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The Scarnegie Patriarch
By Jim Scarnegie
July 29, 2001

 

Hi everyone. For those that don't know me, I'm Jim Scarnegie, a nephew to my great-big-tall Uncle Pat. That's how he signs his cards and letters to us. I have a short story to tell you about our guest of honor, the oldest Scarnegie alive today, and the Scarnegie Patriarch. It's the story of how Uncle Pat was given the name Patrick, along with some other interesting Scarnegie family history.

As many of you know, I have been involved in researching our family tree for the past few years, tracing our Scarnegie roots to the late 1700s in Barrea, Italy. Barrea is located about 50 miles east of Rome

in the Abruzzi Mountain Range,

 

and is a walled village that was built during Medieval times over 1000 years ago.

My story begins on August 29th, 1811, in this town of Barrea. A 26-year-old woman named Patrizia Gentile was forced to marry Domenico Scarnecchia, her 22-year-old lover. In Italy, it was extremely rare for the bride to be older than the groom (she was 4 years older than he), but since their first child was born only 8 months after the wedding, it's obvious why the shotgun marriage took place. I'm not trying to bring disgrace to the family with this story about our ancestors, but rather simply telling you what I've discovered as fact. You see, these 2 individuals would be my great-great-great grandparents. Had it been the year 2001, and in the United States, Patrizia could very well have terminated her pregnancy. Anyone in the room with Scarnegie blood wouldn't be alive today, and the rest of you would be somewhere else. Kind of scary, isn't it?

Naming your children after your parents was customary in Italy. Although not mandatory, most Italian families followed this tradition. Here's how it worked. The first born son was named after the groom's father, and the first born daughter after the groom's mother. Likewise, the second born son was named after the bride's father, and the second born daughter after the bride's mother. Children after these were usually named after other relatives, or close friends of the family.

Domenico and Patrizia had 6 children total. In 1821 they had their first son, and named him Pasquale, after Domenico's father. This son went on to marry Angela Zerrone, and together they had 5 children. In 1857, they named their 4th son Patrizio, which is the masculine version of Patrizia. Since Pasquale's mother, Patrizia, is the only other ancestor I've found with this name, I'm certain that Patrizio was named after his grandmother. For those of you that don't know it, Patrizio is Uncle Pat's Grandfather.

A couple of years ago, my wife Gina and I had the opportunity to go to Italy and visit the wonderful town of Barrea.

In fact, we had our 10-year wedding vows renewed at San Tommaso Apostolo, the historic church in Barrea that was constructed in 1277.

This is the same church that all of our Scarnegie/Scarnecchia ancestors were baptized and married in.

During our visit to Barrea, we were fortunate enough to stay with Anna Branchetti and her family.

Anna would be my 3rd cousin, and a descendant of Patrizio's older brother Luigi.

My grandfather and her grandmother, Angela Scarnecchia, were 1st cousins.

In fact, they still own the home that was once Pasquale's.

Carved into the stone above the doorway of this home are the initials "PS" (for Pasquale Scarnecchia) and the year "1870". You see, Pasquale was a stone carver. Also carved above the doorway is a branch with a small bird sitting on top of it. Being a small man in stature, his nickname was "Pasarelia", meaning "small bird". The branch that the bird sits on has 11 leaves, one for each of his 11 total children.

When Patrizio was only 3 years old, his mother passed away at 32 years old. His father then married Lucia Quajanni in 1864, and together they had 6 children.

Patrizio's half-brother, Fiorangelo, ended up having a son that became a famous magician and card shark, named Orlando Scarnecchia (also known as John Scarne). John would have been my grandfather's cousin, but they never knew each other. According to Uncle Pat, John's father Fiorangelo was literally "thrown out" of Patrizio's home after a visit during the 1920s. The 2 seem to have lost contact with each other at that point.

It's unfortunate because I'm just now beginning to learn about what a legend John Scarne really was. I have recently discovered some DiLoreto relatives living in Texas that are descendants of Patrizio's younger half-sister named Rosa Scarnecchia. I have not been able to confirm any other living relatives beyond these, although there are many other Scarnecchia families out there.

After his obligation in the Italian Army, Patrizio found himself working as a stone carver and contractor in the town of Laurenzana, located in the province of Potenza.

It is here that he met his sweetheart and bride, Maria Sansone. They were wed in 1882, and had a stillborn daughter in 1883. Their next child was a son, and they named him Pasquale, after Patrizio's father.

In 1887, Patrizio and his stone carving crew was asked to carve a fountain for the mayor of Laurenzana in front of the town hall. About half way through the project, the Mayor told Patrizio that he wanted to pay the crew off in cheese. A heated argument followed, and Patrizio led his crew back to destroy the fountain in the middle of the night.

When he found out that the police were after him, Patrizio told his wife that he wanted to take her on a vacation. She agreed to leave their 2 year old son with her parents, and packed her bags. To her surprise, Patrizio took her to Naples where they boarded the S.S. Bolivia and headed off to America. The journey was long and treacherous. At one point, they had to throw cattle overboard in order to free the boat from a sand bar it was stuck on. They arrived in Castle Garden New York on January 4, 1888. This was before Ellis Island was around.

It would be some 18 years later before they would see their son Pasquale.

They settled in Lynn, MA. Patrizio became lead stone carver for the Shea & Donnelly company.

Altogether, they had 2 daughters and 7 sons, but the daughters died as babies. Most of the sons followed their father's footsteps, and worked at Shea & Donnelly as stone cutters and stone carvers.

One of his most prominent works was the crucifix he carved at St. Mary's Cemetery in Lynn at the turn of last century.

 

The Crucifix is quite a landmark for the community, as they celebrate various festivals around the cross to this very day.

My grandfather was their 3rd oldest son, and was given the name Guidone. My grandfather never liked the name, and ended up going by the name of William, or Bill.

He met my grandmother, Eda DeMarco, who has an equally interesting family history, in Boston, MA. They were married in 1914.

They had 12 children total,

3 of which died as babies and young children.

Our guest of honor, Patrick Scarnegie, was their first son, and was born in Bedford, Indiana on April 22, 1916. In keeping with the Italian tradition, he was named after my grandfather's father, Patrizio.

As you can see, the name Patrick has a special place in the Scarnegie/Scarnecchia family history. I have been able to trace it back to Patrizia Gentile, who is Uncle Pat's great-great grandmother, born in 1785.

It's because of Uncle Pat's incredible memory, and desire to retell the family stories until we younger ones finally listened, that we are able to know so much information today about this wonderful family. Thanks, Uncle Pat, for sharing so much with us. And thanks also for sharing sweet Aunt Ester, whose lap I must have sat on all the way up until I hit college age!