Ten percent of Mafia wives

Ten percent of Mafia wives

Research reveals a common ancestor shared by six Mafia wives, two Mafiosi, and one mafia genealogist.

I’ve identified 101 men who are (or were) known to be involved in organized crime in Corleone. I found them using a selection of primary and secondary sources, in combination with genealogical sleuthing around. News reports, trial records, police blotters, and senate hearings were some of my most important sources for the vital statistics of known Mafia members. I also used the published works of journalists who have written extensively on the subject of the Mafia in Corleone, such as John Alcorn, Mike Dash, and Dino Paternostro. By following the clues of ages and known relationships in these accounts of criminal activity, I’ve been able to connect these individuals with their vital records in Corleone, New York, and elsewhere.

Along with the men, I’ve found three women who are known associates of the Mafia, although the organization does not admit them as full members. Of these, two are wives of known mafiosi. Epifania Scardino was implicated with her husband, Vito Ciancimino, in an S&L fraud. Maria Concetta Leggio, who was a defendant at Bari, is the wife, sister, and daughter of other defendants at the Corleonesi Mafia trial. The third woman is Leoluchina Sorisi, who sheltered Luciano Leggio and who eventually married, away from Corleone.

Three of the men marry twice: Nicolo’ “Puntillo” Ciravolo, a Rapanzino associate, in 1815 and 1834; Giuseppe Morello, who led a gang in New York, in 1889 and 1903, the second time in New York; and Marco Maggiore, active around 1900, who married in 1893 and 1908. A few of the mafiosi, I can confirm, never married. But others were born so late that I haven’t found their marriages in public records. So far, I’ve documented fifty-six marriages of known mafiosi in Corleone, performed between 1815 and 1953.

At least a dozen of these marriages are consanguineous. Half of them, about ten percent of the total, are between relatives closer than second cousins. As I’ve noted previously in this blog, my first attempts at finding a baseline of consanguinity in Corleone have not come close to the percentages that Cavalli-Sforza, Moroni, and Zei report for the province of Palermo, which is why I’m planning a control study, in which I will select a marriage record at random from the same year as each of the mafia marriages. I’ll work out the family trees for these control grooms and brides, and report their rate of consanguinity, for comparison.

One fact that has emerged from the study group is unrelated to my current hypothesis on consanguinity, but will certainly play a part in future research I have planned into the cosci of Corleone. Six of the fifty-six marriages I’ve documented were between known mafiosi and women with the surname Cascio. Their shared name is not a coincidence, either: these six women are all closely related to one another, as well as to the two Cascio men I’ve learned were in the Mafia, Antonino and Carmelo.

The six marriages:

  1. Biagio Jannazzo, a member of Rapanzino‘s gang, married Rosalia Cascio in 1843, several years after most of his associates were killed by the police.
  2. Mariano Mancuso, named by Dino Paternostro as an active member of the Mafia around 1900 in Corleone, married Maria Concetta Cascio in 1889. She is the sister of Carmelo Cascio, who served as mayor after Bernardino Verro’s assassination.
  3. Pietro Majuri married Giovanna Cascio in 1897. He and two of their sons are named in a 1962 Italian Senate hearing on the Mafia.
  4. Carlo Taverna and Angela Cascio married in 1904. Carlo and his brother in law, Giuliano, are both named by Dino Paternostro.
  5. Giuliano Riela married Angela’s sister, Salvatrice, in 1907. Angela and Salvatrice’s parents are second cousins in a double in-law marriage.
  6. Dr. Michele Navarra was the boss of the Mafia in Corleone until his assassination by Luciano Leggio. Navarra married his first cousin, Tommasa Cascio, in 1936. Tommasa is the daughter of first cousins, once removed.

Tommasa and her second cousins, the sisters Angela and Salvatrice, are all grandnieces of Rosalia, Biagio Jannazzo’s wife. And they are all descendants of Vito lo Cascio and Antonia la Rosa, a married couple who are the sixth-great-grandparents (6GG) of Maria Concetta and Carmelo, the 5GG of Giovanna, Angela, and Salvatrice, the 4GG of Antonino, and the 3GG of Rosalia. Vito and Antonina are my ancestors, too: they are my eighth-great-grandparents.

