Capitano’s Lucchese connection

Capitano’s Lucchese connection

The friends of Angelo di Carlo turn out to be “friends of friends.”

When Angelo di Carlo was interned during WWII, he was labeled by American intelligence as an alien enemy potentially dangerous to the United States, for several reasons. One was that confidential sources described him as a “man of respect” in the Italian community of New York. People called him “Capitano.” His reputation extended even to the Italian Embassy.

Angelo’s business associate in Esperia Film, Francesco Macaluso, says that Angelo had occasional business with the Embassy, regarding their films. For his part, Angelo claims he went merely to ensure his military pension was being paid out properly. In either case, he was granted private audiences on his visits to the Consulate: an uncommon courtesy. Angelo’s military rank—stripped from him when he failed to appear on murder charges in 1926—was also given as a reason for American intelligence to be concerned, during the war.

Angelo was found not guilty of murder by the Italian court in 1926, due to lack of evidence. But in 1930, he was found guilty of criminal association, which would make it difficult for him to conduct business in Sicily when he returned there in 1937, at the death of his father.

Mafia association is not a crime in the US, but it’s still an excellent detection method. Most crimes are never prosecuted, and with the exception of the occasional state’s witness, most mafiosi do not reveal their membership to non-members, not even to their wives and children. For Mafia genealogists, the challenge is not to find judicial proof, which is rare, or a membership roll, which is nonexistent, but to demonstrate that an individual does what mafiosi do. This includes having close business and personal contacts among men who are known members of the Mafia.

Some of the most telling of Angelo’s associations are those who signed affidavits in support of his release from internment at Fort Missoula in the summer of 1943. After nineteen months in custody, a letter writing campaign on his behalf gained some traction. Four affidavits were sent from Angelo di Carlo’s attorney, and seven more from his wife, Luigia, to the US Attorney General’s offices in Washington and New York. Luisa included affidavits from Rosario Loiacono, Edward S. Reitano, Louis Di Frisco, Domenick Tavolacci, Nunzio Pomilla, Stefano La Sala, and Pietro Castro. The attorney, Avel B. Silverman, sent affidavits from Angelo’s brother, Calogero, and from Ignazio Milone, Leoluke Calcaterra, and Costantino Castellana.

All of the men testified that they knew Angelo well, that he was no threat to the US government, and that they would sponsor him if he were released. Three of the affidavits are from men with close ties to Tommy Gagliano, boss of the Lucchese crime family:

Nunzio Pomilla is Tommy Gagliano’s brother-in-law and lathing business partner.

Leoluca di Frisco, who is known as Louis, is married to Tommy Gagliano’s niece. He owns a bakery and a lathing company.

Ignazio Milone’s first cousin is married to Tommy Gagliano.

There is another man by this name, a known Giuseppe Morello associate, who is also from Corleone. That Ignazio Milone is twenty years older, born in 1878. He is this man’s third cousin. The older man was killed in 1934.

(Another man who swore on Angelo’s behalf was Stefano la Sala, who I wrote about here a couple weeks ago. Like Milone, La Sala has a same-name cousin, a powerful member of the Lucchese family.)

All three of the Lucchese connections are men from Corleone. Ignazio Milone has been a blacksmith, a stone cutter, and a plasterer. Never married, he lived in the Bronx with his sister and brother-in-law. Milone and Pomilla both knew Angelo since they were children. Milone and Leoluke Calcaterra, a milliner, affirmed Angelo’s difficulties in Sicily. Each of them was in Corleone, visiting family, at some time during the two years Angelo was there. They claim that his harassment by the police, and fruitless efforts to secure a passport for himself and his wife, were generally known to people in Corleone. Costantino Castellano, who is from Palermo, was in Sicily in the summer of 1937. He was in contact with Angelo during that time, and confirmed Milone and Calcaterra’s statements.

A common thread is proprietorship in the construction trades. Louis di Frisco and Nunzio Pomilla owned lathing companies. Stefano la Sala was a building contractor. Pietro Castro, also called Peter, who is both Stefano and Angelo’s brother-in-law, was a plasterer who owned his own business.  Pietro’s son, Anthony, was also a plasterer. Two of Angelo’s brothers were plasterers. Rosario Loiacono was a plasterer, as were two of his brothers, his father-in-law, Joseph Tavolacci and his brother-in-law, Domenick. Domenick Tavolacci is Peter Castro’s son-in-law, and was business partner in a plastering business with Angelo’s brother, John.

The Honorable Charles Buckley, who would lead the Bronx Democratic machine in the 1950s and 60s, was a bricklayer with his own construction business when he entered politics, breaking the unwritten rule that district leaders had to own saloons. The successor to “Boss Flynn,” Buckley was a strong believer in the political machine. If you needed something done in the Bronx, you saw your assemblyman, and if he couldn’t fix it for you, Buckley might. In the 1930s and 40s, he served fifteen terms in Congress. Among Buckley’s achievements in the Bronx was to bring in federal funds to pay for housing projects and highways: a boon for those in the construction industry.

