Sometimes the smallest details can add up to the greatest helping of new information in a family tree. “Connecting the dots” within multiple documents was one way we were able to add a new branch to the Cuomo family tree.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo already knew a lot about his proud Italian heritage. Our challenge was to try and find something completely new to him. We started with the branch of his family tree that had the least amount of information which was on his paternal side. His line stopped with his great-grandmother, Germana Castaldo.
More than half our research for Germana was conducted in Salerno, Italy where we found her original birth and death records. It was on her birth record that we discovered Germana was a “foundling child,” which was completely new information for Chris. He had no idea that his great-grandmother had so troubling a start in the world as a newborn babe.
In the search for Germana’s parentage, we located her civil death record which listed her status as “married to Donato Cuomo” at the time of her death. On this record, we found that Germana was also known as Maria DeLia. Where did the additional name come from? Was it the surname of her adopted family or did her birth family come forward? We needed more information.
We combed through records we had previously found, such as federal census records, passengers lists, state census records, etc., making sure to note the smallest detail and leaving no stone unturned. When looking at a 1907 New York Passenger List for Germana’s husband, Donato Cuomo, we looked more closely at the person he was going to meet in America—Anthony DeLia, his brother-in-law.
The presence of the DeLia name on the passenger list combined with the DeLia name on Germana’s death record strongly suggested that she was connected somehow to the DeLia family. Where was this elusive DeLia family and what is their relationship to Germana?
We turned to the 60 million member trees on Ancestry.com to see if there were any descendants of the DeLia family that could connect to Germana. Through some fantastic member tree information, we were able to gain a jumping off point in our research focusing on the Francesco D’Elia family from Sant’Arsenio, Salerno, Italy about 50 miles where Germana was born. Fortune favored our progress, for out of the entire province of Salerno, the only locally-accessible digitized records for that region just happened to include Sant’Arsenio. Within a day, we were able to find Germana’s marriage record.
The record states that Germana is “a daughter of unknown parents.” With this corroborating information, it is clear that the D’Elia family of Sant’Arsenio were the adoptive parents of Germana.
With a lot of research, a little detective work, and a pinch of luck, the information aligned with the stars and Chris discovered his great-grandmother’s humble beginnings and a new branch of his proud Italian-American family tree.
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They travel the world to chase the story, but this time the story is their own. Join the journalists of CNN as they explore their … roots. More behind the scene stories:
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