 

Of Note: My study of the kinships among known bosses of the Fratuzzi, the Corleonesi mafia, appears in this month’s issue of Informer, a journal of the history of American crime and law enforcement.

 

Image credit: Portrait of Lucrezia de’ Medici di Cosimo by Bronzino. Public Domain. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1202867

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.

Mamma Mafia and the Little Brothers

Mamma Mafia and the Little Brothers

“Mafia” is a feminine term that means beautiful and proud. Paradoxically, women are both essential to and excluded from the criminal organization.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the mafia in Corleone was led by members of a new agrarian bourgeoisie (“nuova borghesia agraria”) of estate managers for absentee landlords. Author and labor organizer Dino Paternostro names three dozen in leadership of the Fratuzzi (“little brothers” in local dialect) around 1900. Many of these men are closely related, often through maternal lines and marriages. Arguably, some of the most important relationships a Corleonese man had, in this time, were his in-laws and maternal uncles.

Under Giuseppe Battaglia, the boss around 1900, the Fratuzzi were headed by Michaelangelo Gennaro, who was the nephew of former boss Salvatore Cutrera. Sources vary in describing their relationship, with some calling him the grandson of Cutrera. Salvatore was, in fact, Michaelangelo’s uncle by marriage: to Maria Carmela Gennaro, Michaelangelo’s paternal aunt. They married in 1859, six years before Michaelangelo was born.

In the next generation, Gennaro was replaced by Luciano Labruzzo and Giuliano Riela, a man from San Giuseppe Jato. Riela married into a well connected family. Salvatrice Cascio, my first cousin three times removed, was related to power on both sides of her family. On her mother’s side, she was Michaelangelo Gennaro’s niece. 

Women have never been part of the formal organization except symbolically, but their real-life relationships are part of the essential glue that holds the mafia together. There’s a clear pattern of inheritance, not only from father to son, but through men’s maternal uncles. From one century to the next, even while the Sicilian mafia is evolving into an international crime syndicate, it remains traditional in this regard. This is one of the ways the mafia makes itself inextricable from daily life, by leveraging the power of family. One’s in-laws are also one’s sworn allies and business partners. They’re the people most likely to help you find a wife, further cementing loyalty. Even more common than cousin marriage, in my own family, are such double in-law marriages as those among Salvatrice Cascio’s siblings. Her sister, Angela, married Carlo Taverna, who is also named among mafia leadership in Corleone at this time. Their brother married Carlo’s sister. 

Dr. Michele Navarra, born in 1905, was the son of a teacher with no family history of mafia involvement. On his mother’s side, however, his uncle by marriage was Angelo Gagliano, who is also named in Paternostro’s article. Gagliano, an associate of Giuseppe Morello’s and a capo in the Corleone mafia, is described as a particularly violent criminal. He appears to have been a successful one: Angelo can be found traveling to New York in 1899, carrying $1,000, which is worth more than $28,000 today. In New York, he owned a car wash where Jack Dragna claimed to work. Before long, Angelo returned to Sicily and married the daughter of another known mafia leader, his godfather, Bernardo di Miceli.

Angelo was indicted for attempted murder in 1910, and acquitted of the murder of labor organizer, Socialist mayor—and Fratuzzi member—Bernardino Verro in 1915. In 1928, a time when the fascists were rounding up hundreds of suspected mafiosi, Gagliano was acquitted of Verro’s murder. Two years later he was killed, at age 68.

The mafia dynasties evident at the turn of the century, continue for at least another generation. In 1936, Navarra married his first cousin, Tommasa Cascio. Like Salvatrice and Angela, her second cousins, Tommasa was from the “new agrarian bourgeoisie” in Corleone.

Image: Detail from “Sicilian Vespers” by Francesco Hayez. Public Domain.