At Peter Castro’s request, Buckley wrote a letter to the Attorney General. The letter made its way to the director of the Alien Control Unit, Edward J. Ennis, who wrote Peter Castro to suggest that his brother-in-law apply for a rehearing.

 

Sources

“Charles Buckley Dead at 76; Bronx Boss Had Farm Here.” Published in The Journal News on 23 January 1967. Accessed https://www.newspapers.com/clip/5737509/charles_buckley_dead_at_76_bronx_boss/ on 27 February 2017.

Hermalyn, G. “The Bronx.” Accessed http://bronxhistoricalsociety.org/about/bronx-history/the-story-of-the-bronx/ on 27 February 2017.

 

Feature Image: Democratic Boss Hon. Charles A. Buckley (left); “Capitano” Angelo Di Carlo (center); Leoluke Calcaterra, milliner, from his 1921 passport application (right)

Looking for Steve LaSalle

Looking for Steve LaSalle

I almost wrote this post about a different man.

There are three first cousins from Corleone who immigrated to New York around the same time, and had the same name: Stefano la Sala. One was born in 1881, another in 1888, and the third in 1892. One would become known as Steve LaSalle, a high-ranking member of the Lucchese crime family for half a century.

In Corleone, it’s not unusual for a boy to have the same name, first and last, as his cousins. If the boy is the oldest in his family, and he has five paternal uncles, he can expect to have up to five first cousins with exactly the same name as his own. Like himself, the oldest sons of his father’s brothers would be named after their paternal grandfather. The tradition of naming the first born boy and girl after their paternal grandparents is followed by practically every family in Corleone.

When I mentioned Steve LaSalle in this blog a couple weeks ago, I’d only discovered two of the three Stefano la Salas from Corleone. Not only that, I’d found so many clues connecting the oldest cousin to Morello’s crime family, that I was sure he was LaSalle. He is not, but he has his own Mafia connections. I’ll come back to him next week.

Of the three cousins, the youngest, son of Simone la Sala, is the one I found last, and know the least about. When he registered for the WWI draft in 1917, this Stefano la Sala, born in 1892, was living in East Harlem with his mother. He worked in the piano manufacturing business, for Strauch Bros., at 13th St. & 10th Ave in Manhattan. Little as I know of him, I can be sure he is not Steve LaSalle, either: he’s too young to be mistaken for a man born in November 1888 or 1889, as he’s described in Critchley’s “Organized Crime in America.”

The middle cousin, born seven years later, is the son of Biagio la Sala, a baker. Biagio and his older brother, Francesco, the father of the oldest Stefano, immigrated to New York together, with their wives and children, in the mid 1890s. Both families settled in the Bronx.

Based on his reported birth date (Critchley), the year he immigrated, 1897, from Richard Wagner and his co-authors, and the names of his brothers, it is the middle cousin, born in 1888, who was Steve LaSalle. His baptismal record from Corleone confirms  Stefano la Sala was born 5 November 1888. This does not match the date of birth reported on LaSalle’s WWI draft card, which says he was born on the eighth. However, his home address is a match for the census, where he lives with so many family members there is no question as to his identity, and so is his profession as a plasterer.

A 1972 feature on the Mafia in LIFE Magazine says “The old man, Steve LaSalle, the underboss of New York’s Luchese [sic] family, was himself born into a Mafia family.” I have not found any evidence so far of the La Sala family’s involvement in the Fratuzzi, the Mafia in Corleone. On Steve’s mother’s side, the Liggio men were successful millers. On his father’s, the baker’s paternal grandmother was from a family of merchants who immigrated to Corleone from the Papal States in the early 19th century. The LaSalles are of no relation to Luciano Leggio or the other Leggio family members who are defendants at the 1969 Mafia trial in Bari. However, they are related to the Moscato family, by marriage and godparenthood. The Moscato family in Corleone are all descendants of a man from Siculiana, in Agrigento province. They have organized criminal ties going back to Rapanzino’s gang, in the 1830s, and continue to appear in Italian records of mafia activity into the 1960s. Francesco Moscato, Steve LaSalle’s first cousin, was in the Morello gang. It appears that at least one and possibly two of Steve’s brothers were also involved.

The Morello gang’s bread and butter was counterfeiting. According to Bill Feather, Steve had a criminal record from 1909 for counterfeiting, as well as murder and grand larceny. Steve and his brother, Vito, ran a numbers racket that was one of the largest in New York around 1930, according to The Valachi Papers. Another brother, Calogero, is mentioned in lists of known mafiosi, though I haven’t been able to find out anything in particular. It appears that he was active in the Morello gang, but that after the Mafia-Camorra War, he was no longer connected with organized crime.

Steve is named as a participant in the Mafia-Camorra War, on the Morello-Terranova side. On 24 June 1916, he attended a meeting of the Morello gang with the Navy Street and Coney Island gangs, where he argued—by some accounts with Nick Terranova—for the assassination of Joe DeMarco. On 20 July, Steve joined “Louis the Wop,” Nick Sassi, and Ciro Terranova in recruiting Lefty Esposito to help them kill Joe DeMarco. Other than the Terranova brothers, the key targets of the Camorra included Steve LaSalle, Eugenio Ubriaco, and possibly Joseph Verrazano: more evidence that LaSalle was highly placed in the organization.

