of Calogero Morello, who is the great-grandfather of New York City gangster Giuseppe Morello, and of Maestro Leoluca Vasi. In 1834, Calogero Morello still lived there, near master artisans, brothers Vito and Pasquale Vasi, who are sons of Leoluca; and Calogero Maida, uncle of Vincenzo Maida, the guard associated with Rapanzino’s gang. Maestro Vito was married to Vincenzo Maida’s sister.

I haven’t determined exactly where Rapanzino’s bandmates lived in 1834, from their position in that year’s census, but their families live in the San Nicolo’ quarter, as well.

Calogero Morello’s nephew, Ciro Rigoglioso, also lived in the Addolorata courtyard in 1834. Another Vasi brother lived just outside it. Ciro, whose married sister also lived nearby, is the twice-great grandfather of Bernardo Provenzano, who died last year in prison.

Vito Vasi and Calogera Maida had at least one son, Francesco, who in turn had at least four sons, all of whom immigrated to New York. The two older brothers are Giuseppe and Leoluca, and they have at least two younger brothers, one named Pasquale, born in 1880, and Francesco Paolo, who shares a name with their father, born in 1882.

The brothers also have a second cousin named Pasquale Vasi, the grandson and namesake of Vito’s brother. He was born in 1866. His godfather was murdered by a Giuseppe Morello associate, Gioachino Lima.

Of the four sons of Francesco Vasi, Giuseppe immigrated first to Manhattan, and married a girl from Corleone there in 1897. The two younger brothers immigrated together in 1904. Leoluca Vasi married in Corleone and sailed with his wife’s family in 1905.

Leoluca and Pasquale were both arrested in New York in 1910, in connection with Giuseppe Morello’s counterfeiting operation. Pasquale made bail and was released, but Leoluca appears in that year’s US census: as a prisoner in South Bend, Georgia.

 

Image of Maria Addolorata by unknown artist, © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0

If you give them an inch

If you give them an inch

From the “inchino” this spring to the recent dissolution of Corleone’s city council, recent events in Corleone demonstrate the relevance of research into mafia genealogy.

Science is cool, but also, sometimes boring. In order to bring some rigor to my work, and quantify some of my hunches, I decided last week that I need a control group. The problem is, controls are boring. They’re by definition, the group in which I have far less interest. I’d much rather find the common ancestors of known mafiosi than scrutinize their neighbors in a randomized fashion. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but it didn’t happen this week, and the reason why is, sometimes science is boring.

If you follow Mafia Genealogy on Facebook, or keep up with current events in Italy, you’ve seen the news of an earthquake on the peninsula that has taken more than 250 lives. Tremors of lesser note included the passing of Bernardo Provenzano in prison in July, and the historic dissolution of Corleone’s city council, due to mafia infiltration.

Late in June, it was reported that four councilors had resigned in protest of the mayor, Leoluchina Savona. The investigation that led to its dissolution implicated Antonio di Marco, who was arrested in 2014. He is named as a capo and a civil employee in the Repubblica.

It appears from the coverage that the investigation into the city of Corleone, which uncovered shady construction deals, began with a series of incidents back in the spring, at Easter. In Corleone and elsewhere, traditional processions performed a ritual “bow” to the houses of known members of the mafia, which is against both civil law and Church rules. The one person who has been named in Corleone in connection with the inchino is Leoluca Grizzaffi, a member of the confraternity of San Giovann’Battista, and a second cousin of Toto Riina’s wife, Ninetta Bagarella.

The mafia is a living organism, one that changes and evolves. But at its roots, its character and form are dictated by centuries old customs. Risky, public demonstrations of respect—like the inchino, or the naming of “men of respect” as godparents—are part of its DNA. Quite literally, the genetics of the mafia in Corleone have remained constant. By understanding how it has already adapted to changing circumstances, it’s possible there is more to be learned about what to expect from the mafia in the future.

 

Sources:

Antonio Fraschilla. “Il Consiglio dei ministri scioglie per mafia il Comune di Corleone.” Published 10 August 2016. Accessed  http://palermo.repubblica.it/politica/2016/08/10/news/il_consiglio_dei_ministri_scioglie_per_mafia_il_comune_di_corleone-145759589/?ref=HREC1-8 10 August 2016.

Josephine McKenna. “Homage to Mafia boss angers Catholic Church.” Published 6 June 2016. Accessed https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/world/homage-mafia-boss-angers-catholic-church/ 6 June 2016.

“Corleone, si dimettono i consiglieri del Pd in polemica col sindaco.” Published 25 June 2016. Accessed http://palermo.repubblica.it/cronaca/2016/06/25/news/corleone_si_dimettono_i_consiglieri_del_pd_in_polemica_col_sindaco-142809649/ 10 August 2016.

 

Image credit: Easter procession image is from https://etinkerbell.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/bows-ships-and-godfathers/ Available for noncommercial reuse.

The 1969 Corleonesi trial

The 1969 Corleonesi trial

In 1958, Luciano Leggio started a mafia war that lasted five years, and killed more than fifty people, starting with Dr. Michele Navarra, the former boss in Corleone. The victory was short lived, as police swept up dozens of mafiosi from Corleone and Palermo in the early 1960s. Three major trials were held in mainland Italian cities, the first to prosecute mafia members for criminal association. The third of these, the Corleonesi trial, held in the spring and summer of 1969 in Bari, Italy, mainly revolved around Leggio’s war. The charges ranged from criminal association to homicide.

