Super Sleuth

Super Sleuth
Digging Up The Past One Relative At A Time

Saturday, April 30, 2016



     I never had the privilege of knowing this gentleman, my great-grandfather.  I was born six years after he passed away, but I occasionally visit his resting place which, thankfully, is only up the road from my home.  He is in the same cemetery with most of my other relatives, so it turns into a family reunion every time I visit.  

     Giuseppe Varrera was the third of seven children born to my 2x-great-grandparents, Luigi Varrera and Rosolina Sorvillo in a town called Orta di Atella in Caserta, Italia.  I don't know much about his early years in Italy.  I have been able to locate a marriage record for him and my great-grandmother, Giuseppa Perrella.  I also have found a birth record and a death record for their oldest child, Luigi who was born and died in Orta di Atella.  My great-grandparents immigrated to America in 1914.  I do not know of the circumstances as to why they came to America, but I've come to discover that they left quite a large extended family behind.

     The year following their immigration, they welcomed their second child, another son whom they also named Luigi.  In total, they had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood:
1.  Luigi Varrera (born and died in Italy)
2.  Luigi Varrera (born in America)
3.  Rosa Varrera (born in America)
4.  Rachela Varrera (born in America)
5.  Nicholas Varrera (born in America)
6.  Salvatore Varrera (died as a child)
7.  Carmela Varrera (born in America) 

     Until the terms "genealogy" and "family research" entered my repertoire, I naively believed that my great-grandparents didn't have any brothers or sisters.  I was young and ignorant.  It wasn't until about the year 2011 that my first cousin once removed showed me this:
     Apparently, my grand-aunt Rachela Varrera-Tramantano was a lover of family history.  In the early 1980s, she and my first cousin once removed wrote many letters to the State Archives in Orta di Atella.  Month after month they waited for responses to their letters.  This descendant chart arrived in the mail for them somewhere in the mid-1980s.  My first cousin once removed showed this to me and my mouth dropped.  
     This was the first time that I saw that my great-grandfather had other siblings.  Not only that, but I also discovered his parents and grandparents!  The name of the town was new also and it was a blessing to find because the state records are listed on both and  From this starting point, I was able to locate birth, marriage, and death records for a plethora of ancestors.  It is very important to talk to family members to see what they know and to share family information with.  My first cousin once removed, Lorraine, opened up a new door of discovery for me and I am indebted to her.  This descendant chart would present itself to me again a few years later.
     Thanks to Facebook, family was discovered in Orta di Atella.  I know I mentioned this story before, so I'll just condense the facts...
     After my third cousin Rosalba and I met in person, she gave me a copy of the same descendant chart.  I knew we were related.  She descended from my great-grandfather's brother's branch.  She told me that they always wondered what happened to the brother that went to America.  Rosalba said that her paternal grandfather was able to confirm the photos that I emailed to her.  Her grandfather cried and remembered his "zio" who left.  They lost touch over the years and never heard from each other again.
     It's amazing that we would discover each other about 100 years after my great-grandparents immigrated.  What a family reunion that was!  Now, we are in contact every week and although there is a slight language barrier, we are still able to communicate.  I never realized how many Varrera relatives I had until I traveled to Orta di Atella and came face to face with this group of extraordinary people.
     These people represent a SMALL group of cousins that I have in the town of Orta di Atella.  I never thought that I would ever find relatives anywhere but in the United States.  I love each and every one of these individuals.  It's as if the 100-year mystery was solved.
     As for Giuseppe Varrera and Giuseppa Perrella, my great-grandparents, I already mentioned that five of their children lived to adulthood.  Well, their five children produced twelve grandchildren, and tons and tons of great-grandchildren and 2x-great-grandchildren!  The legacy lives on.  
     Giuseppe was widowed in 1937.  My great-grandmother died at the age of 47 from intestinal obstruction and a blood infection.  Giuseppe moved to Staten Island and spent time with his children and grandchildren.  He was not able to speak English, but I heard that he had very kind eyes.  As far as I was told by some relatives, he owned a produce store, but I cannot confirm it.  Sadly, he passed away in the summer of 1970.  I wish I knew him personally.  My father was named for him.  
     I would just like to take this opportunity to thank my great-grandfather, Giuseppe Varrera, for helping to lead the way to the rest of the family from the great beyond.  I know that is looking over my shoulder as I research and giving me advice and encouragement posthumously.  I am forever grateful to have met so many lovely and caring relatives.  
     What a handsome man he was!  I would like to encourage my family to leave comments below if they are interested in sharing any stories about Giuseppe Varrera.  Thank you for reading and happy hunting!

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