Steve LaSalle was arrested on 4 September 1916, and still in custody three days later when Nick Terranova and Ubriaco were assassinated, by Camorra member Alessandro Vollero. (At least one source calls the other victim Nick’s bodyguard.) No doubt, Steve’s arrest saved his life.

The price was a stay at Sing Sing Prison, where Steve registered for the draft for WWI the following summer. Steve worked as a plasterer in prison. Several of the sons of Francesco and Biagio la Sala, including the two cousins born 1881 and 1888, worked in construction trades. Francesco and the oldest Stefano la Sala, his son, started a stone and brick masonry company in 1908. Steve LaSalle and his brother, Charlie (born Calogero) were both plasterers. Their brother Victor (born Vito) la Sala was later a bricklayer, but at this time owned a garage, where he employed another brother, Dominick.

Following his release from prison, Steve was affiliated with Tommy Reina’s gang, and would remain so until his retirement. (Reina, who was a captain in Morello’s organization, formed his own Bronx-based gang around the time of the Mafia-Camorra War.) Steve, Victor, Dominick, and Charlie lived with their parents in the Bronx in 1920, along with three sisters. Three of the brothers were in construction but Dominick, no longer employed by his brother’s garage, was now in ladies’ hats. (The garment industry was a popular racket, and one closely associated with LaSalle.)

Their father died in 1924, and their mother, in 1930. Based on his children’s ages, Victor married by 1926 to Margaret, from Nebraska. They had two children, a girl and a boy. Neither Steve nor any other member of the LaSalle family appear in the 1930 federal census at their previous Bronx address.

Gaetano “Tommy” Reina, who had avoided the Mafia-Camorra War that fragmented the Morello gang, was killed in 1930, in the Castellammarese War. His operations were taken over by Tommy Gagliano, who ran the family until his death in 1951. Gagliano and Reina, both from Corleone, are distantly related by marriage: Gagliano’s second cousin, once removed, was Reina’s wife. Gagliano and Reina are each related to LaSalle, though even more distantly.

In the 1930s and ‘40s, Bill Feather reports that LaSalle lived in the Bronx, ran a large numbers operation, and became a power player in the garment industry. At the same time, he maintained a relatively low profile. His home is described as a “modest, two-family house” by the retired police officer interviewed in Pileggi’s 1972 article. Census and military records point to LaSalle living in New Jersey in 1940-42.

Today’s maps show a small, brick condominium, built in 1927, at LaSalle’s Cliffside Park address. In the 1940 federal census (the most recent publicly available) Steve, unmarried and living alone in Bergen County, calls himself a plasterer. Between 1940-42, his brother, Victor, moved his family from Fairfield, CT to Englewood Cliffs, NJ, five miles from Steve’s address. In his WWII draft registration, Steve named his brother, Victor, as his contact person. (Victor named his wife.)

Critchley writes, “LaSalle would become an influential member of the post Gaetano Reina organized crime Family under its various titles, reaching the post of consiglieri.” Other sources say he was made the underboss of the Lucchese family around 1951, under Gaetano “Tommy” Lucchese. LaSalle and Lucchese may have attended the Apalachin Summit together in 1957. He continued to serve under Lucchese’s successors: “Eddie” Coco and Carmine Tramunti.

LaSalle retired from the Lucchese family around 1972. According to the LIFE article published that year in March, his income came from ownership of a small garment factory. He was reportedly making $20,000 a year , an income equivalent to $110K today. He married and had a son.

Pileggi wrote early in 1972 that “Today, LaSalle, who is 83 and almost blind, is still being watched.” Although at least one source reports his death in 1974, an SSDI record that matches his name and date of birth tells us that Steve died at the age of 87, in November 1975. According to the record of his death, his last address was in Queens.

 

Sources

“The Apalachin Meeting.” Tutti Mafiosi. http://la-mafia.wikidot.com/the-apalachin-meeting Accessed 5 March 2017.

Black, Jon. “The Struggle for Control.” http://www.gangrule.com/events/struggle-for-control-1914-1918 Accessed 7 March 2017.

Critchley, David. The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931. Routledge: New York, 2009.

“Guests at the Mafia Bar-B-Que”. http://www.greaterowego.com/apalachin/guests.html Accessed 5 March 2017.

Maas, Peter. The Valachi Papers. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968. Print.

Pileggi, Nicholas. “The Decline and Fall of the Mafia.” LIFE, 3 March 1972.

Tuohy, John William. “Joe Petrosino’s War on the Mafia.” http://mywriterssite.blogspot.com/2016/12/joe-petrosinos-war-on-mafia.html Accessed 7 March 2017.

The Mafia without godfathers

The Mafia without godfathers

In a controlled study of Mafia marriages in Corleone, I found that Mafia members are historically more closely related to their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone. What are the implications, genetic and otherwise?