The prosecutor, Cesare Terranova, initially charged 116 people, including one whose name was unknown. Of those, sixty-four went to trial in Bari. Among them is Giuseppe Ruffino, originally from Lucca Sicula, suspected in a triple homicide. Five of his co-defendants are from Palermo. There are a handful from other towns in the province, but the majority, fifty-five of the sixty-four, were born in Corleone: three women and fifty-two men, including Luciano Leggio, Leoluchina Sorisi, Bernardo Provenzano, and Toto Riina.

Of the fifty-five, fourteen are my cousins, some of them admittedly pretty distant ones. The closest relations are the Majuri brothers, Antonino and Giovanni, who are my second cousins, twice removed. Their father, Pietro, and two of their uncles, were active in the mafia in Corleone around 1900. The Majuri brothers are also first cousins, once removed, of Giuseppe Morello. (I talk about my connection to Morello, through the great-aunt Biagia who stayed behind while my ancestors immigrated, in my first entry on this blog.)

Affiliates of both Navarra and Leggio appeared together at the Sicilian Mafia trials. Calogero Bagarella, said to be one of the assassins of the brothers Marco and Giovanni Marino, and of Pietro Majuri, who were all part of Dr. Navarra’s cosca, stood charged alongside the Majuri brothers. Calogero’s father, Salvatore, and brother, Leoluca, were also defendants. After the trial, Calogero Bagarella was among those who executed Michele Cavataio, instigator of an earlier mafia war, in Palermo. In the exchange, Calogero was also killed.

Filippo Gennaro, son of the former capo Michelangelo, was a defendant at Bari. So was Salvatore Briganti, second cousin once removed of “Mr. Vincent” Collura, a suspect in the killing of Placido Rizzotto. Briganti and Collura are related through a common ancestor on their mothers’ sides, named Leoluca Criscione; also charged was Briganti’s nephew, Biagio Criscione. John Follain and Gordon Kerr say Collura and another defendant, Angelo di Carlo, were instrumental in rebuilding the mafia after WWII. Di Carlo, Ruffino, and a third co-defendant, Salvatore Pomilla, all died in custody, awaiting trial.

Toto Riina was a defendant, as were his second cousins, once removed, the brothers Pietro and Giacomo Riina. Giacomo’s wife, Maria Concetta Leggio, her brothers, Francesco and Vincenzo, and their father, Leoluca, were all defendants, too. Francesco Leggio and his wife, Maria Riina, were in a double in-law marriage: she is the sister of Pietro and Giacomo, and Giacomo’s wife is Francesco’s sister. Maria was not charged, herself, but four of her sons were. Despite the common surname, I can find no relationship between Leoluca and Luciano Leggio, going back five generations. The four sons of Francesco and Maria are third cousins of Toto Riina, through their mother. Even the killers and their victims, in this small town, can trace some convoluted relationship: through connections to the Palumbo and Grizzaffi families, the extended Leggio clan, Dr. Navarra, the Majuri brothers, and I are all related.

That summer of love in Bari, an anonymous note threatened the lives of the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury, warning that if even one of the “honest gentlemen from Corleone” were convicted, they would be “blown sky high, you will be wiped out, you will be butchered and so will every member of your family.” The note closed with a supposed Sicilian proverb, “A man warned is a man saved.” All sixty-four of the defendants at Bari were acquitted.

 

Sources

Gordon Kerr. “Fugitives: Dramatic Accounts of Life on the Run.” Accessed https://books.google.com/books?id=x5lIAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT69&lpg=PT69&dq=angelo+di+carlo+mafia+corleone&source=bl&ots=90htLvjpEF&sig=yiEBNLstADFThVCsIVEQ2tXZ4rY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBGoVChMI3_H958GHyQIVhNgeCh0ZsgKt#v=onepage&q=angelo%20di%20carlo%20mafia%20corleone&f=false 11 November 2015.

John Follain. “The Last Godfathers: Inside the Mafia’s Most Infamous Family” Accessed https://books.google.com/books?id=hkDFCi3ItawC&pg=PT29&lpg=PT29&dq=angelo+di+carlo+mafia+corleone&source=bl&ots=H-UjJyHeun&sig=41arcl2L3b85RB3Va5TAo_Dg0NE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAWoVChMI3_H958GHyQIVhNgeCh0ZsgKt#v=onepage&q=angelo%20di%20carlo%20mafia%20corleone&f=false 10 November 2015.

Paternostro, Dino. <<Fratuzzi>>, antenati di Liggio e Riina. Accessed http://www.cittanuove-corleone.it/La%20Sicilia,%20I%20fratuzzi%20di%20Corleone%2008.08.04pa03.pdf 16 November 2014.

Senato della Repubbblica VII Leglislatura. 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.

Wikipedia entries on Michele Cavataio, Salvatore Riina, Cesare Terranova, and the 1960s Sicilian Mafia trials

 

Image credits: Luciano Leggio, by Il capolinea del padrino, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41505544