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.
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 /