The rates of consanguinity among Corleone’s families, even its Mafia families, are not likely to represent an existential threat due to inbreeding. According to Cavalli-Sforza and his co-authors, nowhere in human civilization do we find sufficient rates of consanguineous marriage to threaten a population from pedigree collapse, even one as small and insular as Mafia families in Corleone. While the rate of consanguineous marriage approaches 50% in some populations today, in Sicily, it has not risen above ten percent. (Cavalli-Sforza 2004)

On the other hand, cousin marriage could represent a different kind of danger to a free society. Jonathan F. Shulz (2016) has shown that not only is consanguineous marriage highly significantly correlated with mafia activity, “cousin marriage is a highly significant and robust predictor of democracy.” Even controlling for a variety of other factors, including the year of onset of the Neolithic revolution, and duration of Church bans on consanguineous marriage, a ten percentage point higher rate of cousin marriage is associated with an approximately three points lower score on the Polity democracy index (a 21 point scale, from -10 to 10). This is equivalent to the difference between the “full” democracies of Italy and the United States (which both scored a “10” in 2015), and the more limited democracy found in countries like Bolivia, Kyrgystan, and Nigeria (which scored a “7” that year).

Another way of looking at it would be to compare the United States’ score in 2015, under Democratic President Barack Obama, and the current rating (2016) as a “Flawed Democracy” on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index under Republican Donald Trump, who won the electoral vote in November. (Data for 2016 are not yet available from Polity IV.)

The Mafia has cultivated an image of itself that is indivisible from Catholicism and Sicilian culture. One way the two institutions are allied, is in sharing authoritarian values—which is to say, undemocratic ones. The Church authors and then reinforces the religious values and rituals which bind together Sicilians from different families and towns, even those living halfway around the world. And it does so while at the same time, honoring the local: the daily miracle of transubstantiation, the vision, the miracle, the saint who lived close by. The Cursa Santu Luca, celebrating the anniversary of a miraculous retreat by Bourbon forces at Corleone, is one such local, religious celebration.

Another local ritual reinforced by the Church is the “inchino,” where the effigies of saints are made to curtsy or bow, by the confraternity members holding them, in front of the homes of honored families. Not infrequently in Italy, the honorees are at the top echelons of local mafias. When the San Giovann’Battista confraternity in Corleone conducted the inchino in front of the home of Toto Riina’s wife, Ninetta Bagarella, last year, the resulting investigation brought down the corrupt city government, and dissolved the city council.

Collusion between members of the Catholic Church and the Mafia in Sicily has existed, and been overlooked, for decades. Toto Riina was married by a priest in a Palermo church, while living as a fugitive. Rome’s position on organized crime began to change in 1993, when the Pope denounced the Mafia. In 2014, the Vatican declared that Mafia members are to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Yet this has not completely severed relations between Church and Mafia, as recent events in Corleone demonstrate.

Complicating these institutional associations are the most personal of connections, those among family members. The Catholic Church holds a monopoly on the sacraments that quite literally create Catholic families. Exercising its right to refuse the sacraments could strike a mortal blow to the organization whose own mythology centers the Catholic family. After all, what is the mafia without godfathers?

The recent objection of the archbishop in Monreale, to a known mafia associate standing as godfather to his niece, may be part of a growing movement to uphold the 2014 Vatican position against mafia activity. Giuseppe Salvatore “Salvo” Riina, the son of Toto Riina, has served an eight-year sentence for Mafia association. Yet last December, Salvo stood as godfather to his niece, an honor Archbishop of Monreale Michele Pennisi has since publicly opposed. It is well understood by Catholics that godparents are obliged to uphold the faith and set an example for their godchildren, facts the archbishop repeated in his objections. “I am not aware that the young man has ever expressed words of repentance for his conduct,” Pennisi says of Riina.

People marry in for reasons other than a lack of opportunity to marry outside one’s extended family. And people who marry their close kin at higher than average rates, do not do so randomly. People who marry their cousins do so not in ignorance, but in concert with their own values, and they do so for legitimate social and economic reasons, such as to preserve inherited wealth, strengthen family ties, and increase one’s personal prospects. One reason for marrying in that cannot be casually discounted, is to preserve power accumulated through generations of mafia activity.

Marriages between close relations are not normally permitted by the Church. For first and second cousins to marry in Sicily requires dispensation from the local archbishop. In the past, dispensations were granted whenever possible: the lack of a dowry, the danger of unmarried cohabitation, and even the risk of social embarrassment to a family at having to break an engagement, were all considered valid reasons to permit a marriage that would otherwise be prohibited due to consanguinity. Unlike the selection of a godparent, which is approved by the local priests, the dispensation process puts each archbishop in position to decide, on a case by case basis, whether a marriage might go forward. While dowry is, hopefully, no longer a deciding factor in granting dispensations to marry, perhaps mafia association will soon become one.

 

Cited:

  1. Colleen Barry. “Italy: Mafia stronghold of Corleone has new ‘godfather’ saga.” Published 2 February 2017. Accessed 3 February 2017 at http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Italy-Mafia-stronghold-of-Corleone-has-new-10903127.php
  2. Colleen Barry. “Italy: Mafia stronghold of Corleone has new ‘godfather’ saga.” Published and accessed 5 February 2017 at http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/weird-news/italy-mafia-stronghold-of-corleone-has-new-godfather-saga/article_6265cfb9-8275-5823-8249-6f1cf9867f69.html
  3. Jonathan F. Schulz. The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy (December 14, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2877828 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2877828
  4. Alexander Stille. The Pope Excommunicates the Mafia, Finally. Published 24 June 2014. Accessed 8 February 2017 at http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-pope-excommunicates-the-mafia-finally

 

Image credit: Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464). “Baptism, Confirmation, Penance.”

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 4

Are Corleone’s Mafiosi more likely to marry close relations? Part 4

 

In a controlled study of Mafia marriages in Corleone, I find evidence supporting the hypothesis that Mafia members are more closely related to their brides than their non-mafiosi neighbors in Corleone.

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.

Conclusions

On average, Mafia members and their wives in this study are more than twice as closely related as the control group grooms and their brides.

Average coefficient of relationship and rate of consanguineous marriage

Average coefficient of relationship between bride and groom, out to fourth cousins Percent of marriages that are consanguineous in this set, out to third cousins
Mafia couples 0.008 0.147
Control couples 0.003 0.059
Difference 0.005 0.088
Average 0.005 0.103

The differences in marital consanguinity between the two groups are pronounced. Compared to the control group, Mafia couples are almost three times as likely to have a close degree of kinship: third cousins or closer, which is to say, having in common at least one set of twice-great grandparents or a nearer direct ancestor.

Although the coefficient of relationship (CoR) of the control group, on average, is less than half of the average CoR for the Mafia group, the difference between these two figures is slight, in genealogical terms. A coefficient of relationship of 0.008, the average for Mafia couples in this study, is between that of a fourth cousin, once removed (0.1) and the CoR of fifth cousins (0.0004). (See the table in Part 1.) This is as good an illustration as any, of the practicality of researching only three or four generations to determine CoR. The decrease in CoR is exponential, and becomes vanishingly small beyond the degree of fourth cousins.

Relationships more distant than fourth cousins are not included in calculations of average CoR or in the percentage of consanguineous marriages. One Mafia marriage (Marco Maggiore, 1908) is between fifth cousins, and one marriage from each set, the Mafia group and the control group, are between fifth cousins, once removed (Giuseppe Morello, 1903, and Giuseppe Verro, 1902).

Out of the 35 marriages of Mafia members (named in Part 2), five are consanguineous. Nicolo’ Ciravolo  and his second wife (married in 1834) are third cousins. Paolino Streva married his first cousin, once removed, in 1894, as did Antonino Cascio in 1906. Luciano Labruzzo and his wife, who married in 1897, are in a double in law marriage and are both first and third cousins, for a CoR of 13.28%. Luciano Gagliano (1880) and Carlo Taverna (1904) are also in double in law marriages, though not related by common ancestry to their wives. Luciano Crapisi, who married in 1880, is related to his wife three different ways: they are fourth cousins, fifth cousins, and fifth cousins, once removed, for a CoF of .20%.

Among the 35 control marriages, the most closely related are Salvatore Pomilla (1893) and his wife, who are are first cousins, once removed. Carmelo d’Anna and his wife (1880) are both second and third cousins. Calogero Pecoraro marries twice, to sisters who are his third cousins, once removed. If Calogero had children with each of his wives, they would be more closely related than typical half-siblings, with a CoR of 37.5%.

Next week, a discussion of the implications of this research.

 

Feature image: Interior of Monreale Cathedral, by Bernhard J. Scheuvens aka Bjs [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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, Sebastiano Ciravolo (Ciravolo-38), the first groom listed in the table above, is the brother of Nicolo’ “Puntillo” Ciravolo (Ciravolo-20), from Rapanzino’s gang, and a member of the study group. 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

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.

record-image_9q97-ymx3-c4b

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

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”

Measuring consanguinity and dispensation rates in Corleone

Measuring consanguinity and dispensation rates in Corleone

Finding proof of the high rate of cousin marriage in Corleone proves more difficult than expected.

In an earlier post, “Kissing Cousins,” I wrote about the high rates of marriage between close relations that have been detected throughout Sicily. Before 1918, dispensation was required for marriages in Sicily, out to the fourth degree of consanguinity, or between second cousins. Based on my first reading of the data, nearly half of all marriages in Palermo and Agrigento provinces required dispensation from the local archbishop. (I’ve since corrected this mistaken interpretation. 1/13/17 JC) But was it the same in Corleone?

Anecdotally, I’d noticed a lot of consanguineous marriages among families I was beginning to think of as “mafia families,” based on their surnames, professions, honorifics, and marriage patterns. Yet by “high,” I didn’t mean almost half of all marriages. I wondered what the real rate of consanguineous marriage was in Corleone, if it matched existing research for the province of Palermo, and whether Corleone’s rate, and that of the mafia families of Corleone, differed from the provincial average, or from one another.

FamilySearch has microfilm copies of the Church’s vital records from Corleone, available for free online. Originals or copies of those handwritten documents were sent to the provincial capitals or the archdiocese. The records available online are those which had been preserved at Monreale, the seat of the archbishop for Corleone.

It may be that the copies I’m reviewing, do not mention all of the dispensations that were granted. Of the 96 marriages performed in Corleone in 1860, not a single record mentions a dispensation. After not finding even one dispensation in 1860, I continued looking at the first 49 records of 1861, which brought me to the end of April, and still, I did not find any mentions of dispensations in the marriage records. Did the priests just forget them, that year?

I have come across dispensations both before and after 1860, but not in every year. I haven’t yet, to my knowledge, found a marriage between close relations that did not get the dispensation. I have found marriages that required dispensation between a couple who were more distantly related than second cousins. In at least one case, I was able to determine that, due to having multiple sets of common ancestors, their coefficient of relationship was higher than typical second cousins. Priests were instructed to look for these multiple lines of descent, before marrying a prospective bride and groom.

There are other reasons dispensations are given, too. One of them is when someone is widowed and remarries to the sibling or close relation of their late spouse. For example, when Lucia Ligotino married her first cousin’s widower, their marriage received a dispensation despite that fact that Lucia and her groom, Giovanni Provenzano, are of no known relation. I was ready for these numbers to inflate the rate of apparent consanguinity. Instead, the numbers of dispensations are far lower than I expected.

In 1864, fourteen out of 104 records that year, or 13.46 percent, included a dispensation. However, only four of those records, 3.85 percent, mentioned second degree consanguinity. (There were no marriages that recorded a dispensation for first degree consanguinity this year.) This is far lower than the staggering 48.66 percent of marriages in Palermo province between first cousins or closer relations (second degree) that Cavalli-Sforza appear to have found between 1860 and 1864.

There are several possible explanations for the low rate of dispensations in Corleone marriages. One possibility is that consanguineous marriages were conducted at the same rate in Corleone as elsewhere in the province, but that not all were being detected. The decision to request a dispensation may not be written down where I’m looking for them, in the copies of marriage records sent to the archdiocese. The decision to approve a consanguineous marriage may have been made locally, without dispensation. Finally, it’s possible that consanguineous unions are, in fact, far less common in Corleone than average.

Corleone is distinct from its neighbors in a few ways. It welcomed strangers who would enrich the town, and at the same time was well defended against foreign threats. The town has a reputation dating back to the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, for vigorous military defense and patriotism. In its streets and buildings, the town reflects its origins under Ottoman rule, in its winding alleys, gardens, and plazas. Being in the interior of the island, Corleone was protected from pirate raids, which ravaged coastal towns for centuries. Other than the city of Palermo, Corleone is perhaps the most important location in the province for trade. In the 1800s, Corleone was home to a hundred churches, a college, and a hospital. Being a free town (it was not owned by a king or lawyer, after 1648) it was attractive to skilled artisans, who made up some ten percent of the heads of household in the town. It’s hard to parse the possible reasons why Corleone would not demonstrate the same level of consanguinity, but in one regard, its relative isolation, the town may have been at an advantage over most of its rural neighbors.

This week, I plan to sample other years in the latter half of the 19th century, looking for dispensations. If I continue to find very low rates, I may have to find another way of studying consanguineous marriages in Corleone. I might use documenti matrimoniali, the documentation the priests drew up to discover common ancestors between prospective brides and grooms. I may also create a control group of families to study as closely as I have the mafia families, establish all of their ancestral lines for 3-4 generations, and determine, based on this research, whether consanguinity exists and to what degree. When I’ve solved the problem of detecting an average consanguinity rate for families in Corleone, then I can find out whether the rate for known mafia families is distinctive.

Further reading:

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Antonio Moroni, and Gianna Zei. Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy. 2004: Princeton University Press.

Image credit: An arranged marriage between Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresa of Spain. Public domain. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage#/media/File:Lodewijk_XIV-Marriage.jpg

Legacy of the Rapanzino gang

Legacy of the Rapanzino gang

While most of Rapanzino’s gang was exterminated by the police in the mid-1830s, their legacy continues, with a clear line of descent, all the way to the Five Families of New York and the Mafia in Corleone today.

The Rapanzino gang of cattle thieves, active in the early 1830s in Palermo province, were closely related to known mafia members in Corleone. Two of the members,  Bernardo and Antonino Palumbo, were brothers, and their second cousin, Leoluca Mondello, was also in their gang. Mondello and the leader, Rapanzino, were killed on the same day by the police. Two other members of the gang were Biagio Jannazzo and his older brother, Paolo. Although not closely related to the Palumbo brothers, by blood or marriage, the two families were evidently close: Biagio and Paolo’s parents were Antonino Palumbo’s godparents.

Ninetta Bagarella
Ninetta Bagarella

On their mother’s side, the Palumbo brothers were cousins of Vincenzo Maida, a rural guard. A common practice in that time, was for guards like Maida to negotiate for the return of stolen property. For this reason, it was a requirement of the position, that guards have close relations with criminals. Salvatore Lupo describes a typical arrangement: a mafia boss would go to the victim of a theft to express his sympathy, and to say maybe he can make some inquiries and find out what happened to the stolen goods. But he’s behind the theft and makes his money from the owner who pays to restore his goods.

Denis Mack Smith writes that the most common crimes in Sicily around this time were smuggling food into towns to avoid taxation, the illicit control of water, extortion—often through threats of arson to crops—and “abigeato”: stealing farm animals. It’s likely that Rapanzino’s gang worked with Maida, and other rural guards, to whom the thieves would kick back a proportion of their gains.

It’s not clear to me, what forces led to the police action against this band. Possibly the geographic scope of their activity brought the thieves from Corleone into conflict with neighboring mafias, each district an ecosystem of peasants, thieves, guards, and landowners. Or members of the band may have angered their local boss in some way. At any rate, by 1833, they were being hunted down by police, on orders from Palermo.

Despite being a wanted man in June 1834, the young widower Nicolo’ “Puntillo” Ciavarello remarried in Corleone, to Maria Marino. The Palumbo brothers were guillotined in Palermo the following year… that is, unless they escaped to Tunis, as legend has it. Paolo Jannazzo’s fate is not known. He did not marry in Corleone, and there is no record of his death there, either. Possibly he met the same fate as the Palumbo brothers.

In 1838, “Puntillo” and his wife stood as godparents to Mariano Cascio, Maria’s first cousin. Puntillo’s old band mate, Biagio Jannazzo, married Rosa Cascio, the sister of Mariano, in 1843. Rosa and Mariano’s sister, Emmanuela, married Vincenzo Maida, the guard, in 1849. Another of their sisters, Lucia, was the mother of future boss, Michelangelo Gennaro.

In 1840, a sister of the Jannazzo brothers, Lucia, married Vincenzo Terranova. Their son, Bernardo, is a known member of the mafia in Corleone, and the stepfather of Giuseppe Morello, a founding member of the Genovese crime family in New York.

Rapanzino, killed at age 27, didn’t marry. His niece, Maria Carmela Milone, married Domenico Moscato. Domenico’s cousin, Maria Carmela Chiazzisi, married Spiridione Castro, a cart driver—one of the rural entrepreneurial professions associated with the mafia. Spiridione’s nephew, Luciano Castro, is called a mezzano, an “intermediary” or middleman, in the 1853 civil record of his son’s birth: another mafia-related profession.

One of Biagio Jannazzo’s daughters, Leoluchina, married Bernardo Moscato, first cousin of Domenico. Leoluchina and Bernardo’s daughter, Domenica, married Placido Crapisi, son of mafia member Luciano. Her brother, Luciano, married their first cousin on his mother’s side, Angela Gennaro, sister of Michelangelo.

Biagio’s youngest son, born in 1849 and named Paolo, after his uncle, married twice, the second time to his long time domestic partner, when Paolo was considered to be “in extremis,” close to death, in 1906. He lived another nine years.

Epifanio Palumbo, the uncle of the Palumbo brothers, is the third great grandfather of Ninetta Bagarella. Ninetta is the youngest daughter of Salvatore Bagarella, a soldier in the Liggio-Navarra war. Salvatore and two of Ninetta’s brothers were named as defendants in the 1969 trial in Bari. She is the wife of Toto Riina. The family has been in the news recently, after a local Church confraternity paid homage at Ninetta’s home in Corleone. The “inchino” (a word that translates to “bow” or “curtsy”) a gesture of respect made during religious processions, is forbidden toward known Mafia figures by decree of the archbishop in Monreale. When it has occurred elsewhere in Italy, as in Caltagirone in March, there have been charges of disruption of public order. The family and the mayor of Corleone both deny that the inchino happened there.

Sources

“San Michele di Ganzaria tra inchieste e processioni sospese.” Published in Il Giornale d’Italia on 31 March 2016. Accessed http://www.ilgiornaleditalia.org/news/cronaca/875849/San-Michele-di-Ganzaria-tra-inchieste.html 7 June 2016.

Salvatore Lupo. History of the Mafia. Translated by Antony Shugaar. Columbia University Press, 2009.

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.

Real Segreteria di Stato presso il Luogotenente Generale in Sicilia Ripartimento Polizia Repertorio anno 1836. Accessed at http://archiviodistatodipalermo.it/files/inventari/file/1263903377anno1836.pdf 6 August 2015.

Salvatore Salomone-Marino. Leggende popolari siciliane in poesia raccolte. Published 1880. Accessed online 5 April 2015.

Denis Mack Smith, A History of Sicily: Modern Sicily After 1713. Dorset Press, 1988.

 

Feature image credit: Giovanni Fattori, Cowboys of the Maremma Driving the Herds, 1893.

A family business

A family business

Mafia leadership for the past hundred years in Corleone have all been related to one another, through blood and marriage.

Cattle theft in Sicily, before the twentieth century, was like car theft today, in that it was a crime that required a village. A thief who takes a car needs a network of criminals to help conceal the crime and profit from it. There are chop shops and resellers, those who strip it down for parts or sell it whole. And there are other people who will tow your car away to a lot, and guard it there until you come and pay a fee to get it back. In either scenario, criminals need places large enough to secure large items away from their owners, until such time as they can be liquidated or redeemed.

Paolino Streva, with the help of one of his subordinates, Giuseppe Morello, was stealing cattle, using his network of resources for this complicated crime. The job of the guard Giovanni Vella, was to find the stolen cattle and deal with the thieves. He might do this by negotiating a return of the cattle to their owner—this was a standard practice—or by killing the thief. Vella believed Streva and Morello were behind the large number of cattle thefts that year in Corleone. Given Streva’s social position, however, murdering him was out of the question.

The Mafia boss at that time, Salvatore Cutrera, and his nephew, Paolino Streva, were among an elite of landowners in Corleone in the late 1880s. Despite his age—Streva was only nineteen in 1889—he was one of his his uncle’s chief subordinates. When Giuseppe Morello rose in the Corleonesi mob, it was under Paolino and Cutrera. According to William J. Flynn, Morello killed the guard, Vella, and following that, killed again, to silence a witness to his crime. 

When Paolino was 23, he married his first cousin once removed, Anna Giovanna Streva. Anna was just fifteen, and an orphan, the ward of her uncle Angelo. Anna’s father, who was also called Don Paolo Streva, married the mother of his children on his deathbed. Four years later, the witnesses at Anna and Paolino’s marriage were a student, Filippo Bentivegna, who would become a doctor, and Giuseppe Battaglia, the new boss in Corleone.

record-image_3QS7-897B-VF42
Paolo Streva’s marriage record, signed by himself, his uncle, his father, and two witnesses, including Giuseppe Battaglia

Battaglia is distantly related to future bosses Angelo Gagliano and Michele Navarra through his wife, Maria Rosa di Miceli, a second cousin of Gagliano’s mother, Leoluchina lo Bosco. Battaglia was boss until 1920, when he was succeeded by Michelangelo Gennaro. Michelangelo Gennaro is related to known mafiosi through both of his parents. On his father’s side, he’s the nephew of Cutrera by marriage. On his mother’s, he’s the first cousin of Don Antonino Cascio.

Don Antonino comes from a line of landowners. He was a witness at the wedding of Dr. Michele Navarra’s parents. And he is called a “capofamiglia” in a 1962 Italian Senate hearing. His daughter, Tommasa, married Dr. Navarra in 1936.

Antonino’s wife, Rosalia di Miceli, is his first cousin, once removed. Rosalia’s sister, Giovanna, was married to Angelo Gagliano, a powerful, and violent, mafioso with business on both sides of the Atlantic. He’s also the uncle of Michele Navarra.

Gennaro served for four years as the head of the Corleonesi Mafia, and was followed by Angelo Gagliano, who was killed in 1930. Before his death, it’s possible there was another boss, Dr. Marcellino Benenti. After 1930, the boss in Corleone was Don Calogero lo Bue, gabellotto of the Donna Beatrice estate. Calogero was married to Giovanna Lampo, who was a second cousin of the di Miceli sisters, and the third cousin of Michele Navarra. He ruled until his natural death, from diabetes complications, in 1943. Thereafter the boss was the hospital director and son of a teacher, Dr. Michele Navarra. Through Navarra’s second cousin, once removed, Lucia Cannaliato, he is related, somewhat distantly, both to Michelangelo Gennaro, another second cousin, once removed, from Lucia, and to Toto Riina. Lucia’s husband, Giacomo Riina, was Toto’s great uncle. Navarra was assassinated in 1958 on the orders of his successor, Luciano Leggio.

Luciano Leggio’s grandfather, Girolamo, had a sister in law, Biagia Cascio, who was a second cousin of Michelangelo Gennaro and Antonino Cascio. Leggio ran the mafia in Corleone until he was imprisoned in 1974. From then until his 1993 capture, Toto Riina was the boss. Toto’s brother, Gaetano, assumed leadership, and was himself arrested in 2011, at the age of 79.

Sources

Mike Dash. “The First Family: Terror, Extortion and the Birth of the American Mafia.” Random House, 2009.

William J. Flynn. “The Barrel Mystery.” New York: The James A. McCann Co., 1919.

Henner Hess. “Mafia and Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth.” NYU Press, 1988.

Nick Squires. “Head of Mafia in ‘The Godfather’ town arrested.” Telegraph. Published 1 July 2011. Accessed http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8610833/Head-of-Mafia-in-The-Godfather-town-arrested.html 19 May 2016.

Senato della Repubblica, V Legislatura, Doc. XXIII. “Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sul fenomeno della mafia in Sicilia.” 20 December 1962. Accessed http://en.calameo.com/read/0012258332ab89457a3a8 29 February 2016.